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.
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 Elements – What 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.
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.
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.
Don’t be afraid to call your municipality’s permit office to discuss your project. They can help you understand the process and make it run smoother.