Contractor’s Corner – Renovation Planning Process – Design, Engineering & Estimating

If you want a little advice on how to initiate the renovation planning process without going through the stress of having to figure it out alone, listen up! 

The planning process is equally as important as the renovation project itself. Skipping steps tends to achieve a less than satisfactory result and a whole lot of stress. The following are the first critical steps, based on a few years of personal experience as a Professional Engineer and Red Seal Carpenter:

 

Design

The process of designing a renovation is critical for several reasons, starting with brainstorming and organizing your thoughts with the advice of an experienced professional! Right from the get-go, sitting down with a design consultant and offload all your wants and desires is a fantastic idea. You get the designer’s undivided attention, and they get an understanding of your lifestyle, which helps them shape an idea of how to make this renovation work best for you and your existing space. Understanding the purpose of the renovation is as important as the renovation itself. 

With that baseline established, the next step is creating a design that embodies your style and vision by combining your must-haves and biggest dreams. The client and designer collaborate by gathering inspiration photos, samples from suppliers, or whatever helps you best.

After meeting with the client, the designer can begin to work their magic and start developing the design, using design software to allow the picture in the client’s head to become visual on paper or the computer screen. An independent designer or one who works with a contractor can assist you with anything from a basic floor plan to many additional design services such as lighting and electrical location, flooring, wall colours, furniture selection, cabinet design, and appliance selections. Important to note: if you pay for the design service, it is my advice that you ensure the product becomes your property once complete, to do with as you wish.

 

Engineering

The structural integrity of your home is important to the long-term value of your home and your personal safety. As a Professional Engineer, I’m always looking at the building structure and how the building systems work together to make a safe and efficient home. Many lead carpenters have the highly valued-skill of understanding building science and structure as it relates to the National Building Code and may make suggestions as the project progresses.


Unfortunately, you must look out for the DIY’ers (I would call them carpenter imposters…) in our busy industry who do not have the same level of understanding of buildings science 

or carpentry. Hiring these people can pose a serious threat to the structural integrity of your home and the living environment. Buyer beware!

A key indicator of a professional is their sense of resourcefulness – I will often consult with my engineering colleagues, subtrades and suppliers to ensure the best result is achieved for my clients.  Another key is their inclination to share their knowledge and reasoning – A professional knows what can be done within reason and is not afraid to be upfront and admit when client’s desires can create difficulty, thus increased 

cost. As opposed to non-professionals who can more easily say, “no problem” or “anything ca

n be done!” However, anything comes at a cost and may end up being a much bigger problem than they led off to be. Most things are possible, but at what cost? 

 

Estimating

This is the process of taking the combined experience of the contractor, their subtrades and suppliers, reviewing plans, completing site visits and determine the cost of all aspects of the project. This requires extensive hands-on experience to accurately estimate the time to complete each task. This is the reason all our estimators are carpenters! An estimate should have details of all aspects of the project, including any specific request from the client and price allowances for all products to be selected by the client and supplied by the contractor. When we prepare an estimate, the same estimate becomes the work order for our crews, therefore, what the client has seen and approved is the same for the crew executing the project. This helps minimize confusion and ensures the client gets exactly what they requested. 

I have been asked on many occasions, “Why is your price higher than the other guy?” The simple answer is “I don’t know.” I am confident that our estimate is accurate based on how we plan to complete the project and we use all our combined experience to ensure we cover all aspects of the project. This may result in a comparatively higher price, but in the end, our goal is to be accurate and reduce the unknowns for the client, not just be the low bid.

The process of planning a renovation project is filled with details, which a professional renovation company can and will assist with all aspects – design, engineering, and estimating. A process can appear complicated for a client however, after doing thousands of renovations, the process is second nature, and a professional should be able to reduce the stress and uncertainty of the process.

Thank you for reading my two cents regarding the initial steps in the process of planning a renovation, I hope you found them helpful as you plan your next renovation project. Please remember, regardless of the size of the renovation, a professional knows it makes a significant impact on you and your home and should always have the client’s best interest at heart. 

by Dan Monk