How to Renovate and not Lose your Shirt

Everyone has the horror stories about the renovation from hell, over budget, over time, stress and unhappiness all around.  Disputes about payment.  We have all heard it and some of us have lived it.  How do you renovate and end up happy??


The first thing to remember is that all the important work is done before the first hammer arrives on site. 

  • Start with a budget and design to your budget and not the other way around.  Too many of us get into the “while we are at it” syndrome.  Just because you are renovating your kitchen, it does not necessarily follow that you also must have a lap pool.  Set your priorities and try very hard to stick to at least most of them.
  • Design, design, design.  If it is not your thing, hire a professional.  Before any builder can give you an accurate cost for your renovation, they must have drawings and materials specifications.  At the very least a floor plan, lighting plan, list of appliances, and finish materials.  Yes, I mean that you should pick out every last tile, carpet and moulding before you start the pricing process.  This is a tremendous amount of work, so if you are not an avid amateur who really enjoys this stuff, it may be best to leave it to a professional designer. 
  • Interview at least three builders/renovators.  Ask for references and call the references.  Ask to see a sample invoice and budget and ask how the budget is updated as the project progresses.  How often does the builder invoice, what are the payment terms?
  • Add at least a 10% contingency to the final budget.  It may not be necessary, but more often than not, something unexpected will come up when the walls come down.  As the renovation progresses, you may want to make some changes.  These changes almost always increase the budget.  Review the budget at least once a month with your builder. 
  • If it is at all feasible, move out for the duration of the project.  Dust, noise and people coming and going can be very stressful for homeowners.  At the same time, the building team will be more effective if they are not constantly cleaning and trying to minimize their effect on your life. 


A beautiful stress free renovation is very possible.  Preparation is the key!

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