Renovations can be notoriously stressful, complicated and expensive. It will take you countless hours to research, shop, meet with designers, vendors, and contractors — simply to find out how much everything will cost and determine timelines.

To help homeowners navigate the steep learning curve and streamline the often overwhelming process, we sat down with Norseman Construction and Development’s founder Kris Potts for his essential tips to manage a successful renovation.

Norseman is located within Improve Canada, the largest home improvement centre in Canada. Conveniently situated two stop lights north of Toronto in Vaughan, Improve Canada offers a one-stop shopping experience for all of your renovation needs. There are over 350 showrooms in the 320,000 square-foot centre, where you can source materials, get quotes, ask questions and speak to professionals in one fell swoop. At Improve Canada, there are 26 showrooms in the custom builders/renovators category, alone.

“What makes a renovation actually stressful is the inability for a homeowner to control a scenario,” says Potts. Here, he shares his top tips for reigning that control in and managing a successful renovation from start to finish.

Photo: Provided by Norseman

1. Go in with an airtight plan.

The best way to reduce stress, manage timelines and stay within budget during a renovation is to go in with a detailed plan of everything that needs to be done and how much it will cost. Potts recommends completing a quantum survey — an upfront service you can hire a company like Norseman to complete that could save you tens of thousands in the long run.

“It really comes down to writing out each and every aspect of the job in drawn-out, over-exasperated detail, to provide as much clarity as you possibly can on every aspect of the project,” says Potts.

It’s not enough to take a drawing from an architect to form the budget. “Most architects don’t have experience with construction,” says Potts. “They are there to design something the homeowner wants and their understanding of cost is usually very limited.” Potts gives the example of a poured concrete wall in a basement. “You have to put a top cap on that concrete wall, but it’s never shown in the drawings, so no one ever quotes it.” Wall caps are designed to provide a protective top surface for any type of wall-like structure and can come in concrete, brick, block and stone materials. This will run you thousands of dollars and the contractor will charge you for it when the bill comes. By getting the quantum survey, you’ll understand the true cost of your reno projects and you can avoid those unsavoury surprises.

Photo: Provided by Improve Canada 

2. Meet your trades in person.

Long before you break out a sledgehammer, start by speaking to various companies to compare prices, timelines and services.

At Norseman, you can schedule a complimentary meeting with a construction specialist to gather the necessary details. It’s best to make appointments with all of the showrooms at Improve Canada in advance, to guarantee you can get one-on-one time to pick their brains (and avoid visiting while the hands-on businesses are out on a service call or installation).

Potts says for smaller jobs like a bathroom renovation, you can make appointments with multiple showrooms and potentially get all the quotes you need in one day. “If you need someone to replace your flooring or put in some tile in a bathroom, you can bring a picture of your bathroom, a sketch and the length and width to seven showrooms and get seven quotes, probably that day.”

Even for larger projects, you can get a good scope of the project by chatting face-to-face with a company like Norseman. “Because construction is such a vast multitude of trades that are melded together to create one item, you have to be able to talk to the company that’s doing the work, face-to-face,” says Potts. “When you talk to someone on the phone, you won’t be able to see their reaction.”

To make appointments with the showrooms at Improve Canada (and cross to-do’s off your long list), start by visiting the directory.

Photo: Provided by Norseman

3. Have a contingency plan.

Even with the most diligent planning, it’s important to have some funds set aside for unexpected escalations in the budget. The most organized spreadsheet won’t keep your contractor from finding problems lurking behind the walls.

“This is especially the case when you’re dealing with older homes,” says Potts. “We do work all over the city of Toronto, and we’ve come across multitudes of different building styles that range from almost 1800’s all the way up until now. Materials used — especially during wartime — can make the project very expensive because of what’s behind the walls.”

As a rule of thumb, Potts suggests setting 10 percent of your funds aside for a project under $100,000, 12 percent for a project between $100,000 and $300,000 and up to 20 percent aside on any project over $300,000.

Photo: Provided by Norseman 

4. Have a contract and place all of your orders before the demolition starts.

There is nothing worse than not having your cabinetry in, the day before the kitchen crew is showing up. To avoid delays, it’s important to order all of your materials, appliances and more — long before demolition day. This is because the items can be back-ordered for weeks and sometimes months.

“It really comes down to how the contract has been organized,” says Potts. A thorough contract will detail what the homeowner is responsible for bringing on-site and what will be handled by the contractor.

“If the homeowner has specific duties and responsibilities in regards to collecting material, buying finishing items like flooring, tiles, grout, picking out paint colors (or even potentially buying the paint), those items should be clearly organized in the calendar for when the contractor needs those items to be on-site,” says Potts. Once you have your list, you can make appointments to chat with showrooms across various trades — there are 10 heating and cooling showrooms, 18 showrooms specializing in bathrooms, 13 lighting and electrical showrooms, over 40 kitchen companies, 5 landscaping companies and so much more.

Photo: Provided by Norseman

5. Get a shared calendar with your contractor and use it to communicate timelines.

It’s essential to have a work back schedule detailing when your trades will be doing certain jobs, to give you enough time to procure necessary items and make decisions. Norseman leverages technology to streamline the communication process and make it possible for you to know what’s going on with your renovation, at all times.

“We use a variety of apps that are available in the marketplace,” says Potts. “These apps allow clients to interface with their contractor so they get real-time updates and information. In our company, we give an update three days a week, which includes a log of what’s been done and an online calendar which details weeks, if not months in advance, what day materials need to be on-site (if the homeowner is providing it) and what decisions need to be made.” When you have phone calls and in-person meetings, you can refer directly to the calendar to stay on track.

This level of communication ensures the timeline can be achieved for both the homeowners and the contractor. “The contractor wants to finish the job on time as well,” says Potts. “It becomes an inefficient loss, the longer a job takes to finish.”

Photo: Provided by Improve Canada

Starting your renovation journey at Improve Canada will get your project off to a great start — whether you hire a contractor or plan to do it yourself. Visit the website and schedule appointments with any of the 350 showrooms to get started. With 320,000 square-feet to cover, they’ve even got a food hall when hunger strikes.

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