We’re back!  Today we’re talking about what to do when you first start contemplating a major construction project.  Building a new home or renovating your existing home is a big undertaking and shouldn’t be approached lightly. We’ve put together a list of six questions for you to consider before making any major decisions.

1. What is the goal of our renovation or build?

It’s important to have a goal for your project.  Having specific success criteria will help inform your decisions. Some examples are:

– We want to entertain large groups of people.
– We want a family home where we can all spend time together, but also have dedicated spaces for each family member.
– We are retired and want a small, efficient and super sustainable home.

If you are having trouble determining what your goal is consider some of the following:

– What do you love about your current home?
What would you change if you could?
Have you been in someone’s home that made you feel truly comfortable and at ease
What’s your favourite thing to do at home?

2. What are your non-negotiables?

Like we said, having a goal will help keep the focus during your project, but knowing the difference between your needs and your wants is a crucial part of staying on time and on budget. You’ll start by writing down everything that’s a part of your vision.  This can be anything from large windows for natural light and heated floors, to two compartment apron sinks and geometric wallpaper.

Once you have your list of wants, go through each item and pick your non-negotiables.  These are the items that will make or break the success of your project. They are your needs.  If you weren’t able to accomplish all of the things on your list, having these would still make the project successful. This list shouldn’t be very long – in fact, we recommend stepping away from your list and coming back to it after you’ve had some time for the ideas to percolate.  We’ll dive into this process a little deeper in our next post, so stay tuned.

3. Where are we going to live during construction?

This decision will be informed by the scale of your project, but if it’s a major renovation, we always recommend moving out.  This may not be feasible for everyone, and you may decide that despite not having a kitchen for three or four months, you’d like to remain on site.  The factor that is most affected by this decision is construction time. If the contractor has to spend an hour every morning and evening cleaning up everything they’ve used so that you can use your space, or they have to work around your schedule, your renovation will likely take longer and be more expensive.  It may also not be the safeest place for you to stay if you have small children or pets, who may be intrigued with what’s going on in t next room. This is a conversation to have with the contractor, but it’s definitely something to start considering. 

4. What is our total project budget?

We always ask this question before we even submit a proposal to work with someone because we need to know whether your scope of work matches your budget.  Our job as architects is to design a home you love, but how much you love it won’t matter if you can’t afford to build it. Be realistic about your finances and remember that a project budget has several components – construction cost, design fees, permit fees, taxes and contingencies.  If you are building new, your cost may also include land and development fees. We’ll explore budgets in more depth in a future post.

5. What is our timeline? 

We’ve looked into timelines in our two previous posts, so you can take a look at those for more information. Go here for the approvals process and here for the design process timelines.  Depending on the size and complexity of your project the time from start to permit approval may be anywhere from a few months to a couple of years but you may have a specific date you’re aiming for.  Are you wanting to renovate your kitchen in time for Christmas? Will the kids be moving out in a couple of years and you’d like to plan for a major renovation? Do you and your spouse travel south every year for six months, so you’d like the construction to occur then? If your possession date is absolutely fixed, you’ll need to discuss its feasibility with your design & construction team.

6. Do we have the time, patience and resilience for this project?

Last but certainly not least, is considering the actual experience of a major renovation or new build. Deciding to renovate your home or to build a new one will be very exciting, but also time-consuming and, at times, very stressful.  It is a big commitment that will take over every waking moment (and sometimes non-waking moments) of your life for the next foreseeable future.  Take an inventory of your life. Be honest with yourself about your ability to handle stressful situations. Be realistic about how much time you have to commit to the build.  Take a look at your relationship with your partner or spouse, because it’s going to test you both in ways you haven’t been tested before. Imagine the stress of assembling IKEA furniture together and multiply it by 1000. Talk to other people who have renovated or built a home – learn about their experiences and ask questions.

If you’ve built a home before, what are some things you wish you’d considered before starting? Tell us in the comments below!

We’ve gathered a few other lists for you for some further reading and other perspectives, so take a look!
House Planning Help – 10 questions you must ask yourself before building a house
Forbes – Key Questions To Ask Yourself Before A Renovation
Dominion Lending – 7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Building a Home