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December 06, 2021

What I Learned During Home Renovation

We are days away from moving back to the main floor of our home, after 4 months of construction, and another 6 months of planning before that. 

To say we’ve learned a lot through this process is an understatement; many people have asked us what we would have done differently, or how the process has been (especially living in the home), so I’ve put together a list of some of my lessons and takeaways as we’re nearing the end. 

A Big Job 

The first thing I’ll say is renovation is a big job and takes a lot of hard work – from all angles. The concept, design, construction, finishes, etc. We anticipated and expected the full renovation to be done much earlier than it is – and while it’s easy to blame the pandemic and supply chain (definitely a factor), some things just simply get delayed. It is what it is. We even had a very detailed calendar and deadlines – unfortunately, one delay can snowball an entire chain of other delays in the project.

So, breathe. Once we adjusted our expectations and attitude towards the delays, we were calmer about our end date. 

Lesson Learned: If I were doing another reno again, I would weigh the expectations to avoid disappointment. 

Passion Project

Secondly, there are a LOT of emotions that are experienced through the process. There may be some raised voices at time, some passionate conversations and some arguments that, when looking back, were downright rude. As homeowners, we were involved in just about every phase of the project. Some homeowners are not. Combine that with living in the house, and there were a lot of tense moments. 

For the most part, I am glad we were able to hash out every single disagreement. Our team – designer, contractor and us – is a very passionate one. And honestly, I wouldn’t want it another way. The fact that we’re all so committed to our work and this project means that all the details will be looked after. If they didn’t care so much, that would be much more of a concern to me.

Lesson Learned: Avoid sending text messages and notes without having a conversation first. Once the conversation is had, send a follow-up email or text with all details for confirmation. 

Trust the Process and Your Gut

This one is a bit of a contradiction. Trust the process, trust the experts. Most trades who come into your home have been doing this work much longer than you have, which is why you hired pros. I firmly believe in asking for expert advice and trusting their work. What may seem like a big deal to you in the moment is likely something your contractor has seen many times  -- not actually a big deal, and likely fixable.

However, and this is a big however, it is SO IMPORTANT to ask questions and express your concerns when you have them. 

In most cases, work can be undone and redone, although it may cost you some more money. If you notice something that’s off, notarize and communicate. Get ahead of the problem so you can address the issue quickly and avoid delays (see above). Don’t leave things until the end – chances are, there are simple fixes that can be addressed quickly.  

Advocate for yourself and ensure you understand what’s happening -- I’m sure I’ve asked a million questions (or more), but I’m confident in what’s happening in my home. 

Lesson Learned: Trust Your Gut. If something doesn’t feel right, ask the questions until you’re confident. 

Money, Money, Money

I alluded to additional costs, and yes, there will be some. Budget the project before you sign a contract – ensure most aspects of the project are detailed and outlined. If there are additional costs incurred through the project – changing particular finishes, design aspects that weren’t originally considered, furniture, lighting – ensure your “tab” is communicated so there aren’t any surprises. 

While I say we’re days away, there’s actually a lot of stuff that still needs to be done – new couch, window coverings, lighting – which takes time, and you guessed it, money. And it will all get done, in time.

Lesson Learned: If it’s super important to you to have all finishes completely done at the same time, reserve a chunk of money (I’m going to say 20% of your budget, but ask your designer for a more accurate number) for interior design and furnishings. 

It’s OK to Pause, and it's OK to Change Your Mind

There are a gazillion and one decisions you’ll need to make when starting any project. 

Design, functionality, colours, hardware, cabinet design, flooring, windows, window coverings, door openings, door shape, door colour, counters, faucets, etc etc etc. That doesn’t include all the guts of the job – the beams, the structure, gas, electrical, plumbing, framing. TONS OF DECISIONS and a lot of sleepless nights. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s ok to hit pause. Some decisions can be delayed (hardware in your kitchen, for example) to near the end of the project, and some parts of the project can be postponed to another time. 

We hit pause on our front door, as I couldn’t make a decision and didn’t want to be forced into one. Once the main part of our reno is complete, we will decide on a door, with a spring / early summer delivery (I hope!) 

As for changing my mind, I've tried to be sure of my decisions when buying something or selecting a finish, which means it has taken me a bit longer than I thought -- a lot of shopping and researching. But it's totally normal to change your mind along the way -- a lot of time passes from design to planning to execution! If you really want something changed, fight for it, or you'll regret it down the line.

Lesson Learned: One day at a time. If you hit pause, it may delay a part of your job, but if it makes you feel better in the end, it’s worth it. 

So, the biggest question – would you do it again? We would. 

While we haven’t lived in our new space yet, the transformation is astounding and the fact that we were able to take our vision and our ideas and bring them to life is simply amazing. Sometimes I can’t believe it’s the same, subdivision home. I will write a separate post about living through a reno – with kids – another time. 

When we were about a month into our project, our designer told us “it would all be worth it when it’s done”, and this is very much a philosophy I’ve stuck to the entire time. We waited and planned and worked so hard for this renovation, and when it’s all said and done, we will all be so proud of the finished job. 

So yes, we would do it again, and thanks to all our lessons learned, I think the next time will be an even smoother process. 

Do you have any other reno questions? Drop them below!

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