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home reno: think it through

November 11, 2008

zora naki

it’s been a long process, but i think we’re finally done the planning part of the reno – yippee! i’ve been really boring about this topic for ages, but i like to obsess about something and then be done with it. Some of the things I’ve learned to think about:

1. Figure out your timeframe. Are you planning to live in the house for 2 years or 20 years? If you’re in it for the long haul, worry less about resale value and more about meeting your needs. You may also want to invest in better quality materials, as you will reap the benefits.

2. Look at how your needs will change. If you are like us, your family will evolve over the years. We have three small kids who want to spend all of their time in our immediate vicinity. They will grow into large and uncooperative teenagers who (i am told) won’t want to be around us, and then will eventually leave home (breaking my heart), coming back only for occasional visits. Although my daughter tells me she’s not moving out until she’s 40. Either way, our use of the house will change over time.

3. Think it through beforehand. Since budget is a huge consideration for us, I’ve asked lots of reno veterans about their suggestions for keeping a budget under control. First off, nobody stays within budget. I think the closest I’ve heard is something like 10% over. No exceptions. So really a budget is more like a guideline, and if you really and truly have an absolute maximum dollar figure, you better work your way backwards from it to arrive at your “budget” figure.

It doesn’t cost anything more than your time (and perhaps a few billable hours by a designer/architect) to change things on paper. It costs a whole heap more to change things once the process of ordering materials and doing the work has begun. The biggest factor in blowing a budget seems to be what kate called “the might-as-wells”. You know, since we’re doing this, we might as well… All of the incremental ongoing changes you make during the reno will blow your budget across the room and out the door.

4. There is never just one reno. I’ve been stressing about getting everything right (the first time), and my mom pointed out that nobody does just one reno. Maybe you don’t have the budget for everything your little heart desires on this go-round. Maybe you didn’t anticipate the arrival of that fourth kid (no mom, i am not pregnant again). Or your new passion for wine that necessitates a wine cellar. Whatever – people change, houses change.

5. Finishes. I’m still waiting to see the results of this one, but jim the architect tells me that the finishes that can make or break your project budget. All the little choices you make along the way – flooring, fixtures, moldings, etc. add up.

next up: the plans for the basement…

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