Friday, April 6, 2012

Top Ten Things I Learned About Renovating

1. Hang onto your hats.  We had no idea how much time, energy and emotional strength was required to do the renovation. We naively told ourselves whilst the renovation was ongoing, we would get to those neglected projects like organizing the shop or tidying up the walk-in closet. Maybe even start finalize the kids' baby books.

In reality, laundry, family time, TV time and even personal hygiene suffered during this time.  The fact that we took on the job of painting was a good part of this.  But that was half the weekends. Every evening we worked on some renovation related task.

2.  No decision is really final.  We made pretty much all of the design decisions before the contractor showed up on our driveway. Many of the decisions either had to be:

a)  remade because product is on back order or did not suit once demolition occurred.
b)  reconsidered because once you put up the back splash you realize black grout is not the way to do.

In virtually every case we were happier with the new choice.

3. You cannot underestimate the importance of being "hands on". By seeing, watching, observing and questioning, you can anticipate decisions, see the problems as they occur (and give yourself extra time to problem solve). 
I think virtually every time someone new arrived at the house, the first question was "what do you want to do about ....".   Usually, my answer was "what is the normal way?".  If we had been at work every day, I just would not have been able to make some choices as they would have been made for us.

4. Problems are not insurmountable.  While we really did had a very good experience renovating (if you don't count the loss of personal hygiene), with virtually every aspect we had a glitch.  Plumbers had to figure out how to move pipes to install the dishwasher,  the electrician found small surprises,  the counter was installed wrong, the cabinets needed an extra cabinet.  I think the drywalling was the only thing that happened without a hitch.  But, I was surprised at the solutions. None except the requirement for a plywood sub floor amounted to much more money.

5.  Living without a kitchen is no big deal.  This was what we dreaded most and what was really not an issue.
We are lucky enough to have a whole basement we encamped into.  We had a makeshift kitchen where the only running water was my running to the nearest bathroom. But with a  microwave and toaster oven we managed fine.  We did eat more takeout than normal, especially near the end when we were doubly busy with painting, assembling furniture and unpacking.

6.  Not every project takes "twice the time and twice the money".  We were told this by many people.  We opted to go with a larger contractor and a fixed price budget.

Our contractor finished the project in 6 weeks, a few days ahead of schedule.  With proper and generous scheduling, which allows extra days, it can be done. This requires a contractor with some clout so that a plumber will show up in the window scheduled.

We had only a few dreaded "EWRs" (work order to increase price of contract) and we were ahead on some of the cash allowances so finished only very slightly over the budget.

7. Canine and kids can adapt.  When we first decided to do the reno I could not quite imagine how the kids and the puppy would adapt.  Husband and I both took days off so most days one of us was home -- especially the days they were nailing hardwood and doing demolition.  The kids were incredibly good sports and were also excited about the face lift our home was getting. 

I think we all felt the loss of family time, but we all kept our eye on the prize.

8.  You do, eventually, have to draw the line at "we may as well ...".

Early on, the project swelled. A kitchen project started. We may as well replace the floor in the family room as well.  We may as well replace all the floor on the main floor. We may as well replace the washer and dryer. We may as well redo the fireplaces. We may as well replace the hot water tank.

What?!?  That is where we drew the line. 

9.  Everything cannot be perfect.

We didn't live in a perfect house before we started.  When gleaming hardwoods and sparkling appliances show up, one starts to feel that show home perfection will be attainable.  Imperfection is part of life.

10. It will all be worth it.

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