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How To Prepare For Your Home Renovation

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For some, doing a home renovation project can be daunting. To others, it can be exciting. If you’re like us and you’ve done a lot of renovations over the years, then it’s probably a little exciting with a dash of ugh-here-we-go-again, thrown in. 

To those of you who may feel out of your league and nervous about starting a home renovation, we hope this helps you to prepare for your next renovation, regardless of how big or small it may be. 

You’ve Got This!

First, we just want to say. Good for you! There may be some difficulties along the way, but when it’s finished, you will have a great new space. Yay you!

We believe the best way to confront a challenge is to break it down into bite sized, more easily digested steps. So let’s go!

Table of Contents

Where To Start

Research, Research, Research

Most people renovate because there is something about their home space that doesn’t suit their needs. Or they may consider selling their home and want a better return on their investment. Whatever the motive, it all starts with an idea. Let’s say you’re doing a kitchen renovation. 
  • Start by listing all the problems your kitchen has now. E.g. Not enough storage space, there is never an electrical outlet close to where you need it, the lighting is dull, the garbage and recycling bins are too far away, etc.
  • Next, look for solutions. This is the fun part. Start researching your ideal space. Spend time on sites like and Pinterest looking at photos of kitchens. 
  • Create idea books and boards, or even a scrapbook of magazine cuttings. You’ll soon see common design themes emerge, and then you’ll know what your renovation style is. 
  • Visit local showrooms, open houses, hardware and renovation centres for ideas.
  • If you live in a Strata or have a Home Owners Association property, then be sure to research the rules allowed for renovating. 
  • Research whether your planned renovation will increase your home value. E.g. If you take out that walk-in pantry for a theatre sized popcorn machine, will your home’s value drop? (Yes, it will)

Identify Your “Must-Haves”

Make a list of all of your wants – those things that you always dreamed of having in your home.

After you have an extensive list, go through it and divide it into “nice-to-haves” and “must-haves”.

Make this list detailed and include everything from the floor to the ceiling. You can go big to start, but you will eventually have to pare down your “must-haves” to fit within your budget. Either that, or increase your budget.

Here’s an example:

Must haves vs wants

Secure Your Finances and Establish a Budget

After you have decided on all of your “must-haves”, it’s time to add up the cost of them for a $ total. Then, when you’ve recovered from the shock (kidding…sort of) you will have a rough idea for your home renovation budget. 

You shouldn’t stop there though. We always recommend adding on another 20% of your total to get your full budget.

We say this because often, charges that you may not have considered, find a way of popping up. If you have a 20% buffer in your budget and you don’t have to use it, great! If you need it, you’re covered!

Hiring Trades For Your Home Renovation

If you are planning on hiring any trades to help you with your renovation, definitely do some research into the trades you hire.

Recommendations from neighbours is a good place to start. We have often used online neighbourhood groups like and Facebook groups local to us, to ask for recommendations. If we get multiple people recommending the same tradesman, then we know we may have a winner.

The Better Business Bureau is an excellent resource to check.

Ask for references from their last 3 jobs, especially for the larger jobs. And then check them. Ideally, see the work they’ve done recently. It may not always be possible to visit previous jobs, but at the very least speak to the homeowners who’ve hired them for the same work.

Meet the contractor or tradesmen in person before you decide. These are people who you will invite into your home, people who you may spend a lot of time with. You need to be comfortable around them. 

Important questions to ask potential trades:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Do you do the work yourself or will it be delegated to someone on your staff? (If so, ask for details about the staff members’ experience.)
  • Can you supply at least three customer references?
  • Are you licenced?
  • Do you have Worker’s Compensation or equivalent insurance? And can I see the paperwork?
  • Will you obtain the required permits for the job and organize inspections? (If necessary)
  • What is the timeline for completion of the job? Do you have other jobs on the go at the same time that may interfere with our schedule? How will you address changes in the schedule?
  • What are your payment terms? (We recommend that you don’t pay for work in full before the job has started.) 
  • Do you provide a written contract?
  • Do you provide a written warranty?
  • What is the best way to communicate with you?
  • What are your start and end times each day?
  • What noise level can I expect? (You should advise your neighbours.)
  • How do you clean up at the end of each day?
  • Will you need to store any tools or materials at our home site?
  • How will you protect my property?

*Important note: Check your local lien laws before you hire a contractor. Each province here in Canada has different laws, but most require that you hold back 10%-15% of the total job cost for 30-45 days after the project is complete. Before you pay this last amount, check with your local land registry office to make sure there are no liens registered against your property. 

Applying For Permits Before You Renovate

*Remember, it’s your responsibility as the homeowner to meet all the proper permit requirements. Don’t assume your contractor has applied for permits. Check with them first.

Each municipality has their own rules for permits, so start there. Go to your city’s website where you can search and download the forms.  

