Reno Month: 10 Common Misperceptions about Home Renovation

According to Canada’s professional renovators, a great many home renovation problems result from simple consumer misperceptions. Here are some of the most common ones, and why they can lead to trouble:

  1. I don’t need a professional renovator (i.e. anyone can do it). The question to ask yourself is: “Do I want the work done right?” If so, you’ll need someone with experience and skill, in short, “a pro”. And remember, a professional also comes equipped with a written contract, insurance, workers’ compensation and all the other required business tools to protect your interests.
  2. I can do it myself. If the work is simple and involves things that you have actually done before (successfully), you may well be right. But a major renovation project isn’t a good place for “on the job learning”. Biting off more than you can chew is a major cause of renovation stress and headaches.
  3. I can save a lot of money by acting as my own contractor. If you’re an experienced construction manager, and you have the time, this may be the case. But remember, the contractor is the one responsible for managing everyone else involved in the project and for the results.
  4. It’s a small project, so it shouldn’t take long. It’s not necessarily the size of the job that dictates how long it will take, but the number of steps and sub-trades involved. Trust professional renovators to give you a realistic timeline—they know you can’t rush quality.
  5. A professional renovator should be able to give me a good idea of price right away. For a simple project, the renovator may well be able to provide a rough “ball park” estimate. But for anything more complex, or where structural issues may crop up, or where total costs will depend on material and finishing choices you have yet to make, a more detailed plan is needed before costs can accurately be estimated.
  6. I must get at least 3 bids (and more is better). Getting a large number of bids provides no assurance that things will work out the way you want them to. Who you get bids from is far more important than how many you collect. Focus on interviewing professional renovators, and look for the experience and qualifications that best match your project, as well as the personal fit between you and the renovator. Then you can decide who to ask for detailed quotes—one, two or more renovators.
  7. I am the best person to design my own renovation. True, you know your own house better than anyone, and you may know exactly what you want. But a professional renovator or designer draws on a wealth of experience and knowledge, and can offer you ideas and suggestions, large and small, that you may never have thought about, adding extra value and living enjoyment to your home.
  8. Cost overruns are usually the renovator’s fault. Extra costs are almost always due to extra work that was not included in the original plan. Something unexpected pops up, like having to replace old wiring in the walls. Often homeowners add to the work: “Now that we’re at it, we may as well….” To be ready for the unexpected, add a 10 to 15% contingency fund to the budget.
  9. I can probably get away without a permit. Perhaps you can, but depending on your project, it may be illegal (e.g. renovations involving structural issues usually require a permit) and, as the homeowner, you’re the one responsible. A professional will always recommend getting all the necessary permits and inspections, and will usually look after this on your behalf. Also, on resale, potential buyers may want to know about the renovations on your house, including whether you got permits.
  10. Once it’s done, I don’t have to worry about it for a long time. True, when the work is done well and professionally, you can look forward to low-maintenance living. However, you still have to look after your home—i.e. arrange for annual check-ups and service calls, do seasonal upkeep, and so on.