Planning Guide

After consulting on hundreds of renovation projects over the years, I have found that there are two general categories in which people fit; those who have a clear 'vision' of what they want, and those who have only a vague idea of what it is they are after. No matter which category you may find yourself in, this guide should offer some insight into the process while helping you to focus your desires to obtain the results you are after.

Deciding What You Want

So, you've decided to renovate or add more living space. Great! Now the fun begins. But before a plan is drawn or a colour selected, you must first determine which results you would like to achieve.

First, take some time developing an outline for your project. A good idea is to make a 'Wish List', divided into two headings. The first heading would be titled 'Must Have'. This would include the most desirable elements for your project such as more living space or an extra washroom. The second heading 'Wish to Have' would list items that may be considered as an upgrade such as a walkout to a deck or a whirlpool bath, if your budget allowed.

Next, prepare a rough sketch of the project. This does not have to be a detailed plan, but a general layout summarizing approximate dimensions and elements such as windows, doors or fixtures. This sketch will help to better communicate your ideas to a contractor plus help you better focus in on what it is you actually desire. Consider size, comfort and how the proposed alterations will fit into your lifestyle.

What You Need To Begin

Your primary consideration will be your budget. Determine a comfortable spending range to compare with your overall anticipated costs. Remember that you may be exposed to costs beyond the actual construction contract. These might include permits, architectural or engineering fees, utility fees and finance charges. Your project may also require an upgrade of the existing structure or mechanical systems.

Anything beyond a straightforward renovation will require a set of plans. These plans can be prepared by an architect or design professional. A professional contractor should be able to provide a basic floor plan for an addition or renovation, which will help in understanding the scope of work. Many municipalities now insist that permit plans be prepared by a professional designer or engineer. These plans are important as they are essential when applying for permits. Second, they may be required by your financial institution, should you be obtaining financing for the project. Third and most importantly, the finalized plans will form the basis of your general contracting agreement.

Permits and approvals may be required to proceed with your project. You should contact your municipal building department at the earliest stages. They will give you information that can be factored into your design and budget such as building setbacks and permit fees. A building permit would most likely be required for any type of work involving structural changes, additions, etc. When applying, certain details may be requested. These can include floor plans, elevation views, structural (engineered) drawings, heat loss calculations, mechanical drawings, etc.. Bear in mind the potential fees for any of these details.

Hiring A Contractor

Finding a qualified contractor is certainly the most important element when proceeding with your project. The outcome of the finished product (and your peace of mind) relies on the ability of the contractor to provide a quality job while keeping inconveniences to a minimum.

When tendering the job to bids, ensure that you are receiving comparable submissions by confirming that these bids are based upon the same set of specifications. Many times I have seen competing quotes that vary dramatically (both in scope and bottom line) to what the customer has requested. Make sure you are clear about what is & is not included in the bids you receive.

Potential candidates should provide you with references or recommendations from prior clients. You can also ask to see pictures of past projects. Confirm that the contractor has liability insurance and ask about his warranty/service policy.

You should feel comfortable with the contractor you are hiring. A good contractor will not only listen to your requirements, but will offer advice or direction to help you get value and comfort from the finished product. Good communication is vital throughout the entire process. When you are prepared to commit to a contractor, be sure to have a written contract and confirm that all of the desired elements are outlined in detail. The contract should also include a time frame for completing the job as well as a payment schedule. Make sure that you are aware of your responsibilities and if you have any questions or concerns, review them prior to commencing. Remember it's your money & your home so if you have any questions at any stage - ask, ask, ask!

Please feel free to email me with any questions you may have!