Tips for demoing

Tips for demoing


Since we were able to demo our McKenzie Lake project ourselves, we gathered some tips and tricks for our followers. With trial and error, we learned how to save money and time throughout the whole demo process. Before you take on your own project, read through this blog to save yourself some headaches.


  1. Rent a dumpster

This will save you money in the long run, especially for those larger projects. Not only will renting a dumpster ensure your disposing of materials safely, but it will save you from making a number of trips to the dump.


  1. Be careful removing baseboards

Ripping out baseboards and window casings may be a lot of fun, but be careful not to create more damage than necessary. The more you damage the dry wall, the more time and money it will take to patch those holes up.


  1. Use the right gear!

The proper tools when demoing will make tasks so much easier and reduce the likelihood of causing damage to your home. Another important reminder is making sure everyone on your crew has eye protection! Ripping materials out of walls will means nails and wood dust will be everywhere.


  1. Plan for a couple hours

Depending on how big your job is, the demo could take more than one day. To provide context, consider our McKenzie Lake project. Demoing this house took about 25 hours with a three-person crew. In our case, there was a lot to be taken out; flooring, baseboards, doors, switch/plug covers, casings around windows/doors, appliances, tiles in all rooms, cabinets, cupboards and countertops. Hopefully this gives you an idea of timing needed for your own project.


  1. Things to keep

If your renovation involves taking out countertops in the kitchen, keep the sink. You will need it for water! If you’re one of the lucky ones who gets a new fridge, don’t throw the old one out! You can put it up for resale on Kijiji or your website of choice. Whatever you think will sell, post it. However, don’t get too hung up about getting the best deal for each item. There is a lot on the go with renovating as is, so don’t add more stress by trying to make money off items you were going to throw out.


  1. Clean up behind you

This may come as a no brainer to some, but others have tendencies to finish a task in one room and go on to the next without taking out the garbage left behind. In the long run, this creates more work for you and others. Our advice is to take out all the garbage to your dumpster before you move on to the next task.


P.S. Happy Valentine’s Day Charmers!





Introducing McKenzie Lake

Starting a new project is always exciting for us. We believe to do well requires understanding and knowledge of the community we are working in. The first project we have for 2018 is in McKenzie Lake, a suburban neighborhood in southeast Calgary. Before we provide updates on our McKenzie Lake project, we wanted to provide some background information on the community.


McKenzie Lake was not always a community with a lake. In fact, the original community was called McKenzie in 1984. As Calgary grew in the 1990s, the city was inspired by the success of Lake Bonavista. As the neighboring community to McKenzie, Lake Bonavista had a lake at the heart of its community, making it attractive to live there. With this knowledge, Calgary built a lake for the community of McKenzie, changing its name to McKenzie Lake. Following this expansion, the neighborhood became much more charming.


McKenzie Lake has grown into an active area that values the ability to be connected. The McKenzie Lake Community Association (MLCA) encourages homeowners to become members and work together to keep the community at its greatest potential. The MLCA offers everything from before and after school care to yoga and basketball classes. A second organization, McKenzie Lake Residents Association (MLRA), also tries to improve the community by giving Pilates, Zumba and sport-ball programs. To keep the community connected, the MLRA hosts safe and fun events, such as the Father’s Day Fishing Derby and their Family Fun Day.


Most buildings in the McKenzie Lake community are single-family homes. The community aims to provide activities for its residents, so it’s no surprise that McKenzie Lake is the spot for raising a family. With its strong effort to build a sense of community, McKenzie Lake has also become a popular spot for immigrants to live. Priding itself on being a welcoming community, it makes it easy for new families to settle in. However, there isn’t a high turnover rate for houses in McKenzie Lake. Those that move there tends to stay there. It is a family community, one that brings connection and security to those that live there.


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.

Rules and regulations

The by-laws and permits needed for renovating were touched on before, but now its importance needs to be highlighted. Choosing not to follow the rules may result in your renovation not working properly or make the future selling of your home more difficult. You will want the paperwork to validate that the improvements you made to your home will not fall apart.


