That’s “reno” as in “renovation”, not “Reno” as in gambling and vice.
I’ve been absorbed the last few months in renovating our Toronto home. It occurred to me the other day, while standing in one of the many piles of dust and rubble that used to be our kitchen, how renovation projects are much like software engineering projects. Or any other kind of engineering project, for that matter. Fun, messy, sometimes chaotic, and generally more expensive than you wanted it to be.
Lessons learned so far:
Plan, plan, and plan again before you implement, because it is orders of magnitude less
more expensive to correct a mistake in the planning phase than afterwards. Downstream fixes might mean moving wires, or pipes, or even walls. Twice. Hypothetically speaking, of course.
People standing idle is money being burned. And if they happen to be carrying power tools as well, they’re probably going to find something dangerous to work on.
Minimize dependencies. Case in point: 8 weeks to get our building permit. The dance of annoyance began with numerous frustrating trips to the Toronto building department. The building department hasn’t yet discovered the magic of email, but does have a website where you can use the power of the Internet to download PDF forms (which must subsequently be printed out and filled in by hand, in triplicate). I should have figured out it would take a while when I met an architecture firm employee there whose full time job is to petition the city for permits.
Anyway, after much money and 5 weeks of… er… supplicating, we were told our permit was ready, save for “getting a letter” from the Toronto Ravine Conservation Authority. (Tip: “getting a letter” is code for getting another permit.) This seemed a little odd, because our property is almost entirely flat. Nevertheless it was a ravine in the early 1900′s, so the entire area is controlled for all time by the TRCA. The helpful person there informed us that the permit almost certainly would take a few weeks before even being looked at, on account of how they had an executive review coming up. And by the way, we would also have to talk with the Urban Forestry Department, who it turns out wanted us to “reforest” our back yard. Sigh. 8 weeks. Eight weeks. Eight w8@*s! License Raj, eat your heart out.
Scope creep is the enemy of the budget. We thought we had a fine plan for our kitchen. Then a family friend popped in and pointed out that we had not built the much-vaunted “kitchen triangle” into our plan. (For those of you who don’t know, the triangle has something to do with positioning your fridge, sink, and range at the points of a triangle within easy arm’s reach, and then further aligning that triangle with the movement of the outer planets.) So we changed the plan. Then we had to move the wall that separates the kitchen from the dining room. That required ripping into the dining room ceiling. Which in turn suggested removing, relevelling and replacing the rest of said ceiling. You get the picture. Scope creep bad.
Good contractors are worth their weight in gold. But only if they keep promises, and work well with others. Our contractor is a dream to work with, and no I won’t tell you his name until he’s done at our place.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. While it’s tempting to rip out all the existing infrastructure of your house and replace it with shiny new stuff, you must resist. Rule of thumb: it’s not worth doing unless it will end up at least twice as good when you’re done.
Sometimes you really ought to pay an expert, rather than doing it yourself. Flat roofs. Basement insulation. Things involving natural gas pipelines. Pay an expert.
There’s nothing like a hard deadline as a motivator. Near the beginning of the project we committed to hosting our families for Christmas dinner. Now we’ve got three weeks left. We’re coming in on a steep angle of attack. The kitchen isn’t in yet. We’re telling everyone it’s going to be “rustic” this year.