There are many reasons for starting a home renovation project. You might want or you might be forced to improve, fix or replace outdated or broken essential systems like the furnace, air conditioning, electrical panels, windows and doors, ventilation systems and so on.

Or you might need to repair structural elements of your house: cracks in the foundation, roof shingles problems, exterior wall siding.

In some cases you want to better use the space in your home. You might want to finish the basement or to convert the unused attic space as living or work space. Maybe you want to add storage space, or a home office.

Around the house you might want to add a shed or to create a small flower or vegetable garden in your backyard, or tackle more ambitious projects like building or fixing a deck or a patio.

No matter what your renovation project is, it will fall broadly in one of these categories:

  • Fixing structural problems
  • Fixing or upgrading home systems
  • Reorganizing living space
  • Improve functionality and aesthetics

Once you decide to start a DIY renovation project you will need to carefully plan it. Planning is needed to evaluate needs, consider alternative options, estimate costs and, of course, avoid later headaches. Here is a list of essential aspects to consider in the planning phase:

  • Learn from others – friends, blogs, books:
    Renovation 4th Edition: Completely Revised and Updated
  • Building code and local bylaws compliance:
    It is always important to consult the building code and obtain all building permits prior to starting investing in your project. This way you will avoid costly mistakes and potential fines.
  • Structural integrity of your house:
    Always consult a specialist whenever your project affects the structural elements of your home: foundation, walls, beams, columns, joists, stairs… No project is worth a collapsed house and the potential injuries.
  • Healthy environment for occupants:
    Be aware of the materials used for your project and avoid any chemical or biological contaminants. You and your family will continue to live in the house so aim for an improved indoor air quality.
  • Impact on other house systems:
    Think about the consequences of your project – during the project implementation and after. For example adding extra electrical plugs or light fixtures to an electrical circuit might overload it and increase fire danger.
  • Energy efficiency:
    Renovation time is the best time for improving the energy efficiency of your home. Keep in mind insulation, energy efficient windows and doors, energy efficient heating and cooling systems, energy efficient appliances.
  • Resource quality:
    When planning the renovation project think about resources in two ways: where can you save money – reuse, recycle, no waste, and where you should invest for the future: better quality materials and appliances that will save you money by not needing maintenance and replacing.
  • Initial and recurring costs:
    Be aware of the costs of your project. Add up everything so you are not caught by surprise with unplanned costs. Think about what you will spend to complete the project and what will cost you in maintenance for the years to come.

When you plan a DIY renovation project it is very important to understand that your house is a complex system where each component might influence other components. Adding, removing, replacing or changing one component or the structure can impact other parts of the structure and other components. Just imagine adding a sauna to your home. This will certainly produce more humidity. This needs to be removed from home using the ventilation system. Probably the ventilation fan has to be upgraded to a higher capacity. But what about the ducts? Are they wide enough or insulated enough to prevent mold growth in the walls?

As you can see, sometimes, the implications are complex. When in doubt always consult a specialist. It will be for sure cheaper, healthier and less stressful than a mistake.

This is only the first article in a series about preparing and planning various renovation projects. Continue reading about:

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