In Our Home, Reno on
March 11, 2017

Reno Rookies – The Planning Stages | Reno Rookies

It always seems impossible until it is done. ~ Nelson Mandela

When I think about all the stages involved in our reno it’s really quite overwhelming. I think the best advice I can give to anyone considering a major renovation is to just focus on one stage at a time. Thinking too far ahead can make you feel crazy. I’ve been told more than once by friends and family that they could never “survive” a major renovation. I must admit that I really didn’t give much thought into how we would be living in the 3+ months it took to get our kitchen (and lives!) back. And to be honest, I’m glad I didn’t. It all worked out in the end of course and it was really worth the effort.

As I mentioned here, the moment our realtor showed us this house, I envisioned blowing out the ceiling and some walls to create a huge open concept living/dining area. Growing up, I had spent some time visiting Denmark (my Dad is Danish) and had a vivid memory of bright, open spaces. It was a point of comparison I immediately noticed between Canadian and Danish interiors. Anyway, it obviously left an indelible mark on my subconscious because I have always been drawn to these kinds of open, airy structural spaces.

The problem was that I had never done a major renovation before, nor had I known any close friend or family member to have done one. I had no idea where or how to begin, so I decided to enlist the help of Jessica Belanger, a local designer. It was so easy (and fun) to work with Jessica. She was so laid back and really put my mind at ease with the way she laid things out for me. I asked Jessica to do something that she had never done before; in fact, I wonder if she thought I was crazy, but I asked if she could design me an Ikea kitchen. Jessica was used to doing custom kitchens but I insisted that an Ikea kitchen would give me everything I wanted, and at a much lower price point. Now, if ALL I had planned to do was an Ikea kitchen I definitely would have designed it myself using the Ikea kitchen planning software. In fact, when it came time to do some modifications I found the software very easy to use.

Jessica gave me a blueprint, so to speak, of the process of blowing out the ceiling and walls, and installing the kitchen, which was basically this:

  • Get an architectural designer to come by, take measurements, determine which walls were structural, and come up with options for creating a vaulted ceiling.
  • Get architectural designer to make drawings and provide additional documentation (ex. structural engineer approval) if needed.
  • Get quotations from at least 3 contractors, based on drawings and home survey.
  • Submit final drawings to the city and obtain a permit.
  • Begin renovation.
  • Order Ikea kitchen and appliances and place all the delivered boxes in storage until the renovation is fully completed.
  • Complete renovation – structure/framing, electrical, insulation, drywall, flooring, painting.
  • Install Ikea kitchen and appliances.

Without this blueprint I know I would have messed things up, for example, not waiting until the end to install the kitchen. Jessica felt confident I could do the project management myself, and since she basically laid out the process, I was excited to try (it helped that we lucked out with a great contractor…more on that below).

In case you’re wondering why we used an architectural designer instead of an architect, an architectural designer is fully capable of producing drawings for city permit requirements, and at a much lower cost. (At least this is the case for southern Ontario – I would check your city’s planning and building department if you want to use an architectural designer for your own drawings.)

When John, our architectural designer first came to our home, he suggested we install a scissor truss frame to vault the ceiling. Later, I saw some pictures of a scissor truss reno and didn’t feel it raised the ceiling enough. I wanted the space to be as bright and open as possible so I suggested a structural beam along the entire length of the room as an alternative. This would work, but at a greater cost than the scissor truss. We contemplated what was more important to us and decided that now was the time to maximize the space and get what we really wanted. So, John re-did the drawings and we had 3 contractors come by for estimates.

The first contractor practically made me stop the whole process on the spot. He listened to my plan, looked at the space and drawings, and said it would be unwise to do any renovation at all. He said for the amount of money it would take to complete the reno it would be better to just tear the whole house down and build from scratch. I was mortified at first, but then decided that this man saw only problems, not solutions. It turns out he was used to building from scratch and actually had very little experience with renovations.

A couple of contractors later, we saw James. When he came in and walked around the space he spoke about how he would deal with issues, making suggestions on the spot. He was recommended by a neighbour and I could tell he was our guy right from the start. I was pretty upfront with him, saying that I was very particular and opinionated and needed to be able to discuss things openly. He can’t say I didn’t warn him, lol! When you think about it, the contractor is in our lives practically every day for months so it’s really important to feel comfortable around him or her. I was so grateful that we got someone who was skilled, honest, and easy-going. We were so lucky.

So with the drawings made up, the kitchen designed, the permit application approved, and the contractor picked out, we were ready to go. Stay tuned for the next post with the BEFORE pictures as the renovation begins.

Thanks for popping by! I would love to hear how you started your own renovation process in the comments below.

In between posts you can find me on Instagram, sharing the stuff of daily life.

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