I’ve been waiting for 3 months to say this, but at last I can finally share: our home renovation is finally complete! It’s been a journey, to say the very least, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. The final product—our home—is exactly what we envisioned and everything was customized by us, down to the very detail. Of course there were some minor kinks along the way but what type of home renovation would it be without them?! I’d like to think that in the HGTV scheme of things, ours were pretty minor all things considering!
I’m a social project manager by trade, but as with any project, you don’t really know what to expect until you’ve been through the process once. Now having gone through it I can safely say I was grossly over-prepared for some aspects of the project but for some key areas, 100% unprepared—not a feeling I typically enjoy but definitely grew from the process. And as they say, there’s no flowers without the rain!
Having said that, I’m eager to share my experience and let you in on the 5 things you need to know before starting a home renovation.
1. Set aside a health contingency fund
HGTV may be reality television but they do get this right: unless you’re incredibly disciplined and/or nothing goes wrong during your renovation, you inevitably WILL go over budget. How much, however, is entirely unique to you and your project but 10% to 25% of your overall budget is typically standard.
We had a couple of unexpected situations pop up in our renovation that we had to address—most were minor but one was significant—which, of course, added unforeseen costs to our budget. We also asked our contractor to add in a few extra things once the demolition was complete and we saw the opportunity to add it in. All of the additional asks were fairly cost-effective on their own, but added up together they definitely pushed us over budget.
2. Whatever your timeline is, add 25%
If you ask me, our renovation was massive. But as renovations go, it was a relatively small project with an estimated 1.5 month timeline. In reality, it took just under 2.5 months.
There was a delay getting permission from the strata council to begin construction (condo problems, lol!) which set us back a couple of weeks. The construction process was also delayed by a few weeks by none other than a bathtub! Yup, you heard me right. The way our renovation was structured, everything hinged on the bathtub getting installed—which, as luck would have it, was on a 3-week back order. Everything afterwards went fairly smoothly, all things considered.
3. Hire a team you trust
You’re about to spend a considerable amount of cash on this project—even a small bathroom renovation can be $10,000!—so don’t skimp for the sake of saving a buck or two. Find a construction crew that not only specializes in the type of work you’re looking for but also one that you trust. We worked with PGC Enterprises here in Vancouver who came highly recommended by my father, who not only knew them personally but had worked with them on numerous projects.
In the construction business, word-of-mouth is key—so key, in fact, that many trades will only work on projects via word-of-mouth referrals! So if you’re looking for assistance on a small renovation project, I can’t stop raving about the PGC crew!
4. Create an itemized product list
This was one of the biggest things I learned through my renovation and something I’d recommend making, regardless of renovation size: create an itemized list, categorized by room, with a detailed product schedule. With so many last minute and on-the-fly decisions being made, having a list of all the items you want in your home and/or items your trades should be buying/installing is hugely helpful. I didn’t—instead, I e-mailed the product list room-by-room to my contractor—which ended up being an inefficient way to share information and as a result, a couple of details were missed.
If I were to repeat this process, I’d create a master document on Google Sheets, clearly outlining all of the items room-by-room. In addition, I’d also list out the SKU/item number, finish, list price and supplier. Depending on the scale and detail of the project, I’d also include an image of each specific item with the detail and install notes.
5. Don’t forget about the other aspects of a home renovation
Take it from me, even with an amazing team behind you, renovations are super stressful! It’s easy to let so many other things fall to the wayside the moment sh*t hits the fan, but do yourself a favour and prioritize the other things as well. Don’t neglect your health, don’t rely on fast food—as tempting as it may be—and make sure you nurture your relationships.
My husband and I didn’t plan our weekly date nights during the renovation due to stress, fatigue and scheduling conflicts and we certainly felt the effects. We’re 100% now—in fact, I’d say we’re even stronger now—but there were definitely plenty of moments where we struggled or butt heads.
Bonus: Consider storage solutions
Having to live through construction is tough enough, let alone having to live IN one. If you find yourself in a similar situation as us, where we had no other choice but to move into our construction site (our lease on our rental had ended and we had already stayed with my parents for a couple of weeks), do yourself a favour and hire an environmentally friendly storage company.
We worked with Frogbox, a moving supply company here in Vancouver. They help people on the move by dropping off eco-friendly plastic boxes at one location and then picking them all up once you’re done at your new place. And while they may be plastic they’re far from flimsy! In fact, they’re so sturdy you can pack a lot more than in you typically could in a plain cardbox box. Having to not disassemble all the cardboard boxes in the midst of our construction site was such a blessing—not to mention a sustainable choice!
Frogbox has helped eliminated 2.5 MILLION cardboard boxes! All added up, that’s 2,603 days saved assembling and disassembling boxes, and enough tape saved to go to the moon and back twenty times.
I can’t say enough about Frogbox and their fantastic team. If you want to know more, let me know in the comments or send me a DM on Instagram! But trust me, if you’re moving or planning a home renovation you need to add Frogbox to your “To-Do” list.
Thank you to Frogbox for sponsoring this post.