Dwayne Smolnicky blog

Working as a designer and general contractor, I have learned a few lessons along way, and some of those lessons may help homeowners as well. What you do is as important as what you don’t do, and sometimes a homeowner’s natural instincts and actions can have a negative affect on a home renovation project.

Do you know if you’re helping or hurting the project? Here are 10 tips that can help simplify your home renovation.

1. Do not delay decisions.

If you want your renovation to go well, the best thing to do is make as many of the decisions as possible before the work even starts. A good builder can talk you through the list of situations that might come up on your job, but decisions about situations aren’t usually what cause delays.

Instead, most of the issues are related to decisions about things fixture and appliance selection, trim, casing, and paint colours. These may seem small, but when your faucet is a two weeks late, the plumber has to be rescheduled and the medicine cabinet door might hit the faucet when it’s installed, you’ll see how something small can balloon into a week’s delay on a four to five week project.

2. Do not change your mind (too much).

Even though it’s inevitable that you’ll change your mind about something on your project, know this: Every time you change your mind, it’ll result in a change order. Although the change may seem minor, there are always added costs — even if it’s only the time spent discussing the change.

Scheduling can be affected too. Everyone working on the job needs to be informed of the change so no one’s working from the old plan. Everyone makes changes, and that’s OK — just be aware of the potential to disrupt and delay the job.

3. Do not buy your own materials.

It seems like an obvious way to save money — a builder is going to mark up the cost of materials and pass that added cost on to you. That’s true, but the builder may get a better price than you to begin with, meaning that even after markup, you’ll pay the same price. The builder will also know how much material is need, what type of material, and they will make sure to get all those little bits and pieces to finish the job of properly with having too many extra trips to the supplier.

4. Do not put lipstick on a pig.

Though a builder will rarely come right out and say this, some houses should be knocked down rather than have money put into them to fix them up. Though this is a rare situation, it’s common for people to put money into fancy cabinets for a house with a sagging foundation, or into a high-efficiency furnace in a house with no insulation. Listen to the professionals who come to look at your job. Be open to their suggestions.

5. Do not work without a contingency fund.

If you find out that the work you wanted to do costs more than you expected or budgeted, you’re in good company. It’s almost unheard of that a person sets a realistic budget for a project. But don’t eat into your contingency to stretch the budget. If you follow rule number one and make as many decisions as possible ahead of time, you can probably get away with a 5 percent contingency if you have a good general contractor.

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6. Do not let kids and pets get in the way.

Though the people working in your home will often try to accommodate your pets and kids, they shouldn’t have to. It’s just not safe to have children or animals around construction. Every homeowner will be doing walk-throughs from time to time to see the progress of the project. Make sure when you do, you have suitable footwear and you are not wearing thongs or sandals. Do your walk-through, ask your questions, and then let the trades people get back to work. Not every discussion needs to happen on-site.

7. Do not be a distraction.

It may sound harsh, but every minute someone working on your house spends talking to you, they are not working on your house. Is the conversation important and one that will have an impact on the job? That’s one thing, but the electrician on the job isn’t getting paid any more to spend 30 minutes talking about your vacation plans.

8. Do not live in the home.

Most people ignore this rule, and for good reason. Remodeling is expensive, and moving out just adds to the cost. If you can’t move out for the whole job, try to schedule some time away and set up a clean, comfortable place to retreat to when you can’t handle coming home to a messy and stressful construction site.

9. Do not work without a design.

Some projects require an architect; some an interior designer, and sometimes a talented builder will get your aesthetic and help you come up with a good plan.

10. Do not start a remodel without a detailed floor plan.

A lot of elements can interact in one space. Put them all on paper and you will most likely catch many problems before they are built. You may be able to build a functional space without a plan. If you want a functional and beautiful space, hire a designer.