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Home Renovation: Where to Start?

Published March 14, 2021
Updated: March 30, 2023
Est. Reading: 5 minutes

Starting a home renovation is exciting. Every homeowner has something they've dreamed of updating, improving or overhauling. You’ve likely dreamed of redoing the kitchen, bathroom, adding on an addition, or some other unique projects for a long time. 

Money can often feel like the most difficult obstacle. Once you have enough saved or financing secured and can finally make your dream home a reality, you’ll probably want to take a sledgehammer to the cabinets right away, just like they do on TV.

However, that step in the home renovation process is a little further down the road.

The Canadian Home Builder’s Association agrees that the very first thing a homeowner needs to do before renovating is to put the plan in writing (1).

Step 1: Planning

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is my end goal? 

Make a list of all the projects you want to have finished by the end of the renovation. Better yet, put them in order from most important to least important, just in case there is a budgeting issue and you have to put something off. 

For extensive projects, drawing a picture can help you and others involved visualize the project. Don’t worry if drawing and design aren’t your forte! You can get help with that later.

  1. What is my budget? 

Research prices for materials and labor, and include a contingency budget of about 20% (2). Get a few estimates from reputable contractors so you know what a reasonable budget for your planned project will be. If the unexpected arises, such as when modernizing an old home, that 20% buffer will come in handy.

It will always be tempting to accept the lowest offer, but there is a very good chance you will end up with cut corners rather than the finished product you were hoping for. In our experience a renovation that is initially done cheaply or hastily, is a renovation that is typically done twice.

  1. What project order makes the most sense? 

If your renovation project is small, this question may not matter. You can achieve your goals in whatever order makes you happy. But if you’re planning a total overhaul, the project order will matter. For example, new windows are typically installed before new siding.

  1. What can I do myself? 

If you have a skill that will come in handy during a home renovation, make use of it! Assisting in demolition or knowing how to change out a faucet are small savings that can add up. If you can lay your own floor or hang drywall, you’ll save even more. 

However, don’t be tempted to use this as an opportunity to try something new. Unless you’re okay with extending the timeline and possibly the budget of the project, tackling unfamiliar projects on your own may result in unnecessary delay and frustration. If your skill level is not the same as what's needed for the project, costs could be driven up by the renovators needing to redo or correct subpar work. So if it's your first time doing a project, we recommend leaving it to the pros.

Keep in mind if you plan on hiring a contractor or renovation company to complete the project, that they will have their own workflow, and processes for completion. If there are areas you want to take on yourself, ask the company first and coordinate. There are fewer things more frustrating for homeowners and contractors alike than to have to undo work that the other party did out of order, or not inline with the plan.

  1. What will I need help with? 

You may need to hire a contractor for some, if not all, of the project. Many people would rather have an expert handle the building and design. That way, all you need to be concerned with is the budget, the timeline, and the inconvenience of living through a renovation.

Step 2: Vetting a Contractor

Choosing the right contractor is vital to a successful home renovation. Tom Silva from This Old House puts a lot of emphasis on the idea that you and your contractor should communicate well (3). 

We agree with him. You don’t want to feel uncomfortable with someone who is in and out of your home so frequently. You also don’t want to feel awkward when it comes to asking questions or requesting status updates. 

There must be a certain level of respect and civility in a contractor/homeowner relationship. Otherwise, you will never feel like you can fully trust them. If there is one instance when you need trust, it is when your home is being worked on.

Narrow down a list of contractors to a few excellent candidates, do phone interviews, ask for references, check those references, and then see who is still on your list.

From there, you can start talking business and getting bids.

Again, make sure everything is in writing. Even if it’s a simple work order, having the job and numbers written down can help you feel more secure in the company. This is mutually beneficial. The company you work with should want everything in writing, too.

Extra tip: Be wary of contractors that ask for more than a 15% deposit, with the exception of a project that requires a number of custom touches (4).

Step 3: Preparing the Space

Whether you have a family or you are on your own, you will need a plan for how to live around construction. 

  • Is there a zone in your house that will be kept clear?

Some people recommend having a construction-free zone to help them relax during renovations.

  • Would it be better to find somewhere else to stay while the work is being done? 

If you are adding on or only having one room renovated, you can probably remain in your home. However, if the construction will interfere drastically with your daily life, you may want to consider making other arrangements.

  • What will the daily schedule for the work crew be, and will it interfere with yours?

You usually get a say in what the construction schedule will be. Discuss a timeframe with the contractor ahead of time so you can come up with a schedule that works for both of you.

  • Where will you keep your stuff?

If you are renovating your home, you will need to think about storage solutions. Where will you keep the furniture and belongings while the renovation is in progress? Do you have space in another room for storage, or will you need to rent a unit?

Now you can get started!

Once you have a plan, a budget, and a trusted contractor, you get to watch your vision unfold.

No renovation company in the Calgary area knows this joy and excitement better than Reborn Renovations. With more than a decade of experience and multiple awards under our belt, our team of designers, contractors, and subcontractors can help you with your renovation from start to finish. 

Whether your project is a full home renovation or a small space upgrade, we always take pride in our work. We are licensed, insured, and we love putting our promises in writing. 

Contact us today for a free quote on any of your Calgary home renovation needs!

Click here to see one of our whole home renovations in Okotoks


  1. Canadian Home Builders’ Association: https://www.chba.ca/CHBA/Renovating/Renovating.aspx
  2. Policygenius: https://www.policygenius.com/blog/how-much-should-you-budget-for-a-home-renovation/
  3. This Old House: https://www.thisoldhouse.com/21017791/top-8-pro-tips-on-how-to-hire-a-contractor
  4. Renomark: https://renomark.ca/renovation-deposit 

    Photo: Pexels
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