Realities of Renovating- Part 2 : DIY vs. Bring in the Professionals

A few weeks ago I started a blog series titled: ‘Renovations: Reality vs. “Reality” TV’.   My goal is to share with you years of experience in the design / building industry and to offer some insight on how to best prepare for the realities of renovating.  Let’s dig into step 1 of 3:

Understand the scope of your project.  Is it a ‘do it yourself-er’ or do trained professionals need to be involved? If it’s the latter, then become knowledgeable on what types of professional are available and their roles.

D.I.Y. has been a popular acronym for the past 20 years or so.  (Actually according to Wikipedia, it was introduced in 1912 and came in to common usage in the 1950’s, but it really took hold once the world wide web and HGTV came along.) D.I.Y. primarily exists in the residential realm where homeowners plug into websites like Pinterest, Houzz, and You Tube where endless creative ideas exist.  Do-It-Yourself is meant for simple projects where weekend warriors can roll up their sleeves, put in some time and elbow grease, save some money and feel proud about the fruits of their labour.  IKEA was born out of the D.I.Y. movement. (A favourite place of mine, I’m not going to lie.)

 

 

 

 

 

‘It’s lovely. Have you actually built a flat-pack kitchen before?’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So when does a project go from D.I.Y. to “bring in the professionals”?  Here’s a top 5 list that indicates you should start hiring:

  1. Your renovation requires a permit and the stamp of a design professional.
  2. Your renovation requires structural, mechanical and / or electrical alterations.
  3. You have no design experience and don’t want to waste money on costly mistakes.
  4. You’ve never picked up a tool in your life and can’t decipher which end is up. Especially if the tools are sharp.
  5. Your time and energies are better spent focusing on what you’re good at so that you can pay a professional to do what they’re good at.

Once you’ve decided that your project is not a D.I.Y.er, what types of professionals should you be calling?  Here’s a list of options and the types of work they do:

Architect:  A licensed professional responsible for planning, designing, and reviewing the construction of buildings.  They create total environments, focusing heavily on the building shell. Architects often act as the prime (coordinating) consultant on major building / renovating projects, especially commercially.

Interior Designer:  A professional responsible for designing functional and creative design solutions for interior environments. They work within the building shell to design for the health, safety and well-being of occupants. Interior Designers often act as the prime (coordinating) consultant on interior focused commercial or residential projects.

Architectural Lighting Designer: A professional responsible for the design of lighting systems, including  the control of natural light, electric light, or both, to enhance and strengthen design and to  serve human needs. They work closely with Architects, Interior Designers and Electrical Engineers.

Structural Engineer: A professional responsible for ensuring that structures to withstand stresses and pressures imposed through environmental conditions and human use. They make sure the building doesn’t fall down.

Mechanical Engineer: On a building or renovation project, the Mechanical Engineer is the professional responsible for the design, construction, and testing of mechanical systems.  This often focuses on heating, cooling, fire protection, plumbing and air quality systems.

Electrical Engineer: On a building or renovation project, the Electrical Engineer is the professional responsible for the design, construction, and testing of electrical devices.  This often focuses on calculating & distributing electrical loads, wiring, communication & building controls and specifying electrical systems.

General Contractor:  A general contractor, or G.C., is hired to take the plans created by the professionals and bring them to reality.  He or she will orchestrate the comings and goings of the trades, order mate­rials, inspect the work done and coordinate an ever-changing schedule.

So now that you know when a project has gone beyond D.I.Y and the range of professionals available for hire, where do you go from here?

 

Start by talking with design professionals who specialize in the area most appropriate for your project (see definitions above).  Have phone conversations and / or face to face meetings with a few until you find someone you feel has the expertise you require and understands your needs. You’ll be working closely with this person / team, so don’t underestimate the importance of finding someone you mesh with.

In my next blog post we’ll dig deeper into how to establish clear goals and objectives. This will help you to focus yourself and the design professional(s) you select.

Until then, I wish you success in your D.I.Y. or in your search for the right team of professionals!

 

Tracy

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Renovations: Reality vs. “Reality” TV

Renovating …it’s a scary process, especially if you’ve never done it before.  There’s a lot on the line…time, money, mess, uncertainty (did I mention time and money?)  If you watch HGTV it goes something like this…

Dating phase: Client, designer and contractor meet and get to know each other.  Concepts are developed.  Everyone is starry eyed and the possibilities seem endless. There’s attraction in the air.

Honeymoon phase:  The design process begins.  Space planning is moving along nicely, materials and fixtures are touched and felt. The concept is starting to become a reality.  The love is tangible.

Reality phase:  Two ugly words rear their ugly heads…Budget and timelines.  “It’s going to cost how much and take how long???”  Hard decisions and compromises are made.  The frustration begins.

Reality phase 2: Construction starts.  Some of it goes smoothly, but some does not (there’s always an unexpected gem hiding in the walls, or under the floor, or in the ceiling.)  More money, more time, more compromises.  Someone might get strangled.

Joy:  The project is complete.  It took some turns along the way, but its good (actually its great), and the bumps & hiccups resulted in alternative creative solutions.  Everyone is proud of a job well done and feeling the love again.

