Whole home remodelling

From Vision to Reality: Your Complete Guide to Whole Home Remodelling

The Canadian remodelling boom continues into 2024, reflecting both societal shifts and economic factors. There are some great reasons to plan a remodel. You may need to enlarge the living area or change the floor plan to make it more functional for your family. With the cost and limited availability of building lots, and the lengthy permitting process to build that custom dream home, you may decide to transform your existing home into the beautiful home you’ve always dreamed of while increasing its value.

Families continue to spend more time in their homes than they did before 2020. Also, as Canada’s baby boomers are beginning to reach 65, most of them desire to age in place, staying in their own homes for as long as possible. Multi-generational living is also on the rise. According to CBC, “the number of properties shared by multiple generations, two or more families, or one family living with unrelated people has grown by 45 percent over the past 20 years.”

The lack of affordable housing has made it difficult for adult children to afford their own homes. With the ever-increasing cost of living, multi-generational living arrangements allow extended families to share expenses like mortgage payments, utilities, and even groceries. Multi-generational homes also enable younger working parents to care for their aging parents or grandparents, while saving money on daycare.

Embarking on a whole home remodel is a significant undertaking. It will require careful planning, budgeting, and skillful execution. Remodelling the whole house does allow complete customization to fit your specific needs, lifestyle and taste. It’s an opportunity to re-evaluate your house’s layout and make some changes so it’s more functional. Are you planning to add an extra bathroom, a home office, or improve the flow between rooms? You get to fix all those annoying design glitches and create a cohesive design flow and aesthetic throughout, to achieve the home is exactly what you’ve been hoping for.

Define your goals and budget

Identifying your needs and wants: The first step in planning your home remodel is to clearly define your goals. It’s important to evaluate your reasons for wanting to remodel your home and to understand the results you’re trying to achieve. Are you hoping to improve the functionality of your living space, update some outdated features, increase the home’s market value, or enhance its aesthetic appeal? This is a good time to create a list of your “must haves” and the “nice to haves”, prioritizing each entry based on its importance to you and your family.

Setting your goals will help you focus on your priorities, so you can allocate your resources the most effectively. It’s easy to get emotionally sidetracked during the design and building process, which can result in unnecessary changes; so your list of clearly-defined goals and priorities should be there for you and your team to refer to regularly… it keeps everyone on the same page.

Setting a budget: Determining your budget is a very crucial step, and it will influence every other aspect of the remodelling project. You’ll want to research the average costs for the type of remodel work you have in mind, and factor in all of the potential expenses, such as materials, labour, permits and design fees. It’s wise to also include a contingency buffer for unexpected costs; typically 10-20% of the total budget. Once you’ve determined what you’d like to spend, it’s time to align that number with your funding source(s), which may include savings, a home equity loan, or another type of financing.

National Bank of Canada recommends keeping your home’s resale value in mind when planning the remodel budget. If you’re remodelling the kitchen in a home valued at $800,000, and it represents 10 to 15% of the property’s value, your kitchen remodel costs could be in the $80,000 to $120,000 range. For the main upstairs bathroom, which may represent 5 to 10% of the property’s value, your budget would be between $4,000 and $8,000.

Creating your budget will help you and your designer or architect, and the building contractor understand how much money you have to work with, so you can avoid overspending. You’ll be able to make informed decisions, investing the available money where it will have the most impact.

Initial planning and design

Research and gathering ideas: Gathering inspiration should be a very exciting part of the planning process. You can find ideas online on platforms like Pinterest and Houzz, by browsing home improvement and lifestyle magazines such as Fine Homebuilding, This Old House or Better Homes and Gardens, and by visiting showrooms and home improvement stores. Explore the latest design trends, but also consider design ideas that reflect your personal style, but will remain timeless.

Creating rough sketches or mood boards: Creating a rough sketch or mood board can help you visualize the final look and layout of each space. This is the time to go through all of your reference materials and begin testing colour schemes, materials and design elements, attaching photos in the white spaces. If you’re not very creative with a set of art markers or pencil crayons, there are some great digital software tools available.

Milanote as an online moodboard maker. Moodboards are a free-form way to communicate the “feel” of your idea. Milanote digital moodboards are dynamic, flexible and shareable, so they unlock a whole new world of creative possibilities.

