Decorating & Design

January 11, 2012

Readers’ Top Renovation Tips

Experience is the greatest teacher, and House & Home readers have it in spades. So, we asked our Facebook fans and Forum users to share their best advice. “Like” us on Facebook or participate in our Forums to be included in upcoming articles, too! For more readers’ tips, see our Best Storage & Organization Tricks.

1. Settle in before renovating.

“Live in the house for at least one year before undertaking major renovations. It will save you a lot of time, effort and money in the long run,” advises Bren Smith, one of our Facebook fans from Kemptville, Ontario. “Without living in the house first, you will invariably look back and say, ‘Oh, I wish I had thought of that,’ or ‘It would have been better if I had …’” Take the time to ensure your reno will be regret-free. Also, learn which rooms are the best investments to renovate.

2. Set realistic expectations.

“Don’t let television makeover shows set your expectations relative to time or budget,” warns Patrick J. Hamilton, an interior designer from New York City. Jennifer Knickle-Mills, a Facebook fan from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, agrees. “If you want to have the reno done in a certain time frame, mentally prepare yourself by tacking on a few extra months,” she says.

You have to be patient, adds Claudine Barnes, from Cape Town, South Africa. “And most of the time, things never stay within budget, so always add a 10-percent buffer.”

Maureen Malone, from Claremont, Ontario, also warns about budgeting: “Understand from the outset that little changes (from adding potlights to edges on your granite) translate to extra costs — sometimes thousands of dollars.”

3. Hire a trustworthy contractor.

“Avoid underestimating the construction schedule and cost,” says Kevin Gray, a Facebook fan from Calgary. Find general contractor services near Vancouver, Washington with direct experience in renovations, and one that will give you realistic estimates of both. And don’t forget to include the cost of temporary relocation in your budget. Be sure to get more than one quote, too, adds Knickle-Mills.

4. Take time to plan.

“Plan, plan, plan! Make sure you plan every detail, including budget, product availability, trades, timeline and style before you start any renovation,” says Patti Allen, from Sebringville, Ontario.

5. Don’t stress about trends.

“Don’t be too concerned about finding the perfect builder’s beige or what’s in style at the present time,” says Carrie in SK, one of our H&H Forum users. “Use colour, textures and good quality products and the rooms will be unique and beautiful.” For inspiration, browse photos of House & Home’s favourite renos in the Extreme Makeovers photo gallery.

6. Create a list of second-best options.

Steph LeComte from West Vancouver, B.C. points out that things don’t always go according to plan. “Have a back-up plan for every step of the reno — finishes, design details, etc. And have them at the ready for quick, ‘I need a decision now’ dilemmas.”

7. Consider moving out temporarily.

Noise, drywall dust and temporary water and electrical cut offs can make living in your home difficult, to say the least. “Move out while the reno is going on!” advises Suzanne Lasky.

If you can’t move out, at least create an oasis away from the reno area. “If you don’t have the luxury of moving out while renos are going on, make one room yours — a clean space where you don’t have to look at the mess and can retreat to after a long day,” suggests Knickle-Mills.

8. Be present (even if you’re living off-site).

“Be on-site whenever possible, as the smallest detail to a contractor may be a big detail to you,” says Knickle-Mills. “Redoing things will cost you time and money.”

9. Maintain healthy bones.

Take care of the not-so-fun renovations first. Pat Battles from Victoria learned the hard way: “If you’re in an older home, look after the basics first (plumbing, wiring, etc.) before decorating over them. I came across a few ‘surprises’ as I painted my bathroom — I’m glad we investigated that spongy spot under the old coat of paint!”

10. Consider soundproofing.

If you’re pulling down or replacing walls, take the time to noise-proof rooms. “If possible, build with heavier materials,” says Nestor Kelebay, one of our forum users from Winnipeg, Manitoba. “Use cement backer boards meant for ceramic tiling instead of drywall. If your existing walls are plaster (which is much heavier than drywall), try to preserve them rather than tear them down.” Also, use solid-core wood doors instead of hollow-core wood doors and keep them tight fitting with minimal gaps between the floor and the bottom of the door.

11. Don’t cut corners.

“If you skimp on one element of your reno, realize that will be the lowest common denominator and will pull down the other elements to that level,” says Peter Means, from Dover, New Hampshire. “Don’t skimp — or at least don’t skimp on the larger elements.”

12. Plan lighting placement around furniture.

“Buy light fixtures ahead of time and plan where the placement of furniture will be.  Measure or hold up the fixture to get an idea of where you want it,” advises another forum user, Mrs. Peacock. “We did this with our dining room light and measured out the size of our table on the floor (since it was in storage). This way we had the light centered over the table and not off to one side. We also did this with the kitchen island. We had four antique school house lights, so we outlined the island on the floor to figure out where the lights should be. Then the electrician could place the light boxes in the right spots.”

For tips on how high to hang pendants, see our Hanging Lights article.

13. Keep dust out.

Patricia Forbes Walker from Toronto swears by Canadian Tire’s plastic zippers: “Keep the dust and grit out of other rooms with sticky back zippers from Canadian Tire. You add them to the plastic sheets between door frames. Just stick them on the plastic, then open them up and cut between the teeth. Then you can go from room to room opening and closing sheets without dust transfer. They cost about $10 each and are worth their weight in gold!”

Learn even more tips in our Home Improvement section and in our Home Renovation Guide.

Do you have more renovation tips to add? Share them in our comments section. Plus, “like” us on Facebook or participate in our Forums to be included in our upcoming article on the best storage and organization tips — click here to add your tips to Facebook!

Author: Gwen McAuley

Michael Graydon