Monday, October 22, 2012

The Fifth Season

Anyone who owns a home knows that there are really five seasons; winter, spring, summer, fall and renovation. And while there are a variety of enthusiasts who wish the four primary seasons would last forever, when it comes to renovation season, it could never end soon enough!

And the one thing that scares folks about renovation season is that it can contain the worst climatic conditions of the other four seasons combined. If you don’t do it correctly, you can find yourself in a tsunami of sawdust, snowed in by unforeseen bills or under an avalanche of construction debris. What you really want is the seeding period of renovation to go quickly and smoothly so that you can enjoy the fruitful sunny days to come when the work is done. And the best way to prepare for any season is to properly plan ahead.

That’s right, planning. Let’s repeat that slowly. PLAAAANNNNINNNNGGGGGG. Who should be doing the planning for your renovation? Ideally you need someone who can adeptly coordinate a battle plan. Since both General Eisenhower and Field Marshall Rommel are not available, you’ll have to come up with Plan B.

Whether or not you commission a general contractor or designer (notice the term decorator was not used) to oversee your project, special concern should be taken in getting involved wholeheartedly towards each part of the “reno” (don’t you just love builder-speak?)

If you feel brave enough to tackle the administrative duties of self-contracting, a great trust must be established between you and your sub contractors, the folks who whistle while they work, such as plumbers, electricians, drywall installers, jointers, painters, etc. If you’ve never done this before, prepare to count the additional grey hairs you’ll have from whatever few hair follicles remain when the job is done.

This is one of the most crucial tasks during a renovation. Many factors can determine whether or not the job will be completed upon deadline. Finishing items, such as windows, bathtubs, shower faucets and recessed lighting should be chosen and purchased well in advance of the project’s commencement. Another thing to consider when dealing with a general contractor (and I use THAT term loosely) is to make sure that a daily to weekly schedule is available at your disposal, otherwise a brief daily meeting or phone call is sufficient for updates of the project. Nothing frustrates a homeowner more than when they get the feeling that somewhere during the middle of the job the contractor has suddenly gone into the witness protection program.

That dirty, dirty, dirty word EXTRA. Folks don’t like hearing the word “extra” because that only means more money coming out of your pocket. A good tradesperson will not only describe possible extras that might spring up during renovations, but possibly assume certain extras that might occur when walls are opened. Theoretically speaking, the real worry of a disastrous extra would occur only if a structural problem would be detected. Sometimes a visual inspection of the attic could determine if a load bearing wall or support is missing; or if vents are properly connected.

Licenced Sub Contractors And/Or General Contractors:
Trades people that work in your house or place of business should be licenced. Holding a valid licence is step one. But, just because someone holds a licence to work does not merit their ability to work correctly (you’ve seen how some licenced people drive on the roads, haven’t you?)

Referrals are important as well as asking a battery of questions to that individual. What type of questions do you ask? Just about anything short of blood type or political affiliation. Topics such as preparation:

  • Will they be cleaning the premises after each work day?
  • Will all the garbage be disposed of by the general contractor?
  • Will the general contractor be providing their own cleaning supplies?
  • Would any furniture need to be moved or stored during the project?
  • Will there be any prep done to ensure minimal amounts of dust accumulation?

You should also question them on technical expertise. Queries like:

  • What type of plumbing material would you suggest on using (water and drain piping)?
  • What installation pattern of tiles would best suit the size of room to be worked in?
  • Is it necessary to re insulate the exterior walls of the project area if any?

And the killer topic that has wrecked many people’s sanity and perhaps a marriage or two - deadline and work hours

  • When will the project commence and end?
  • Will you work weekends?
  • What time do you start and finish your day?

These are just some of the things you need to know, however, as they say in all those late night infomercials, “But wait . . . there’s more!” In future blogs we’ll be more detailed in examples of renovation practices. By preparing a plan of action and hiring the right people, no one needs to wear a T-shirt that says, “I survived a home renovation.” The idea is to not merely survive, but to thrive. Remember, the more detailed planning the smoother the project should be.

I’m tapping out for now, but I’ll see you soon...Around The Drain.


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