Indiana Jones and the Renovation Trail

Indiana Jones and the Renovation Trail

January 10, 2015

It is well worn into the fabric of social folklore that moving house or undergoing a renovation is second in stress level, only to the loss of a loved one. (I have heard that said about being a Toronto Maple Leafs fan as well, but that is for another blog!) The experiences of people who make the commitment to having a major remodel or renovation carried out on their homes are as varied as the contractors, designers and trades out there doing them. I have always wondered as a designer and contractor what REALLY makes the experience a positive and productive one for some people and a complete disaster for others.  That is, aside from the design, the build, the bare bones mechanics of the renovation, what makes the “experience” of the renovation a major pain for people or a seamless and painless means to an end for clients.

The answer seems to be largely in the way peoples expectations of a situation are managed. What they expect to experience vs. what real life presents. Preparing for the experience seems to be key. Like Indiana Jones, in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” preparing properly for the journey, being ready to solve some problems and issues on the fly and keeping an end goal in mind will best set the homeowner, undergoing a renovation, on the right path! Of course, preparing for a few “Booby Traps” on the way to the “Treasure” always helps too!

Cue the “Booby Traps”

Typical renovations, or “remodels” as our American friends call them, often start with a desire to change ONE element of the home, while leaving other aspects alone for the most part. Alas, like any Indiana journey, a little more adventure is likely than that! Simply changing cabinets in a kitchen has a way of leading to new backsplash….and new appliances…and, that wall we have never liked that wall, and oops, while we’re at it how about this old flooring? Before you know it, changing the knobs on the kitchen cabinets can lead to a much more involved adventure.

Enter here, the first lesson of renovation. It is going to involve more and cost more than you probably think. There are no evil forces at work here, no shady contractors trying to make a fast buck, just good old reality. Take your time to plan out your project with your contractor and be honest about what you can afford and plan for some surprises and a few booby traps along the way.

Once you have settled on a design, landed on a budget and invested in a contractor you will be ready to start your journey into parts unknown in the hopes of landing at the end of your adventure with a brand new renovation. You have done your planning, you have great people in place, things should go as mapped.

Cue the “Hidden Treasure”

Yes, “surprises” those things that your contractor, your designer, your engineer or architect and even your season renovation vets just did not pick up on with their “x-ray” vision. The stuff INSIDE walls. Surprises, we still find them when we least expect them, and it isn’t because we didn’t look for them darned hard in the first place! In an attempt to do thorough due diligence JWS Woodworking and Design Inc. has a process we like to call, “The Trade Parade.” This lively meeting of “the clans” on site, before any hammers swing involves plumbers, electricians, painters, framers, HVAC specialists, foundation Crack specialists, and usually a BCIN designer or an engineer. The group then basically swarms the home looking for best solution to our renovation design with the support and ear of all the other trades involved and the presence of the homeowner. The practice has led to countless improvements in design and unquestioned savings for our clients, both in heartache and financial drain. However, the fact remains….until you OPEN up a ceiling or wall, you really don’t know what is in there and so far, homeowners have never volunteered to use their home to turn the trade parade into a trade “exploratory surgery parade!”

However, enter lesson two. You might as well prepare for the surprise of a little “Hidden Treasure” now. Unless your renovation is VERY straight forward, there are likely to be a few little trinkets waiting in surprise for you. Of course, just like if your contractor found gold coins buried in your wall, or a vintage Babe Ruth baseball card worth thousands of dollars, likely the “ownership” of this “treasure” will be yours. It is most helpful if clients are able to see renovations for what they are, living, breathing, often evolving projects. The good news is, finding the “treasure” usually leads to an improvement in the overall working of the home and thus the value of the project, often with only minimal changes to timelines. Experts often say 10-15% contingency fund is wise, I would agreed, prepare for “Hidden Treasure”.

Next week we will explore what to pack in your adventure if you are going to live in your home while undergoing a major renovation! Have a great week!