Before we renovate…

Before we renovate…

When you get your hands on a new project, it can be hard to hold yourself back from knocking cupboards down and ripping out baseboards. That’s how we felt with the McKenzie Lake home. It’s our first project of the year and we wanted to get started! Instead, we had to make sure we went through the 10 stages of pre-renovation. To show the importance of going through these steps, we will show you what we did with the McKenzie Lake home.


Get to know the house

For those who followed us through our blogs about pre-renovation, we stressed the point of getting to know your home and what needed to be done. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that we did the same. To know how much it would cost and how long it would take, we walked through the house to determine what needed to be done. Through this process, we created a budget for ourselves. We saw jobs which we knew how to do ourselves, and we saw where we needed to bring professionals in. In addition, we determined what areas we would be willing to give up working on if things got too expensive.



Take pictures!

This is not necessarily a step that is a must, but it’s one that will be satisfying in the long run. Take pictures of the before, the during and the after. You could even do a panorama of the room. Being able to see the change all your hard work accomplished will be incredibly satisfying. A tip to keep in mind though: make sure you remember the position and angle you took the original photo. By doing this, you’ll truly see the difference your efforts made.



Get estimates

At this stage, we needed to get contractors in. We knew what needed to be done and it was time to find out how much it cost. It’s very important to stay within our financial plan. To do so, we told the contractors what our rough budget was before they walked through the house. As our Transformation Director, Karen Ingram-Johnson, said, “You get a different result if you say, ‘how much will it cost’ vs. ‘this is what we have to spend’”. After receiving various quotes from contractors, we picked the one the fit best with our plans and budget.


Adjustments to plans 

For the McKenzie Lake project, there was not a lot of structural change that needed to be done. Instead, we wanted to focus on redoing the kitchen and the bathrooms. We also hope to remove the arched doorways as they are an outdated style. Basically, we want to clean up the home and give it a fresh look. During our first walkthrough, we wanted to knock down a wall between the kitchen and the dining room, but after the contractors came in we discovered the wall had water pipes and air ducts inside. The cost to make that change was higher than our budget, so we needed to adjust our plan for the kitchen.


Create a demo list

To help save costs, it’s useful to start demoing before the contractors come in. It will do two things; save them work and save your money. We suggest making a list of what you can take down and get rid of yourself.


Now we are off to demoing! Follow our renovation process on our Instagram where you’ll get more pictures and videos to follow along with.


Pare down and pack up!

The last step before you can go through with your home makeover is to pare down and pack up. This means going through all your belongings and putting away everything other than your essentials. If you’re choosing to live in your home while work is being done on it, I highly recommend you follow through with this step to help maintain your sanity. If not, the chaos felt from the renovation will be overwhelming as your stuff lays around, waiting to get damaged or dirty.


Clean out your closet

Whether you like it or not, you probably have some items throughout your house that you’ve been holding on to when you should have thrown them away years ago. If you’re going to pack everything up to create more space during your renovation, you might as well filter through the belongings and discard unused and disliked items. This will help when the renovation is complete.


Have a system

When you’re going through each cupboard and closet, have both clear bins and cardboard boxes nearby. Items which you frequently use should be placed in the clear containers, making them easier to find when they’re needed. Other items that you know you want to keep but won’t need over the next few months can be placed in the cardboard box. Even consider packing into containers that have wheels, as you will need to move boxes around throughout your renovation.


Move out or stay in

While you might want to stay home and be present for any possible issue that comes up, another option would be to rent or stay at a friend’s place. This would be an added cost, but it might help maintain some of your sanity and organization. If you choose to stay in, make plans for where you will continue daily routines. For example, if you’re renovating your master bathroom, don’t renovate the guest bathroom at the same time, as you need that space in the meantime. If you’re renovating your kitchen, designate a room as a make shift kitchen, complete with a microwave, table and chairs.


Little ones and your pets

As much as you love them, pets and children can make a project all the more difficult. You have to watch them, feed them and entertain them all at the same time as managing your renovation. Ask a family member or a friend if they would help with babysitting your children or housing your pet for a couple weeks. This will help ease your mind and ensure your renovation is being done properly. Soon enough, the whole family will be back together again, enjoying your new home.

