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Renovating your home is an exciting process. This article will help you make the right choices and develop a clear map to reach your renovation goals.

When you renovate your home, the most important decisions need to be made before the work begins. With today's housing technology, you can increase the comfort of your home significantly by making it healthier and more energy efficient. This means better living for you and also helps to protect our environment by reducing greenhouse gasses and other pollutants.

Start Your Plan

Whether you are renovating to improve your living space, or simply making necessary repairs to your home, careful planning lets you get the most from your home renovation dollars.

The first step is to set renovation goals that reflect your lifestyle and priorities. By defining what you want to achieve, the contractors and trades you hire will be better able to deliver great results.

There are a number of steps you should take to begin the planning process.

  • First, write down your specific goals - the things you want to change in your home.
  • Second, give some thought to both your current and future needs, so that renovations made today will accommodate changes in your lifestyle later.
  • Third, put together a wish list of the things that must be included in the project as well as others items you'd like to include, if your budget allows.

These three steps will help clarify your renovation goals and priorities - essential information when you begin talking to contractors.

Setting Your Renovation Goals

Your home renovation should provide you with improved functionality, comfort and convenience. When completed, your home should also be more energy efficient and healthier to live in.

It's important to set some general goals for your renovation project. These goals should address both the things you want to change in your home, and anything new you want to add. In some cases, such as simple repairs or maintenance projects, your goals will be straightforward. However, if you are considering more significant renovations such as major improvements or an addition to your home, more detailed goal setting can be very helpful.

Renovation goals should reflect your day-to-day experience living in your home and describe what you want to achieve, rather than dealing with the "nuts and bolts" of how the actual work will be done.

In most cases, there are three aspects you should consider when drawing up your renovation goals:

  • Use of Space - How you use a room determines the amount of space required and the extent to which this space needs to be open or closed to surrounding areas. Consider how you plan to use renovated areas of your home, what furnishing must fit into it and whether noise from one area of your home will be disruptive if not contained.
  • Movement of People - What are the traffic patterns in your home? Do access requirements between rooms conflict with activities? For example, do people have to pass through the television room to get to a bathroom? Are there areas of your home that currently cause "traffic jams" or that are too restrictive at certain times of the day?
  • Light Requirements - You need to consider the lighting requirements for activities planned in each room. Do the existing windows provide adequate daytime lighting? Do you want the room to feel more spacious and brighter? Will you use the space more during the day or evening? What sort of lighting fixtures are best suited to the space e.g., task lighting, area lighting?

A major benefit of setting renovation goals is that it helps you identify the existing problems you encounter in your home.

Developing Your Renovation Goals

These goals should describe what you want to achieve with your renovation in terms of daily living. For each goal, write down the areas in your home that will be affected, any existing problems that need to be corrected, new features you want to add and your description of how you expect to use the space when renovation is completed.

Goal: Modernize and expand our kitchen area.

Areas Affected: The kitchen.

Existing Problems: The kitchen is too small and cramped, and the eating area is inadequate. There isn’t enough counter space, and the existing cupboards are too small. The kitchen is also cut off from the rest of the house so when we have visitors, the person cooking either can’t talk to them or everyone crowds in the kitchen. The adjacent formal dining room is rarely used, it’s not our style. As well, the entire area seems dark and closed in, particularly in the winter.

New Features We Want: More electrical outlets at working level. Replace the single sink with a double unit. A built-in dishwasher. A kitchen island with task lighting. We also want a breakfast nook that can comfortably seat six people. More natural light would also be nice. Would really like to have a proper pantry that is convenient to the kitchen work area.

How We Will Use The Renovated Space: Want to be able to cook a complete dinner without having to stop and clean up because there’s no work space. Want to have family dinners in the eating area. Want visitors in the family room to be able to carry on a conversation with those working in the kitchen. Want the kitchen to be a great place to be in and want it to be the brightest room in the house.

Make Your Home Healthier

Today, Canadians are much more aware of the link between indoor environments and their health. Poor ventilation, moisture-related mold problems and many common chemicals released in the home can affect your health and well-being.

Home renovations provide the ideal opportunity to make your home a healthier place to live. This is especially important if you or a member of your household suffer from allergies, asthma or other health-related conditions that can be aggravated by poor air quality. As part of your renovation planning, you should determine whether there are any areas of your home that have moisture or air-quality problems that need attention.
Ensuring that your home is a healthy place to live will not only increase your comfort, it will protect your investment - many of the conditions that cause poor air quality can also lead to deterioration of a home's structure.

