Renovating Your Home

Why Renovate?
Ten Good Reasons to Hire a CHBA Renovator
Step 1. Set your priorities

Step 2. Know what's possible

Step 3. Pick your partners

Step 4. Get it in writing

Step 5. Don't worry about the mess

Step 6. Inspect as you go

Step 7. Give the final thumbs-up

For a more detailed checklist and reasons to use a CHBA member, click here.

Why Renovate?

Everyone has a different reason for wanting to renovate. Sometimes it's the simple need for a change. Other times, the motivation is more practical. If you wake up one day with a puddle in the basement and a water-stained ceiling, you know you have to act fast.

From the planning stage to the final touches, this guide shares our experience and knowledge with you. And it tells you about some of the first-rate resources we've developed to deal with all kinds of renovation issues. In general, there are three types of renovation: lifestyle, retrofit, and maintenance and repair.

  • Lifestyle renovations improve your home and your way of life. They might involve building a sun room for pleasure, or converting unused attic space into living quarters to meet your changing needs.
  • Retrofit projects usually focus on your home's shell or mechanical systems. Examples are upgrading your insulation, replacing your furnace, or putting on new siding.
  • Maintenance and repair renovations protect the investment you have made in your house through activities such as caulking windows, re-shingling your roof, or replacing your eavestroughs.

Key Questions Before You Start

A successful renovation can be a dream come true, but without careful planning and management, it can be a nightmare.
 
Is Your Renovation Practical?
 
While maintenance renovations aren't really a choice — they're part of owning a home and protecting your investment — lifestyle renovations and even some retrofit plans may not be practical or do-able.
Be clear about your expectations. Learn when to draw the line between what's desirable and what's essential.
Almost any renovation will add to, or at least protect, the equity in your home, but kitchen and bathroom renovations and painting normally provide the greatest payback when you sell. If your property taxes and insurance premiums go up, the increase is usually small.
 
Is Your Renovation Adaptable?
 
It's best to take the long view when you're renovating, because your needs are bound to change as time goes by. Try to build the most flexibility and long-term usefulness into your design. For instance, some day you may want to convert a nursery into a home office. Installing the required wiring now will save you time and money later, and will also add a selling feature if you decide to move.
It's not just about preparing for future changes. By installing features such as lever door handles, non-slip flooring and extra-wide doorways, you make household activities more comfortable and safer today. And Healthy?
Planning a renovation is also an opportunity to apply Healthy Housing principles. The goal of Healthy Housing is to reduce house-hold demands on the outdoor environment while providing a healthy indoor environment — by installing energy-efficient appliances, for instance, or by making the most use of natural light and passive solar energy in your designs.
The basis of Healthy Housing is to think of your home as an ecosystem and a part of the larger environment. Incorporating Healthy Housing principles when planning your renovation will help protect your family and community, and could very well help you save money.

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Ten Good Reasons to Hire a CHBA Renovator

Renovating your home should be a positive experience-enjoyable and free from worry and stress. You should have full confidence in your renovator and know that you are getting the best. That's why you should choose a professional renovator.

From start to finish. A professional renovator will help you to put it all together-from ideas to design, from products to plans, from construction to completion.

Experienced advice. A professional renovator has the experience and knowledge to help turn your ideas into great results. They listen, make suggestions, and look for the best way of doing things.

Technical know-how. Professional renovators understand construction, how to deal with challenges and problems, and how to improve the comfort of your home.

Expert teamwork. Behind every professional renovator, there is a solid network of staff, subtrades and suppliers ready to go to work for you.

A proven track record. Their business is an open book. You are invited to talk with past customers, look at their previous work and check out their reputation.

Accurate pricing. No need to be concerned about low-ball costing, inferior work or escalating prices once the job begins. Experienced renovators know what it takes to do something right and how much it costs, and they'll tell you upfront.

A written contract. Trust alone is not enough; professionals back it up with a written contract that spells your project out in detail-what, how, who, when and how much.

Liability insurance and workers compensation coverage. Better safe than sorry. In the unlikely event of an accident or damage to your own or neighbouring properties, a professional renovator's coverage protects you from liability and cost.

Warranty. Like any other consumer purchase, a professional renovation comes with a warranty on labour. And with professional installation, there is no risk of voiding the manufacturers' warranties on materials and products.

Service, service, service. Professional renovators are in business for the long term. They work hard to earn your trust and make every renovation a great experience.

Before You Renovate…

Step 1. Set your priorities

If you're considering several projects, rank them in order of importance. Maintenance items should be given top priority. You'll want to fix a leaky roof before refinishing the floor beneath it!

