Planning Your Home Renovation

We often get calls from homeowners that are looking to renovate but have no idea where to start.   To assist homeowners, we’ve put together a guide to starting to plan for your home renovation, aimed specifically at larger home renovation projects such as kitchens renovations, basement finishing, and house additions.


1.  Start Early

Planning a renovation or house addition takes time.  And if there’s building permits involved, it takes even more time.  Design, permits and planning can take twice as long, sometimes three times as long as the actual construction work, especially in a large city such as Toronto.  So start your planning, design work, and contractor selection many months before you want to get the work started.


2.  Have a Sense of Your Wants and Needs

Before you start calling builders and contractors or hiring an architect, have a sense of what you want from your home.  Make a list of must haves, and a list of nice to haves.  And start collecting pictures – when you see a picture of a house you like, or a kitchen you like, cut it out from the magazine and place it in a binder.  Or start bookmarking webpages of homes and rooms you like.  When you have some idea of what you want and need, you’re ready to start meeting with architects, designers, and builders.


3.  Set a Budget

Once you have a sense of what you want and need, speak to some builders and contractors to get a sense of what the project will cost.  You won’t be able to get a precise price, but you should be able to get a range.  At this point, you can determine if your project is feasible.

When setting the budget, don’t base it on the low end of the price range, or the low estimate.  Unexpected items may come up during the design stage, or you may want to add additional items to the scope of work as design progresses.


4.  Invest in Design

The purpose of design is to communicate your vision for your project to others, and on larger projects such as house additions it is required for building permits.  A smaller project such as a bathroom renovation may not need design work, but larger projects such as kitchen renovations and basement finishing should have drawings.

Drawings and specifications serve a basis for getting a proper quote.  You can’t expect to get a proper quote for a project without drawings and specifications.  A quote without drawings and specifications is not a quote, it’s a guess.  And chances are a job without proper drawings and specifications will cost more; either because items have been missed and not included in the quote, or because the contractor is inflating the cost of the quote to protect him or herself due the fact there is incomplete information upon which to base the quote.

The design and drawings clearly define what you want, and provide a clear blueprint for the builder when it is time for construction.  Proper design and specifications are required to avoid misunderstanding when it comes time to build, reduce your involvement during the construction phase, and help keep the project on schedule.

The cost of design will vary depending on the size of the project.  It may be a small retainer of a few hundred dollars for a smaller project that does not involve any permits, and will be thousands of dollars for a project that involves building permits.