Things to Think About Before You Start Renovating

Article_ScottTip things to think


R2R Vapor Barrier

Planning a renovation is a lot like a puzzle. You may know what the finished project is supposed to look like but it takes putting together a lot of separate pieces together in order to get there. Before starting any renovation, you need to think about your wants and needs for the finished space.  That will lead every decision you make throughout the process. Start by creating a wishlist and then consider the following elements.


Building & Process Considerations

Building Codes – Your entire renovation will have to adhere to building codes that are designed to keep it safe. If you’re doing any work yourself make sure you are familiar with the local building codes for the project and plan accordingly. (If you’re working with a contractor he or she will be responsible for making sure everything is built to code, but you should still educate yourself about the legalities of your renovation.) There are specific codes for everything from foundations, to wall assemblies, to room sizes, to windows, to electrical and plumbing, and more. Before you can move from one step to another during your renovation a specific inspector will come to examine the work and determine if it meets code.

Building Materials Choosing building materials isn’t as simple as going to your local home improvement store and picking up the cheapest thing. Along with price you need to think about things like environmental impact, safety, building code, architectural integrity, and the needs of the finished space. Making these choices without thinking about all of these elements can lead to headaches later.


‘Reno to Reveal’ Callout: With a large TV planned to go on the wall in the activity room a strong drywall was necessary. We opted to use CertainTeed’s Habito® drywall in the family room because it’s very dense and specifically recommended for rooms where there is high traffic or where heavy objects are going to be hung on the wall.

Reno to Reveal - Drywall


Electrical – What will your electrical needs be in the finished space? Will you have appliances? Electric-powered gym equipment? A home theatre? And what about lights? You need to know where to place outlets and lights pretty early on in the reno process in order to make your electrical plan, so be sure you know how you want to use the finished space BEFORE you start.

Noise – What kind of noise considerations should you take into account? Will you have a loud media center that could bother people upstairs? Is there a bedroom that needs extra soundproofing? What about income suites? If it’s a dedicated apartment you will need to take sound separation into consideration.

Plumbing – Bathroom, kitchen and laundry – these are the major sources of water in any home. Will you have any of them in your renovated space? If so you’ll need to know where to place the plumbing rough ins.  Also, consider what types of appliances you’ll be putting in the finished space. A lot of today’s refrigerators require a dedicated water line.

Structural ElementsWhat structural elements could get in the way of your desired finished project? Bulkheads? Poles? Columns? Can you move them? If so you’ll need to budget for it, and if not you’ll need to come up with an alternate plan to achieve your desired outcome.

Lead Times –  One of the big mistakes that makes the renovation process seem to go on forever is not properly accounting for lead times.  Kitchens, custom work, upholstered pieces – these things all take time. Not accounting for lead times can delay the renovation resulting in major frustrations – particularly if you have scheduled trades that keep needing to be pushed back and rescheduled.


‘Reno to Reveal’ Callout: In this basement renovation we opted for a small semi-custom kitchen. Even though it has a small footprint the lead time for the cabinets was 8 weeks from order to installation.

Reno to Reveal - Planning a Renovation


Lifestyle Considerations

Activities – Your wish list should cover what the room’s purpose will be, but before you make a plan delve a little deeper and think about all the activities that will take place in the space. Is it for living, dining, sleeping, working out? Home gyms require heavy equipment and the flooring needs to be able to handle the weight. If you’re mounting a TV or heavy mirror on the wall it needs to be able to handle the weight. The activities that take place will dictate the kinds of building materials you’ll need.

Custom Details – Anything too custom can negatively affect the value of your home, so don’t go overboard, but do think about the specific needs of your family when planning the space. If everyone in your family is really short don’t install all the cabinets near the ceiling. If there are elderly people living in the home consider some universal design principles such as curbless showers, under-counter appliances and levers instead of door knobs. To increase the value of your home it needs to appeal to a wide variety of people, but there are always ways you can gently customize to meet your family’s specific needs.


‘Reno to Reveal’ Callout: A curbless shower was installed for two reasons. One was that the streamlined look was desired at a design level, but it also reduces tripping hazards – ideal should the space eventually be turned into an in-law suite for the homeowner’s aging parents.

Reno to Reveal - Curbless Shower


Comfort – How comfortable does your space need to be? If you’ve got kids who will be sitting and playing on the floor you might want to consider a soft floor covering such as vinyl plank as opposed to something hard like ceramic tile. And what about warmth? In a cold basement radiant flooring might be something to consider. Decisions like these need to be made fairly early in the process.

Storage – We tend to collect a lot of stuff, and a common complaint from North American homeowners is “not enough storage”. So think carefully about your storage needs. Should you factor in closets? If so what size? Built-in shelving? How much? Be honest about your family’s needs or you’ll end up having to buy storage units later.

Flexibility – When planning a space think about tomorrow’s needs as well as today’s. Families grow up, needs change, and rooms shift focus. What was once a child’s bedroom might turn into a home gym; a former playroom can turn into an office; or sometimes an entire floor can turn into an income suite. Take future plans into consideration as much as you can when planning.


Reno to Reveal Callout: Andrew’s basement is designed for his young family today, but when the kids grow up it will likely turn into an in-law or income suite. The design accounted for all the legal requirements such as proper fire separation, sound separation and egress requirements. What is a relaxing retreat for the family today will become an entire self contained apartment for a renter tomorrow.

Reno to Reveal - Basement Makeover

« Back to Articles

Relevant Articles

  • Renovating a Condo VS a House+
  • Universal Design Tips+
  • Planning a Dream House From the Ground Up – An R2R Case Study+
  • Things to Think About Before You Start Renovating+
  • Understand how your money is spent+
  • Hiring Your Renovation Team+
  • Planning a Renovation: How to Create a Budget+
  • What Is a Scope of Work?+


Don’t let today’s trends become tomorrow’s regrets. Use common sense and keep the needs of your household top of mind when incorporating trends into your design.