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Step 2. Know what's possible

Every house has unique strengths and weaknesses. Hire a qualified private home inspector or architect to give you professional advice on what your home needs and what it can — or should — do.

Just remember: consulting a qualified professional before you make a big decision is the best way to avoid costly complications down the road.

Consider the impact of your intended renovation. The addition you want may look great on paper, but can your heating, plumbing and electrical systems service it? Remember that although your house looks like a static structure, it's actually a collection of components that interact continuously. If you change one part, another may be unexpectedly affected.

Remember that building codes and local by-laws may also limit what and how you renovate. There's nothing worse than discovering the project you've painstakingly planned is not allowed. Talk to your municipal building department and find out about zoning and permits.

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Step 3. Pick your partners

Doing it yourself can save money, but there are other costs to consider. Are you prepared to draw up your own plans, get your own permits, and schedule inspections? How much time can you spend away from your regular job, your family, and other commitments? Can you be as efficient or as skilled as tradespeople who do this specialized work every day?

You may feel comfortable painting a room or removing an old fence, but specialized tasks that involve wiring, plumbing or heating systems are usually best left to professionals. Some municipalities, in fact, require certain kinds of work to be done by certified tradespeople.

There is also the question of equipment: if you don't own the tools, you'll have to buy or rent them. If you run into problems, who will you call? Renovation is a big responsibility, and at times it can be stressful.
Most people find that contracting-out the work is best. But choosing the right renovator is extremely important.

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Step 4. Get it in writing

Always get a written contract describing the work to be done, what it will cost and how payments will be made. Never agree to anything before you have it in writing.

Your Responsibilities:
• Decide what's to be done
• Choose materials and products as required
• Select the renovator or design firm
• Ensure the contract describes the job completely and correctly
• Obtain zoning approval and building permits
• Provide workers with the necessary space, access and utilities
• Inform the renovator about deficiencies or mistakes as soon as possible
• Pay for the job once it has been done to your satisfaction

Your Renovator's Responsibilities:
• Be licensed
• Perform work as contracted, unless changes are authorized in writing
• Maintain liability and property damage insurance, and workers' compensation
• Hire skilled workers
• Pay workers, suppliers and subcontractors
• Oversee the quality of work

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Step 5. Don't worry about the mess

It's no fun living on a construction site. In fact, if the renovations are major, you may want to consider moving out for a while. Of course, this isn't always possible. Be sure at least to find out from your renovator what kinds of disruptions you can expect. 

For example, water and electricity may have to be turned off, heavy equipment brought in, or sanding done at some stage of your project. As the work progresses, ask for specific dates and times so that you and your family can plan around them.

You'll also want to negotiate the times workers start and finish each day, and whether they'll work on weekends. Renovators often keep several jobs goings at once, especially during the busy summer season, so there may be days or even weeks between their appearances. These periods must be indicated in the renovator's work schedule.

Be aware that renovating can be a dirty job, or at least a very dusty one. If you decide to stay in your house, remove all furnishings and personal items from the work site. If you can't easily move something, cover it with a plastic sheet and seal it with duct tape.

Seal off doors to non-work areas and heating and ventilation ducts in the work area. Sealed-off areas will probably require a supplemental source of heat during the winter.

The Human Factor
A professional renovator and crew will always do their best to be considerate of your privacy and personal space. In turn, they will have certain needs, such as access to toilets, water and a telephone. Plastic runners leading to a toilet, water and a telephone will help keep your carpets and floors clean. 

Tell your renovator what spaces and belongings are off-limits, and the times you do not want to be disturbed. If workers have habits that annoy you, discuss your concerns with the project manager or your renovator, not with individual crew members. If you allow smoking in your house, place ashtrays in the work area. Otherwise, ask workers to smoke outside.

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Step 6. Inspect as you go

Most renovation experiences are happy ones. But don't assume that things are going according to plan just because you have a sound contract and good rapport with your renovator. Stay on top of your project to prevent minor errors from becoming major problems.

If you have a disagreement, be reasonable. Go over the contract and listen carefully to the renovator's explanations. If you're still not satisfied, get a second opinion from a recognized home inspector or an architect before taking further action.

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Step 7. Give the final thumbs-up

As the work winds down, make sure that it has been done to your satisfaction and according to your contract. Never make the final payment or sign a certificate of work completion or any other document releasing the renovator from further responsibility until all deficiencies are corrected. Don't release the lien holdback until the registration period for mechanics' liens has passed and any outstanding liens have been paid.

Once the project is finished and life returns to normal, sit back and enjoy the fruit of your labours. If you prepared yourself well, you'll find your hard work has really paid off.

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Information provided by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation