Advice from Renovators

When a group of professional renovators were asked what design and planning advice they most often give to their customers, here is what they said.

  • Know why you want to renovate. What problems are you trying to solve? Most renovations begin with practical issues. For instance, your bathroom may be cramped, you need more storage space in the kitchen, or there is nowhere for the children to play or do homework under your supervision.
  • Evaluate the structure, systems and general condition of your house. With your renovator, list the repairs and replacements likely to be required over the next two, five and 10 years. If necessary, be prepared to make trade-offs between lifestyle improvements and work needed to keep your home in good shape.
  • Work with the strengths of your home. And save money at the same time. Check under existing carpeting and sheet flooring for old hardwood flooring. Refinish old trim and molding rather than replace it. Resurface cabinets rather than installing new ones. Turn a large landing into a child's play area, a quiet reading area or a small home office.
  • Keep it simple. A complex design can result in complicated and expensive construction. Whether you want to build on to your home, change roof lines or reconfigure interior space, consult with a professional renovator on the impact of design on construction and budget. Less complex designs will often let you achieve the same goals.
  • Don't just focus on the upfront cost. Renovation is a further investment in your home. Consider the time, energy and cost required on ongoing maintenance and possible replacement down the road. A well-planned renovation can reduce these future costs.
  • Don't cut corners to save a few dollars, or you may not get the results you want. There may be ways to stretch a limited budget or you may be able to scale down your project or alternatively, do it in phases over time. But don't compromise on quality-it's always better to do less and do it well.
  • Check local bylaws. Before you get too involved in a particular design for adding to or substantially altering your home, you or your renovator need to know the local regulations-for instance, lot-line setbacks or septic tank requirements.
  • Look at your neighbourhood. Exterior changes or additions that blend with the existing streetscape will probably add the most value to your home, and they will usually be appreciated the most by your neighbours. If you do want a design with a difference, think about ways of complementing neighbouring homes.
  • Don't worry about trends. Design trends come and go. First and foremost, plan for comfort, ease of living and personal satisfaction. Enjoy exploring options and possibilities-then design the renovation that is uniquely right for you and your family.

 

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