Advice from Homeowners

Thinking about renovating your home? Wondering what it takes to get the results you want, without stress and worry? Who better to ask than people who have already done it? Here is advice based from homeowners who have completed major renovation projects, including bathroom and kitchen upgrades, additions and whole-house renovations.

  • Find a renovator you can trust and are comfortable with. This is crucial to a good renovation experience. You need to check out the renovator thoroughly. Ask lots of questions when you meet. Talk with previous customers. Visit past or current projects - you want to feel that "if the renovator did something like that in my home, I'd be very happy". You also need to be confident that the company is financially stable and will be around in the future. And while it may be hard to define a comfortable personal fit, you need to feel "in your gut" that you can trust and work well with this person.
  • Find out what services the renovator offers. Homeowners often don't realize that many professional renovation contractors also provide design and planning services. Even if you want to work with a designer or architect of your own choosing, a contractor can add a lot of value to the process. "Our renovator saw opportunities for improving our design and offered alternative solutions to structural challenges, saving us money in the process."
  • Make sure you have a detailed written contract. "We chose the renovator who had it all written out. We knew what we were in for and didn't have to lie awake at night worrying what the final costs would be."
  • Know the facts before the work begins. What does the work entail? How will it be done and by whom? How will it affect your day-to-day living? Should you consider moving out? What if you have questions or want to make changes? The more you know upfront about the whole process, the less anxious you'll feel.
  • Take an active role throughout the project. "It's your investment and your home, so you want to follow things closely and know what's going on at all times." The best results come from good communication and a good working relationship between you and your renovator. A good renovator provides regular, if not daily, updates and is easy to get hold of if you have questions or concerns. You should be prepared to spend time going over drawings, monitoring the progress of your project, and discussing decisions with your renovator.
  • Don't expect a problem-free renovation. The bigger the project, the more likely you will run into the unexpected, such as existing deficiencies hidden in the walls, delays in special orders or bad weather. Be flexible and understand that some things are beyond the renovator's or your control. "If there is good rapport and trust between you and your renovator, it is usually easy to find a solution and move beyond the problem."
  • Plan ahead for your finishes. Typically, homeowners are responsible for choosing cabinets, flooring, tiles, fixtures and the many other finishes that will complete the job. This can be time-consuming, "My afternoon at the bath showroom turned into two full days". Set aside plenty of time and begin early - in some markets, there may be a significant delay for special orders. And take full advantage of your renovator's experience to help you find the best options.
  • Keep money in reserve for extras. Once the work begins, it is not uncommon for homeowners to want to go an extra step - a better quality tile, brand new appliances and so on. "Once you are into it, you realize that just so-so is not good enough, and that now is the best time to get those extra little touches of style or luxury."

What are the little gestures by professional renovators that leave a big impression on homeowners? "They cleaned up every day, took the garbage away and didn't leave us to live in a mess. We hadn't expected that, and it made a big difference to us." And, "My renovator went shopping for windows with me, explaining what was what. I ended up spending a little more than planned, but got much better windows."

Finally, homeowners caution that there is no getting away completely from the dust, the dirt and the inconvenience, but "it's great to see the progress at the end of each day, very satisfying to look around and see your dream taking shape". And when it's all done, "the pleasure we feel every day is worth it. This is exactly what we wanted."

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