Know your home

At this point in the pre-renovation process, you should have a good idea about the state of your home. You should know everything from what is in the walls to how you use each room. One of the last steps to complete before you can begin demoing, and it might be a short step since you’ve basically been doing this from the beginning. The purpose of making this its own separate step is to ensure you do not miss anything. Our goal is to limit problems and have no regrets. You don’t want to take down a wall without knowing whether there are pipes and electrical wiring in it. Other things you will want to consider are the following:


Taking down the wall

It’s not a surprise that the new trend is to have an open concept home. It allows for more space and enjoyment of all areas of your home. To achieve this trend, you’ll have to take down some walls. In general, we suggest hiring a professional to take down any load-bearing walls. A load-bearing wall is structurally important to your home as it keeps it from falling on you. A professional will ensure it’s done right and maintain the integrity of your home.


Where will the furniture go?

Now that you’ve taken down the wall, creating your open concept home, where does all your furniture and art go? Having separate rooms made it easy to place things up against the wall, but now that it’s gone it might be awkward to keep the furniture there. Knowing what you have and the likelihood they will no longer fit in your home will reduce the risk of surprises and prepare you to think of alternatives.


Raise the ceilings

The purpose of taking down walls is to create an open concept living area, allowing the room to feel bigger and brighter. Another way of doing this is by looking up. A lot of older homes have dropped ceilings, designed to save money on heating the house. However, it creates an enclosed feeling in the room. Consider taking that ceiling out, allowing you to see the hidden ceiling above it and opening that room up a considerable amount. What once was a stuffy room is now a spacious living area.


Allow the light in

Removing a wall helps increase light, so why not also consider how you can improve your windows? Natural light helps provide a feeling of calm and peace, therefore encouraging that to be a factor in your main living area is a major improvement to your home. You can do this is simply by widening your windows. Depending on the style and frame of the window you want, it could become pricey. Another successful way to increase the natural light in your home is by installing a skylight. Not only does seeing the sky immediately open your room up even more, but a tremendous amount of light can come in. However, if you want an easy and cost-effective way to improve the lighting, hang mirrors in the room and the light will bounce off them!

Time is money

Renovating a house is a project therefore it will take a bit of time to complete. We’ve already warned you to expect the transformation of your home to take longer than what contractors say, however there are other factors you should consider in regards to time. You’d be surprised how many things could affect the time frame of your renovation, which ultimately effects your wallet.


Live in the house first


The best advice for new home owners that I’d ever heard of was to live in the house before you plan your renovation. You may know that no matter what you’ll be renovating, but the key is to know what it is about your house that needs the renovating. Get to know your house and how you and your family use it every day. What you once thought was the most important change needed may fall down the list when you discover which rooms you use more. Likewise, as the seasons change you may realize you use the house differently. What you originally thought would be a good plan in the winter might turn out to not be a poor idea for the summer. Don’t rush into the renovation, make sure you know what it is that you need.


All at once or one at a time? 

Once you’ve made that priority list we suggested you make in step one, think about doing it room by room or all at once. Get advice from your contractor as well. There may be smaller renovations you can do in the slow winter months that will be more cost effective to you and reduce the chaos that comes with doing it all at once.


Regularly check in on the project 

During the process of your renovation, don’t feel afraid to check in on the contractor’s work. Miscommunication is a natural thing for humans. What one may envision in their head and described so clearly by them may be interpreted completely different by the other. Before a contractor makes a mistake that becomes expensive to fix, catch it before it goes any further. Not only will it cost money to be adjusted, but it will also extend the time it takes for your renovation to be complete.


Be prepared

In addition to mistakes being made in how you wanted something done, also be prepared for parts to take time to arrive. For example, the specific tiles you wanted for your kitchen may get back ordered and take a couple weeks to come in, therefore putting your contractors back. Or the custom sink you got doesn’t fit for some reason so you need to figure out an alternative plan. These are things that will cost you time and money, and if you’re not prepared for it: your sanity. Anything can happen during the renovation process, so do your best to be ready for it.



Finally, the last thing you should consider is the economy. How is it effecting you and is it the best time to start a renovation? Granted, you can’t control what the economy does, but it’s something good to consider before you take on a huge project.

