411 – What You Need to Know About Renovating

If you have decided to take on a renovation, big or small, CONGRATS! It’s an accomplishment to have been able to put aside the money to do a reno and you should be proud! But taking on a renovation can come with an overload of emotions:

Excitement if it’s a new home or a room that has been bothering you for a while.
Worry for the cost and any surprises.
Happy to be making the changes for a better functioning home.
Stress for being put out if you are currently living in the home or, if not, stress against a timeline to move into the home.
Impatience if you are living through the reno or (if you’re like me) ready to see you vision come to reality.
Anxious if you’re a worrier.

To help reduce some of the stress, let’s look at what you can expect during the renovation process.

Budget

When it comes time to plan the budget, sit down with your designer and make a plan. Finalizing the budget may take some time depending on how complex of a renovation you are doing so don’t get discouraged. You’ll have to quote the cost of demo and re-framing (by contractor), quote the cost of design and materials (requires sourcing by the designer) and the cost to install those materials (by contractor and his sub-trades).

Example Renovation Budget Sheet

Some materials will cost more to install than others. In order to get an accurate cost for the build, you do want to share your material specs with the contractor to eliminate any extra cost during the build. This also give you the chance and time to change materials before they are ordered if you need to trim down your costs. Keep an open mind when looking at different finishes. There are so many options and alternatives on the market now. Know what finishes are must-haves vs nice-to-have and shop around.

A good practice is to include a contingency fund into your budget, typically 5-10% of your total budget. By accounting for this before you start to demo gives you a little cushion in case something unforeseen comes up. The reality is no one can see through walls. Having a contingency fund softens the blow of extra cost (if needed) which will eliminate stress in the end. And if you don’t need it…hey, extra cash!

Your budget is one of the most important part of a renovation and keeping track of it is just as important. Overspending can add stress (to your wallet and your relationships) and it can also cause delays.

Demo

DEMO DAY!!! If you’ve watched any of the home renovation out there, this is the day that everyone gets excited about. It’s the day that officially marks the start of the project, the beginning of something new that’s yet to come.

If you are living in the home during the renovation, this also marks the beginning of some inconveniences into your daily routine. Expect there to be dust; expect there to be noise; expect there to be other people around. No matter where, what or how good you seal the rest of the house off from the renovation, this will happen.

Demo day is also the day that you will see if there are any surprises hidden behind the walls. At the end of demo day, be prepared to re-look at your budget and make adjustments if needed.

Expect the unexpected. Prepare for the worse, hope for the best. Just remember to breathe.

Order of install

Once demo is done, the re-build begins. There is an order of operations when it comes to building a house (or re-building it). Some contractors may go slightly out of order which is fine. But for best final results, they should stay close to the order.

First is to do the framing and windows. Framing is building out the walls which will make up the rooms and be the conduit to house the electrical, plumbing and HVAC.

Once framing is done, the plumber will come in to run water and waste lines as needed. The electrician will also be in to run lines for your outlets, pot lights or ceiling lights, switches and electrical panels. The heating and ventilation techs (HVAC Technicians) and gas fitters will also be in to do their thing. The order this is done doesn’t really matter but they all need to be done before going to the next step. In most cases, the city will have to come in and sign off that these installs are done to code before you can move to insulated and drywall.

After the walls are insulated, the drywall can go up. This is always an exciting stage in the renovation because it’s at this point that the house starts to look like a house again and you can see the room in a more finished light. A good thing to remember is that drywalling can take longer than expected. You have to wait for the mud on the seams and screw hole to dry and then they need to be sanded before drywalling can be considered done. If the home is humid or there is a lot of moisture in the air from rain, this could slow down the dry process.

With the drywalling done, you are into the home stretch. Painting the walls or installing wall finishes can either be done next or last in the process. There are pros and cons to both, it really comes down to the contractor. The next thing to go in are the hard surface floors (tile, wood), followed by any cabinets or built-in. If you are waiting on either of these to come in, doing the wall finish is a good way to keep the project moving.

If your renovation is your kitchen, the countertops will go in at this point with backsplash after the countertops are installed.

The absolute last thing to be installed is any carpet followed by all the trim and then you are into the finishing touches – light fixtures, furniture and appliances, wall art and shelves…

Delays

The most frustrating thing in a renovation (other than surprises behind the walls) are delays. The reality is, in the world of construction, delays happen. If you go in with this mindset, when it happens, it will be a little less annoying. Accepting it you can also plan for it – believe it or not.

Similar to how we put a contingency fund into the budget, we can put a contingency buffer into the schedule. Once you clear demo day, you will have a much better idea of what you are up against. This is when you can plan your installations. After getting a timeline from the installers build your schedule with:

  • Trades: In my experience, all trades have their own idea of time and it’s not the same as mine. Add a minimum ½ day to whatever timeline they gave you as a buffer. If they say 1 day, give them a day and a half…but don’t tell them!
  • Drywall: Drywall drying time it the biggest risk to a renovation schedule. If the mud bubbles and they have to re-mud a seam or it isn’t drying which delays sanding. Because you are waiting for something to dry and the nature can play such a role in this, it can be unpredictable. Add 2 days to the backend of the drywall schedule as a buffer.
  • Tile: Leave a minimum 24hr at the end of any tile jobs, before the next trade. Floor tile should sit for at least a day before it is walked on.
Example of Renovation Scheduling Tool

Giving trades a buffer may seem silly but the problem is, especially certain times of the year, trades are busy! If you have to bump the hardwood installer because the drywall isn’t dry, for example, the hardwood installer may not be able to get back to your house for a month because of other commitments. They run on really tight schedule…and often underestimate time so constantly play catch-up. Adding a buffer to the schedule may save you weeks in trade delays down the line.

And lastly, the most important and the biggest time delayer, CHANGE ORDERS. The good news – you have 1000% control over this delay happening and if it does happen, you probably won’t care because its caused by you. Changing the design (materials, walls, finishes) during the renovation creates a change order. This could lead to additional cost for materials, delays in getting the materials and extra labor fees. You can avoid this by doing the work upfront in the design step of the project and committing to it. In the end, it’s your house and you have to be happy with it. If you change your mind, it happens and it can be done…at a cost.

How a renovation emotionally affects a homeowner is different for each person. Some people thrive in a renovation environment and others, it breaks them. No matter which type of person you are, planning and knowing what to expect can make all the different. And remember, one step at a time.

Add your comments below – renovation experience, horror stories, questions. Please share!

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