Generally, permits are required when your renovation involves load-bearing walls, electrical, major plumbing and natural gas or propane systems. In these cases you may be required to submit drawings of your project and include all specifications.

*Note: Most permits require that you start the work within 6 months once the permit is issued.

Non-structural changes like replacing flooring will probably not require a permit, but if you’re not sure, check with your local municipality first. 

Condo Strata/Homeowner Association Properties

We’ve recently bought a home in a subdivision with a Homeowners Association board. This is new for us and we were a little surprised at first by all the rules and restrictions.

On the other hand, we get it. The rules are in place so that the neighbourhood always looks pristine and we are grateful for that, but sometimes the rules seem a tad extreme. 

One example: Our son parks his car in the driveway when he is at the house. We have a large oak tree that spreads its branches across the full expanse of the driveway. In the spring, the tree drops leaves and pollen all over the place. To avoid having his car covered in a sticky mess every day, he put a cover over his car. Within days, we had a letter from the board explaining that car covers are a big no no. We were to stop using the cover or face fines. Alrighty then.

Still, as I said, we get it. The rules are there so the neighbourhood always looks nice and uniform, which is good for resale. But if you live in a home with these rules, make sure you research what your restrictions are and get approvals for any changes you plan to make before you start your renovation. 

Side joke: Q: What do you call a large group of Karens?
                   A:  A Homeowners Association.  hee hee


Will You Stay In Your Home During Your Renovation

Depending on which rooms you are renovating, or if you’re renovating the entire house at once, think long and hard about whether you want to remain in your home during the renovation. 

Renovations are messy. Really messy. And dusty. You won’t believe how much dust you’ll have over every square inch of your home, even with all your best efforts to keep it contained. Just know that it will be dusty. 

renovations create a lot of dust

A few tips to consider if you stay:

When we renovated our latest kitchen we were living in the house through all of it. Although we thought we were pretty organized, it was still a painful experience. 

We set up temporary open shelving to hold all of our dishes and pots and pans etc. We had a separate area with a makeshift countertop for our coffee maker, toaster and a hot plate. It was a clean area away from the ongoing kitchen renovation where we could prepare our meals. So important!

Our dishwasher was functional through it all, which was a godsend, but we’ve never missed a working faucet and sink so much.  Every time we needed water, it meant a long walk down halls and around corners to a water source.

Bonus Tip: We kept a bucket of soapy water and a dishcloth at our temporary kitchen area for quick cleanup.

    1. Keep your eye on the prize. 
      • Look at your inspiration photos when things get tough. The pain will be worth the gain. Eventually.
      • Think of it as an adventure. I know that sounds ridiculous, but a change in mindset can make all the difference.
    2. Look for creative ways to work around your renovation. 
    3. Be patient!
    4. Be prepared to clean. A lot. 
      • Cover ducts. 
      • You may have to turn off air conditioning/heating units to stop air circulating the construction dust.
      • If your renovation involves harmful fumes, you should invest in an air purifier.
    5. Consider your pets and small children.
      • Prepare a safe place for them during the renovation.
      • You will need to be extra vigilant when it comes to cleaning up construction dust, etc. 
        dusty cat prints on a chair
        The cat was here!
    6. Plan your access routes.
      • Set ground rules for your trades about when and where they can enter and leave from. 
      • Consider in advance where tools and materials for the renovation will be stored.
    7. For kitchen renovations, set up a temporary kitchen somewhere with water access.
      • Consider using small appliances like slow cookers and toaster ovens. Or, better yet, if you’re able, bbq your meals outside.
      • Access to a small fridge is helpful.
      • You may consider disposable plates and utensils.
    8. Have a retreat area. This is so important for your mental health during a home renovation.
      • Somewhere clean.
      • Away from the noise of the renovation.
      • A place you can relax and destress.
    9. Discourage visitors during your renovation. Visitors may add to your stress level. Unless your visitors are there to help.

Take Photos

Take a lot of “before” pictures from every angle. 

When your reno project is complete, take “after” photos from the same viewpoint for comparisons.

It’s fun to compare before and after photos, especially when the two line up perfectly.

Master bedroom before and after

Update Your Home Insurance Policy

Any time you change the value of your home, update your policy. Keep in mind that some renovations, like adding a new roof, may even lower your insurance rate. 

Compile a Punch List

Keep a notepad handy once your home renovation is complete. For the next couple of weeks, as you live in your newly renovated space, jot down anything you notice that needs adjusting. Then you, or your contractor, can get right onto fixing them. 

Email Us at Renovator Life

When your new home renovation is complete, and you’re thrilled with the results, why not show it off? Email us your renovation story complete with before and after photos so we can feature your amazing home renovation on our Showcase Page.

How To Prepare For Your Home Renovation
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