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10 things i’ve learned during my home reno

August 22, 2009

zora naki

this is not an exhaustive list, but i’ve been taking notes and making gross generalizations.  maybe my experience can help you – sometimes it’s best to go in prepared, n’est-ce pas?

1. architects are lovely and creative people who (for the most part) have only a nodding acquaintance with concepts of cost and budget. do not believe them when they say things like “this should be relatively inexpensive”. try not to chuckle when they give you ballpark figures. do not be seduced by late-breaking cool ideas (unless they really are strokes of genius, in which case, go for it). ignore their suggestions for breaking down phases of work or electrical/lighting plans. all of these practical matters are best discussed with your contractor.

2. all roofers are crazy. i don’t know if it’s the altitude they work at, or the giant joints they smoke before climbing the ladder, but roofing seems to attract a lean bunch of rawboned, sunburned, bandanna-wearing crackpots. please note – this has nothing to do with the quality of the work that they do.

3. you should never pay the listed price for tiles in a tile store. just ask – is that your best price? can you get contractor pricing? you should easily get 25% knocked off. also, don’t even bother with looking for tile at places like home depot – head straight to the tile specialists. the quality and variety of product is infinitely better. i love the tile people.

4. lighting people are snobs. you’d think, what with lighting being a cut-throat commission-based salesjob that they would want your business, but… i’ve been in and out of lighting stores for months and had a terrible time getting anyone to help me. maybe it’s me? whenever i go into a store and get determinedly ignored, i develop a massive persecution complex. then i have to go back to the nearest tile store to feel better about myself. HOWEVER, this does not apply to online lighting people. they are nice and eager for your business. i am also mystified by the connection between bath and lighting. why do so many stores sell both? one is plumbing related and one is wiring related, and we all know about water and electricity not mixing well.

5. heated tile floors in your bathroom are less expensive than you think. the key part is that you only heat the area where you will stand. so, once you take out the tub and the vanity and the linen closet, you’re looking at about 10 square feet. peanuts! (this presupposes that your bathroom is already gutted). also, i would recommend skipping the fancy programmable timer and head straight to the thermostat setting. tiles take a while to warm up, so set the thermostat to something comfortable for cooler months, and then just turn it off during summer.

6. window manufacturers lie. lie lie lie. and they are late. late late late. can you tell i’m still waiting for my windows? not having windows holds up a whole bunch of things like stucco and insulation and drywall. delays cost money. if you point this out to your sales rep in a suitably angry/pathetic/irate/reasonable tone, he may give you some of your money back. this will make you feel better for approximately 10.2 seconds before you lapse back into resenting the necessity for glass.

7. when wiring for phone/internet, skip right over the other options and head straight to cat6. this recommendation will probably be antiquated by the time i finish this sentence, but on the recommendation of our computer-techie cousin, we’re running this everywhere. including a couple of ports by the t.v. to accommodate possible future HDTV and video game type things that we can’t afford right now. it’s the future, baby!

8. ask your tradespeople for recommendations. if you find a great, detail-oriented highly skilled tradesperson, he/she is part of the Club. The Club is not advertised. There is no directory listing. But there is a secret network of people who will only recommend others of similar ability. Plus, the person who is recommended knows that if he/she messes up, the Club is going to hear about it. Ask your Polish plumber. Chances are he has a cousin he can recommend to do your wood floors. They’re part of the Club.

9. the land of last year’s models and floor display sales is where all the cool kids hang out. i had a heck of a time finding a range hood. i wasn’t looking for anything too extravagant – a nice looking 30″ chimney-style stainless steel hood that would vent outside and cost less than $1K. after many trips (home depot, ikea, sears, the brick, etc. etc.), i was amazed at the number of expensive and ugly options out there. then i came upon midland appliance and their giant warehouse of sale items and i was a happy camper.

10. do not settle for bad design! there will come a time (many times) during your reno when you are just tired of making decisions. you are sick of choosing the colour of your gutters or the trim for your pot-lights or the counter for your vanity, and you just want to throw up your hands and say “Whatever! I don’t care anymore!” You may find yourself soliciting the opinion of total strangers, “Which one do you like best?” Or calling your mother (long-distance) and trying to describe a bathtub to her over the phone. Take a deep breath and leave the store. Have a cup of tea or a mojito. Looking at design magazines or talking about anything related to your house is strictly verboten. Do something that you used to do, before the renovation took over your life.  Have at least one sleep before you resume decision-making. It is worth it to take your time. This is important. It is your house and your money and the place your family will be living for the forseeable future. All of the little decisions pile up into your home, and it deserves the effort you are putting into it.

now go forth and renovate.

10 things i've learned about home reno



Post a comment
  1. August 22, 2009

    I’ve been watching the renovation of your lovely home with interest. We built ourselves a log house three years ago. Looking through your list of things you learned I definitely agree with number 8 and number 6 . Is your reno finished yet? I’m looking forward to seeing your finished photos.

  2. August 22, 2009

    Thanks Melanie!

    We’re in limbo right now (those cursed windows), but hoping to be back in the house by November. I need to get caught up on my photos 🙂

  3. August 23, 2009

    Great list! Being a home owners that’s completely renovated an older home and then built a new home I think you’re list is perfect. I also happen to run a construction company and you’re spot on with lots of your advice.

    One more tip for your readers. Talk to friends, family and co-workers and ask for references of good contractors and vendors. This will surely go a long way in your next project!

  4. August 23, 2009

    Awesome list! I completely agree with your note about the lighting people, I’ve had the exact same experiences and don’t understand it myself. Your house is looking awesome and I can’t wait to see it with windows in there.

    I’m coming back on Sept 1st and look forward to getting your girl and my girl together, maybe a sleepover??

  5. August 25, 2009

    Thanks Kate – she is all about the sleepovers these days…

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