A brief google search about undertaking any home improvement project will quickly reveal a laundry list of reasons not to do it, or what to beware of (the shady contractor) and what to look out for (price gouging and shoddy workmanship). An internet search is often the first step in any endeavour and unfortunately, you will be inundated by fear-mongering when doing so. It makes you wonder why anyone undertakes a renovation at all. One may think you just cross your fingers and hope for the best.
After nearly two decades in the industry, I feel this negative outlook is not only unhelpful but wholly unnecessary. In fact, with proper planning and the right outlook, your renovation can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. This is why I have written a book to help people like you, successfully take on their home improvement projects and ultimately improve their lives.
By linking my experiences as a contractor to what you should do as a homeowner, I will show you what approaches work and what do not and walk you through all you need to know, from project start to finish. We will discuss how to find the right contractor, review quotes and contracts, the renovation process, what happens when, and how to be a great client for your contractor and retain them for the long term. The last two chapters contain essential advice from homeowners and a glossary of key terms to keep you in the know.
Whether you are looking to expand your living space to welcome a new family member, update an aging home, or renovating for resale, the information in the following pages will help you prepare for the coming project. Renovating or building for yourself is an intimidating endeavour, especially for the first time, but by doing so you can craft your living space to be exactly how you would want it and not have to worry about fitting yourself and your family into someone else's idea of how the home should be lived in. Whatever your goal, a smoothly executed project is a great way to improve your quality of life, increase the functionality of your home and enhance the value of your property. Contained in these pages is the advice you will need to achieve this.
You may be wondering, what makes me qualified to tell you how you should prepare for your home renovation or construction project? That's a fair question, so let me explain. I have successfully operated a business in the home renovation industry, as well as profitably purchased, renovated, and sold numerous properties over the years, from boutique condo units to semidetached, fully detached, and century homes. In total, I have nearly 20 years of experience in the industry, with a decade and a half as a self-employed business owner. The lessons I learned through my extensive experience are valuable to all, which is exactly why I want to share them with you.
During my years in the construction industry, I routinely had similar experiences with my clients. Part of my job as a contractor was to guide the homeowner through their construction/renovation project and provide them with answers to their questions. I couldn't help but feel if the homeowner had a better understanding from the start, their experience with the project could be much better. In an attempt to improve a potential client's understanding of their upcoming project, I have written this book to include important information on pre-project planning.
By no means is this a new idea, nor am I the first to write about home construction projects. I am certainly not reinventing the proverbial wheel here, however, I feel this book is different. Books in this space are often long-winded and prompt you to micromanage the project, like keeping track of the renovation budget. This might seem like important information but it's completely useless. A good contractor already knows how to do this and it is, in fact, an integral part of a successfully run business. Instead, part of my focus in this book is on how to find and retain a great contractor, so you don't need to micromanage or crunch numbers. This will allow you to focus on what is required of you during the project. Besides, no homeowner needs to, nor has time to, read a 300-page book on renovating or construction. For this reason, I have written this book to be concise and free of fluff, so the reader can fit it into their undoubtedly busy lives.
Other resources in this space usually consist of guides, typically free, that are too short or vague to be of any use or are simply sales tactics used by contractors for lead generation. Unlike these other books and resources, I will not attempt to sell you any services, as I no longer operate a business in the industry (my family and I chose to pursue different career and life paths abroad. For more info on this, feel free to check out www.keepitsimplesociety.com or @keepitsimplesociety on Instagram and TikTok).
I have one purpose in writing this book: to help you, the homeowner, prepare for the upcoming project by teaching you how to take an active role and therefore successfully complete your home renovation or construction project. Success with a renovation is typically determined by how ‘smoothly’ it goes but more importantly, it should be determined by how enjoyable the experience is. An active role by the homeowner is essential. From approving architectural designs and locations of key areas of the home, to selecting finishes and fixtures and choosing appliances, you will undoubtedly play a role in project decision-making. You may also take an active role in decorating the property by selecting paint colours, choosing furniture and its placement, or picking out soft finishes. Knowing when to do these things is key to a successfully executed renovation or construction project.
At a minimum, a good contractor will be able to guide you through these processes but knowing when to do these things beforehand will allow you to be prepared, which ultimately improves the productivity on site and can help avoid costly delays. The more you know ahead of time, the more energy you can put towards the real details of the project.
Over the years, I got used to my clients’ eyes glazing over (or looks of confusion) when I explained the construction process to them. Often, they spent more time trying to understand why we did certain things and less time on what the final product will be. By reading this book before you start your project planning, you can approach your project with general knowledge and therefore spend more time on what matters: ensuring that you achieve your goal (whatever that may be: dream home, investment, etc). You will also have confidence in knowing that you chose a great contractor you can trust.