Reminder: never skip a step

I had a friend tell me their friend was going to build them a bathroom in their basement. She wanted to avoid the ordeal of getting a permit. This made me cringe. Did this friend have the knowledge and skills to do the plumbing and wall installation? Turns out, after he finished his work, my friend had problems with getting water to other areas of the house. By getting a permit, you will avoid hiring unqualified contractors and the fines if you get caught.


To avoid the following problems, it’s best to get the permits and follow the by-laws of your city. You might discover you don’t need a permit for some jobs. However, you should see if your city has provided you with guidelines for your renovations. Whether it sounds like more work or money, give the suggested guidelines fair consideration as they are in your best interest.



There are reasons why by-laws and permits are in place and it’s ultimately in your benefit as it ensures your safety. If you’re taking a wall down, building one up or creating a staircase, you want to ensure it doesn’t fall apart on you, causing you harm or loss of money.



At first thought, a window permit might seem like a weird requirement but it’s for your protection. Permits will require you to use the right kind of glass, one that shatters like tempered glass would. In the case of a fire, the size of the window should not prevent you from getting out nor disable firefighters from getting in.


Plumbing/ gas

To have your plumbing done incorrectly can become a huge bump in your renovation process as it affects the plumbing throughout the whole house. This goes for gas too, which you don’t want to be messing around with anyways.



Working with an electrical current is dangerous. Don’t put yourself at risk by doing a job you do not know how to do. If the electrical installation is done by someone who has minimal knowledge of the job, it can cause outages or start fires.

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.

Budgeting for your renovation

Budgeting is not the most enjoyable stage of a renovation; however, it is one that you should invest energy into. Unless you’re a billionaire and money isn’t an issue, saving as much cash as possible is best. We’ve already touched on budgeting in stage two, “Details and design!”, but it’s time to get deeper into the topic. To keep true to your budget, we will give you tips and tricks on how to avoid spending more than necessary.


Remember your priorities

The first step in the pre-renovation process, “What to renovate?”, was to define where your priorities were and what you would give up if necessary. To stay within budget, you must constantly hold yourself accountable to the priorities you set. That is why having the household discussion in step one is always beneficial. You can all work as a team to keep each other on track.


A budget spreadsheet

The best way to make sure you’re not losing money is by documenting everything. Once you have found contractors that you believe are best for the job, which was step 3 of the pre-renovation process, make a spreadsheet. This will be your go-to place to see if you’re still within your budget and to keep track of any other costs that come up. The top six things to include in the spreadsheet are:


  1. Items (materials, appliances, services, etc.)
  2. Contractor/vendor
  3. Estimated cost (projected online costs and quotes)
  4. Actual cost (may increase as time goes by, dependent on delays, etc.)
  5. Amount paid
  6. Notes (document why there was a price increase, what problems arose, what was discussed, etc.)


There may be more factors to consider including on your spreadsheet, but these six are the most relevant to staying on track. Continue to look back at what your budget is for your project, and how much you have already spent. You may realize that adjustments need to be made, whether it’s the materials you’re buying or the extravagance of the renovation.


Do it yourself

Yes, we did speak on this in the previous stage; however, it is a way in which you can save money. Refer to “To DIY or not to DIY” for our suggestions about when to tackle a job alone, and when not to. An option that we did not mention in that stage, however, was the blending of both professional experience and your own. For a job that is simple enough, but is a little too difficult to do yourself, pay a professional to teach you. Getting taught how to do the job is more cost effective than hiring a pro to do it.


Delay and save

What if you discover that your budget does not allow you to get the renovation you wanted and you aren’t willing to let any plan go? Your dream renovation is just too perfect to give up for something less. What happens if after all your research for the best contractors, and energy spent over picking designs, it turns out you can’t afford it? It’s frustrating, however, an option would be to hold off on the project and save some more money to put towards it. The benefit of this stage is now you will have a lot more knowledge about cost, as well as a solid plan in mind for what will be done. Don’t start a project if you know your budget won’t cover it!


Keep everything

Every single estimate, receipt and report you can get your hands on should be kept for your records. Not only will this save money, but also protect you. Although you wish for the best, you may have a contractor who will try to slip something by you, or you may need proof of purchase for permits.