Details and design!

Perfect. You have prioritized what needs to be renovated and now it’s time for the fun stuff. Let your creativity shine and focus on the smaller details of the project. For some, this may be overwhelming, while others find it exciting. Either way, it’s a step that must be taken.

Search online

In general, the first place people go to for ideas is online. Not only can you get inspiration here, but you also easily discover the price it might cost. Searching online is a great place to start. Collect the ideas you love, get your significant other involved and go back to those ideas. The top two websites that encourage the flow of creativity are Houzz and Pinterest.


To those of you who don’t know about this site, it has everything a homeowner needs and wants to know. With Houzz, you can easily find prices for a new kitchen faucet, photo inspiration for your family room, articles on design tips and access to contacting professionals for the bigger jobs.


The most common place people go to for inspiration is Pinterest. If you don’t already have an account, you might as well get one. Not only are there thousands of ideas in any category you choose to look through, but it’s also easy to save ideas you love so that you can look back at them again later.

Pick your colours

Sometimes picking the color scheme of your room seems nearly impossible. Something looks off and you can’t put your finger on it. A suggestion for helping you narrow in on the colours is looking at what you already own. Is there any piece of furniture or work of art that you absolutely love? If so, start there with the hues and tones in that object and incorporate them into your room design. This will save you money as you won’t need to buy a couch for your living room or art for your bathroom.

Look at your budget

Your budget is especially important at this stage because you will be making decisions that could be costly in the long term. For example, it’s easier to change up the colour of your walls then to buy a new sofa every time you need a change. You will also need to consider size and placement before you go through purchasing furniture. Your living room might not allow for a sectional but it would look lovely with a love seat and sofa. Think about it and don’t rush into making purchases. Compare prices and see how you’re able to stay within your budget.

Throughout the whole renovation process, continuously analyzing your budget is normal. Never avoid this process, because then you take the risk of spending more than you planned.

What to renovate?

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The time has come to begin planning the renovation you’ve been dreaming of for months. That main floor bathroom that you’re embarrassed to let your guests use will get the revamping it needs. Now is your chance to pull up those old carpets and get hardwood floor put in. Maybe you plan to knock that wall down and add in a walk-in closet to your ensuite, bringing your master bedroom to its fullest potential. In the renovation process, you need to determine the necessary changes versus the hopeful changes are. There is a difference between replacing the leaking toilet versus putting in a steam shower. Some changes are needed more immediately in comparison to others, and that is what the first stage is about. Justify these changes and prioritize them. This planning will help you stick to your budget and keep you realistic about your upcoming project.

Make a list

The first step to this stage is writing down everything you want to change. From the necessary changes, to your dream changes, to the aspects of your home you already love and want to keep. Your list will likely grow throughout this stage, but getting a baseline idea of what you think needs to be done will keep your plan realistic.

Why should these changes be made?

For each item on your list, describe how the change would affect your everyday life or why it needs to change. Maybe that extra bedroom isn’t needed, but more closet space for all your belongings is? Or your children are growing up and two bathrooms just isn’t enough? Justify why the change needs to be made and how it will improve the ease of your life.

Think about the season changes

Living in Alberta, think about how the renovations will impact your ease of life when the season changes. For example, taking a wall down to make your living room open and cool in the summer might make it difficult and expensive to keep it warm in the winter. These are things to consider when you look over your list in regards to season changes.

Keep in mind the future

Sometimes changes in your life occur and may require you to sell your home. Whether it happens in five years or 10 years, keep in mind the resale value of your house. Some renovations may be expensive but won’t add value. With this in mind, buyers will want to renovate the home to fit their vision instead. Unfortunately, this will result in a lower price being offered on your home. People have a personal preference and taste – what one may absolutely love, another might completely despise.

Everyone gets a say

Take time to consider what everyone in your household has to say. You may get so stuck on your own idea that you overlook aspects of your house that need improving. Although it may not be your dream, it may be necessary.

Take a while to draft up this list

Do not rush through this stage. You may be so excited to get these ideas into actions, but you will save a lot of time and money with a good plan. Take your time and ensure you have a solid plan set in place. This will avoid a number of potential problems and keep things moving along smoothly.