Remember that a healthy house is not only better for you and your family, it also makes environmental sense by conserving resources.

Make Your Home Energy Efficient

Finding opportunities to cut your energy bills is an important step in renovation planning. Improving your home's energy efficiency not only saves you money year after year, it can also be the key to increasing the comfort of your home. And by using less energy, you will help protect our environment by producing less of the greenhouse gases that harm our environment by contributing to climate change.

Energy saving measures can easily be incorporated in most home renovation projects. And by combining energy improvements with other renovation activities, saving energy will cost you less.

The most cost-effective approach to energy efficiency will depend on the age and condition of your home.
You can get a detailed assessment of your home's energy performance and how you can cut energy use by contacting the Canadian Home Builders’ Association NB at 459-7219 and setting up an appointment with one of our Licensed Energy Advisors.

Dealing with Radon in Your Home

You may or may not have it in your home. You may have an acceptable amount of it, or too much. If the latter, you should get rid of it, and there is no better time to do so than when you are renovating your home.

The “it” is radon, an invisible, odourless soil gas that occurs naturally in areas across Canada. Radon is not a health concern outside in the open air because it exists in very low concentrations. But when it finds its way into your home, it can build up to a level where it may have a detrimental effect on your health, if you are exposed for a prolonged period. Radon has been linked to lung cancer, and smokers in particular are vulnerable to its effects.

Essentially, the soil around your home exerts pressure on the foundation and under the slab. Where present in the soil, radon can seep into your home through dirt floors, cracks and fissure in the basement floor and walls, sump pumps, and other openings. While the highest concentrations are usually found on the lowest level, radon can disperse throughout the whole house, including your living and sleeping areas.

You can’t smell or see radon, so the only way to know if you have it is to test for it. Some areas in Canada are more prone to radon than others, but radon can occur anywhere. And just because your neighbour doesn’t have it, or only at a low acceptable level, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to bother about testing. Your home could have an entirely different reading.

Testing is easy. There are a number of do-it-yourself radon test kits on the market, or you can hire someone to do it. Be aware that the best and most reliable tests take time—several months or longer. It is a good idea to start testing well in advance of doing any renovation work so you can incorporate any radon-related work into the project.

Testing need not delay your plans—usually there is a considerable lag time between when people first start thinking about renovating and when the work gets underway.  And of course, you don’t have to wait until you decide to renovate—it is a good idea to test your home for radon anytime, just to be certain.

In 2007 Health Canada lowered the acceptable level for radon in homes to bring it into line with international guidelines. It also made recommendations for new home construction and measures to deal with radon problems in existing homes.

If your home shows that radon is present above acceptable levels, there is a whole range of things that can be done to bring it down. Possible measures to prevent radon from entering the house include sealing cracks and other openings or depressurizing the basement (essentially sucking the air out from below the slab). Installing a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) to increase ventilation in the whole house can also reduce the amount of radon in the air. This is where a professional renovator can be very helpful, and can discuss with you how to integrate these measures with the rest of the renovation work, and how they may affect the work and your budget.

There is a wealth of great information and advice available from a number of sources, including Health Canada and the Canadian Lung Association to help you learn more about radon and its effects, myths and facts, how to test for it in your own home and approaches to deal with it, should this prove necessary. Provincial governments may also have helpful information.

Find The Right Contractor

Once you have set your renovation goals and priorities, you need to find the right contractor to carry out your project. The type of renovation professional you need will depend on what's involved in your project.

  • For simple projects involving only one activity such as replacement of roofing, siding or windows, a specialized trade contractor or contract installer may be best.
  • If your project involves changes to your heating, electrical or plumbing systems, you should consult a licensed trade contractor.
  • For renovation projects that will involve more than one trade or require structural changes to your home, you should look for a general renovation contractor who can manage all aspects of the work, including development of detailed plans.

Regardless of the type of work involved in your project, you need to make sure that any contractor you hire has the necessary skill and experience to do the job right. Professional contractors run their businesses properly, have a track record of satisfied customers and will provide you with customer references upon request.

To get the names of contractors in your community, visit www.nbhomebuilders.ca or call the Canadian Home Builders’ Association NB to get the names of professional contractors in your area at (506) 459-7219.

It is important to interview any prospective contractor and discuss your project in detail before deciding who to hire.