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As a homeowner, it’ll be up to you to communicate with contractors and keep eye on progress
You’ve decided this is the year you’re going to tackle a major renovation. Whether it’s a new kitchen, bathroom, or some much needed energy efficient upgrades, any renovation is going to cause a disruption in your normal routine. You could lose access to whole rooms of your house, or find yourself without heat or central air.
You’ve found the right contractor, someone who’s really going to make it right — but that doesn’t mean your job is done. As a homeowner, you are responsible for what happens to your home during a renovation. And that means you can’t afford to be hands-off.
I want to stress this: even if you have a contractor you’ve been using for years who you really trust, you still need to play an active role during your renovation. I’m not saying you’re going to pick up a hammer and start nailing drywall, but you need to make sure that all of your construction t’s are crossed, and i’s are dotted.
Before construction starts
As a homeowner, it’s your job to ensure that the proper permits have been obtained for the renovation. Your contract may state that the contractor will get them for you, but before construction begins, check with the city that they’ve been pulled.
Document everything — even take photos of your valuables. This is something you’ll want for insurance purposes, and is a great idea, even if you’re not going through a renovation. If you ever experience something like a flood or a robbery, having records of these items to show your insurance company is vital.
Move your valuables out of the renovation space, even taking them to off-site storage if you have to. You don’t want to risk damage to your furniture or other household items.
Don’t be hands-off. Often, your renovator will need to contact you about a million little things that need to be decided during construction. A renovation can uncover some unforeseen issues, so you want an efficient channel of communication open between you and your contractor, in case the contractor finds something that needs your immediate attention.
Now, I call renovation dust “divorce dust” for a reason, so I recommend doing your best to live off-site during a renovation if at all possible. But remember, that it can be hard to monitor your job progress if you’re remote. You’ll want to keep a close eye on the job site, even taking the opportunity to stop by and check things out in person. If it’s not possible to live off-site, do your best to designate new spaces to perform the function of the space under renovation. If your kitchen is going to be out of commission for a while, you’ll likely lose access to your stove and oven, but a microwave can be moved to a garage or laundry room and still see some use.
Learn to be flexible. Unforeseen problems can arise, leading to delays in construction — so you don’t want to plan renovations around specific holiday milestones. You may want your new deck finished by Canada Day, but it might not happen, so don’t invite your family over for a big barbecue. Your guests might be navigating around an in-progress patio instead.
I mentioned previously that you should tie your contractor payments to construction milestones (some for rough-in, some when the electrical is done, and so on), but it’s important you adhere to those milestones as quickly as possible. Remember, unless this is a very small job, your contractor has materials to purchase, and subtrades to pay — and they deserve to be paid on time.
Finally, during construction, try to refrain from running your HVAC. Most contractors will do their best to mitigate the spread of construction dust through your home by putting up partitions between active construction zones and the rest of the house. Believe me, dust finds a way into everything — this is another reason why I recommend moving out if you can. If you must run the HVAC, change your air filter every two weeks or so.
Watch Mike Holmes in his series, Holmes Makes It Right, on HGTV. For more information, visit makeitright.ca .
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