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PART 8 of How to Avoid a Renovation Disaster:

Renovation Planning is your #1 Key Success Factor

By John Liptak, CEO & President, OakWood
This 8-part blog series reveals how customers make assumptions that lead to six big (and often costly) mistakes. Each blog shares “must ask” questions you can ask to avoid being taken advantage of by a dishonest or unqualified renovator.

Renovation planning is hands down the number one secret to a successful home renovation. Conversely, poor renovation planning is the number one reason most renovation projects go off-the-rails and over budget.

A renovation plan that’s worth its salt should specify every detail of your renovation right down to the number and location of electrical sockets in a room.

If you don’t have a plan, you definitely won’t have a realistic budget. The two go together like a hand and glove. That means any schedules or deadlines are also likely to come…and go.

Key elements of solid renovation planning.

To get a realistic budget, your plan should include the concept and final design; building permits; all materials and finishes; and a detailed GANTT chart identifying every milestone from the pre-construction meeting right through to final inspection.

If you are thinking about any type of renovation, take the time to talk to a contractor who has a proven design and renovation planning system to help you through the maze of considerations and decisions you’ll need to make.

Collectively, those decisions make up a plan. And that plan leads to a budget – with everything fully itemized. Now you are cooking! More importantly, you can make a confident, informed decision about who to hire for your renovation.

Good renovation planning goes hand-in-hand with project management.

The last thing you want your contractor doing is showing up with their morning coffee and spending the first hour trying to figure out where they left off or what they did last.

Ask your contractor how you will be updated on the progress of your renovation. At minimum you should be updated on a weekly basis. Ideally your renovator will:

  • Hold a “pre-construction” meeting and provide you with weekly onsite meetings once your project gets started.
  • Assign a dedicated project manager who provides a single point of contact for your project from start to finish.
  • Use a construction specific CRM system and cloud based technologies to update our schedules every day.’
  • Provide a password protected Client Portal that includes every detail of your renovation

Ask your contractor if they have a computerized project management system. If not, how will they update their project schedules and keep you informed? Make sure they can provide you with a real person (as opposed to an un-real automated messaging service) that you can contact directly during working hours – and an emergency number to call after hours.

Build permits will affect start dates.

Finally, many renovators will promise ambitious start dates, if not exactly when you want. One way they are able to do this is by ignoring building permits.

The fact is, the Ontario Building Code requires permits for the construction, renovation, demolition and certain changes of use in buildings or homes.

Many homeowners have no idea that their renovation requires a building permit. And many renovators either fail to obtain appropriate permits or they inform a homeowner that is their responsibility to get a permit – usually after the project is awarded and a start date agreed to.

Obtaining a building permit can take days and it will affect the start date of your project. Permits are an important planning consideration.

Be sure to ask if your renovator has included the important step of applying for appropriate building permits into their start date and overall plan for your project.

Must ask renovation planning questions:

  1. Does the renovator have licensed Interior Designers & Architectural Technologists with BCIN & LEED certification on staff?
  2. Does the renovator use a professional CRM Project Management system with Gantt Charts to control every phase of your project?
  3. Does the renovator review a pre-construction checklist with you in your home prior to start of construction?
  4. Does the renovator have a company policy to return phone calls within two hours of receiving a message and maintain a 24/7 emergency line?
  5. Does the renovator provide start and completion dates in writing for your project?

These five questions will help reveal if your renovator has their act together; or whether they are “winging it”. More important, asking these questions will give you some assurance that your renovation is going to be well planned; and that you are in good hands.

Avoiding Renovation Disasters Wrap-up

Okay, this post wraps up our 8-part series on “How to Avoid a Renovation Disaster.” The bottom line is this: questions are your best friend. Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t know what they don’t know – so they don’t know what to ask to hire well. Asking the question poised in this series will help you hire a renovator who will give you exactly what you are looking for: a quality job that is on-budget with no surprise extra costs at the end.

If you joined this series late, here’s a recap of the 32 must ask questions.

John Liptak is CEO and President of OakWood, an Ottawa-based renovation company. Established in 1956, OakWood is a fourth generation family run business. Under John’s leadership, OakWood has grown to become Ottawa’s largest and most established full service renovation business and Ottawa’s first and only Mike Holme’s approved renovation partner. A winner of numerous awards, OakWood has been voted Ottawa’s Best Home Designer and Renovation company every year since the Consumer Choice awards were introduced in 2007.