Some easy-to-use floor plan and home design apps are Planner 5D, DreamPlan (for Mac), Homestyler and RoomSketcher. Homeowner-friendly floor plan and 2D or 3D design apps can provide hours of creative enjoyment, experimenting with different layouts, furniture placements, and design elements. 3D renderings can help identify potential issues with your planned layout alterations that could be difficult to visualize from 2D plans alone.

Your mood board swatches and sketches can be invaluable as a reference point as you move forward with your remodel project. Instead of making gestures as you try to explain what you have in mind, whether to the sales associate at Home Depot, or your prospective designer or architect, you can now hand them printouts or show them visuals on your mobile phone or tablet screen.

Energy efficiency and cost-saving considerations: A remodel provides an opportunity to make energy-efficient upgrades such as installing additional insulation, sealing air leaks, and upgrading to new HVAC equipment and appliances that will reduce your monthly utility bills.

Adding insulation to the walls, attic, basement or crawl space, will reduce your heat loss in the winter, and the heat gain in the summer. Installing double or triple-paned energy-efficient windows and well-sealed doors is the next step toward achieving continuous insulation. Then come air sealing to prevent air movement between the inside and outside, with the elimination of thermal bridging, will complete your building envelope retrofit.

Replacing old HVAC equipment with high-efficiency furnaces, air conditioners and heat pumps is the next step towards significant energy savings. Your design-build remodelling contractor or architect can verify the sizing of the unit required and confirm the sealing of all HVAC ductwork to minimize energy losses. Installing programmable Smart thermostats can help reduce costs by turning down the heating or cooling when you’re not home or tucked into a warm bed.

Hiring your designer or architect: It’s a good idea to obtain detailed quotes from several remodelling contractors to compare costs, timelines, and the scope of work. Comparing several quotes will help you understand what a fair price is in your area, and the process will help you choose a contractor who can meet your needs. But don’t just jump on the lowest bid.

First impressions do matter. Check each contractor’s website. If the site is up to date, well organized, informative and showcases the team’s qualifications and portfolio of work well, that’s a good sign. A website, or company truck, that’s in a state of neglect sends a cautionary message. Before hiring a contractor, verify their credentials, including awards, licenses, insurance, Better Business Bureau standing and any certifications.

Don’t discount your gut feeling. If a contractor communicates well, is confident and extremely helpful – not arrogant and impatient about having to explain things – makes you feel comfortable and inspires confidence, be sure to factor that into your decision. You’re going to be working with your builder and team for some time and a good working relationship, built on trust and open communication, is key to making it a successful and enjoyable project.

Preparing for the remodel

Where will you live?: The team of tradespeople will need space to work, move and store materials, set up saws, a tile cutter, etc. Removing furniture, decor, and personal items from the key areas that will be remodelled will make things a lot easier. Decluttering will make the workspace more efficient while reducing the risk of damage to your possessions. If you’re able to move things to the garage, that would certainly be helpful; or you might consider renting a storage unit for the duration of the project.

Depending on the extent of your remodel, you may be able to set up a temporary living space within your home, equipped with a water cooler and hot plate for cooking, and perhaps use the shower and sink in the mud room. Some families arrange for alternate cooking, bathing, and living arrangements next door. If the remodel will make your home uninhabitable for some time, you may have to stay with friends or family or rent temporary accommodations for a few months.

Building a working relationship with your neighbours: Inform your neighbours well in advance about your planned remodel, the scope of the project, expected start and end dates, and any potential inconveniences like noise, debris and tradespeople parking on the road. Be transparent about the disruptions they can expect. You want to build trust with honest communication, not set them up for disappointment.

Meet with each neighbour in person as you hand them a copy of the remodel notice, going over the particulars verbally. Invite questions and consider checking in with your neighbours periodically. Make sure they have your contact number and that of your contractor. If any damage occurs to a neighbour’s property, you need to take responsibility and remedy the situation promptly. Offering gestures of appreciation such as baked goods, a bottle of wine before and after the project, or a barbecue can go a long way towards keeping the neighbours happy.

The takeaway

A whole home remodel is a big project, and it will require careful planning, budgeting, and execution by a great team. From defining your goals and setting a budget to picking the team that will bring the project home, each step is crucial to your project’s success. With careful preparation, clear communication with your team, and a flexible mindset, your home will be transformed into a space that meets your needs and reflects your style.

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