The funny thing is that this process is actually pretty accurate (it’s really the only part of HGTV renos that reflect reality).  Construction projects run the gamut of emotions and they are NEVER perfect.  But there are ways to prepare.  Here are a few suggestions…

  1. Understand the scope of your project.  Is it a ‘do it yourself-er’ or do trained professionals need to be involved? If it’s the latter, then become knowledgeable on what types of professional are available and their roles.
  2. Determine very clear goals for the end result. For example, is the goal to “lipstick the pig”, or is it to create a customized space, or something in between?  All are valid options, but know what you’re shooting for, and make sure all decision makers are on the same page.
  3. Set realistic expectations for time and budget.  On HGTV you can do just about anything over the weekend and for $500.00.  NOT TRUE! (Unless the extent of your project is building an IKEA dresser.)  Your responses to #’s 1 & 2 will have a direct correlation to #3.

In my next blog posts, I’ll dig deeper into 1-3, offering some insight into understanding scope, setting goals and determining a budget and timelines.

Until then, happy renovation preparation!

Tracy

tracy dyck photo

Craving Diversity

I have a housing dilemma! My husband and I are planning to move from our quaint little 850 sq.ft. house in St. James to a new home within the next 3-5 years. Being a designer, who works primarily in the residential sector, I am constantly watching real estate listings and looking to see what is out there. We have the basic wish list that anyone starts with when looking for a new home…

  • Itemized spaces (kitchen, dining room, 2 bathrooms, master suite + 3 bedrooms, etc)
  • Area (good neighbourhood, close to amenities & parks)
  • Quality of craftsmanship (architectural details, solid foundation, etc)

When I watch the real estate market I get frustrated by our world of mass production and the repetitive rows of houses built from the same footprint. Older communities are slightly camouflaged by the renovations & changes that have been made over the years by previous homeowners.

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My frustration sets in with the lack of diversity and character within the housing market. I want friends & family to drive up to our house saying, ‘of course this is where Travis & Carrie live.” I crave modern clean lines, custom design details, and a unique and intriguing layout of the house that is outside of the box. My husband is more of a vintage man so our ideal house would likely be a revival of a 1950/60s mid-century modern gem.  The last thing I want is to move onto a street where the house next door is the exact same model with a different paint finish (insert gagging sounds here).

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So here are our options:

  • Build New within the communities popping up on the outskirts of the city
  • Find an infill lot & build new
  • Find an older home & renovate

Likely we will end up choosing option #3 as we don’t want to live on the outskirts of the city where the neighbourhoods are not developed and are far away from downtown core where we both work. Building on an infill lot is intriguing but difficult to do and often expensive & your options are limited. So option #3 seems like the best fit although in the past couple years I’ve come across 1 maybe 2 houses that would actually fit our list of criteria & would be adaptable to our style.

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So I am left questioning, I am the only person in Winnipeg that feels this way?

How many other home buyers are facing the same obstacles?

So if you are like me, I will leave you with a challenge.  Never settle. I challenge home buyers to expect more, not to be OK with a standard model. Be Bold! Be Daring! It is my opinion that it is not OK for us all to live in the same spaces. We are all individuals with different passions, interests & ways of life. Take the time to shop the market or build a custom home. Never take for granted the value of your homes personalization and character and if you don’t know how to achieve your goals give me a call.

Carrie

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Charleswood Home Makeover

Our residential team was hired to update an existing home in the Charleswood area. The house was originally designed by an architect and has some beautiful character & charm that the clients didn’t want to sacrifice. They were looking for a way to enhance the existing beauty of the home while complimenting the characteristics that they already loved.

The main areas that we renovated for this project were the mudroom, great room, & powder room. The living room & dining room were spruced up with decorative touches.  We set out to come up with a great design solution that included the following:

  • Remove existing fireplace and create new modern design
  • Maintain the existing oak paneled walls
  • Update the banister from the kitchen to the great room
  • Renovate the existing mudroom/laundry room to incorporate added storage space
  • Coordinate new furniture, artwork & accessories for the living room, dining room & great room
  • Update the existing powder room for guests to enjoy
  • Install new retrofit LED lamps for brighter illumination and energy efficiency with the space

The Space Before the renovation:

Design Solution:

The Mudroom

The clients didn’t utilize the existing side door so we sealed off that entrance and utilized the extra square footage to build in millwork lockers for the family. We also removed the existing closet to create one seamless elevation. White cabinets were installed to complement the dark oak in the rest of the house and to match the millwork in the kitchen for a cohesive aesthetic.

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The Powder Room

The existing vanity was replaced with a new floating vanity from Ikea. We painted the bathroom a natural green, installed a new mirror & dropped pendant lighting to the side of the mirror for a soft and inviting atmosphere.

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The Great Room

Our feature wall, the fireplace, is the main focal point in the great room and we had a few goals in designing the finished product. The clients were looking for a balanced look that deviated from the existing symmetry with shelving for their soap stone collection, and storage for their media components. We wanted the finishes were chosen to help make the space feel light and modern.

We used a fresh white 12” x 24” tile to make the fireplace pop out & lighten the room. In addition to the tile a modern stacked stone was used to complement the tones of the surround wood walls and balance the asymmetrical design by cascading the stone down the wall and across the front of the hearth. Dark espresso cabinetry was used for the shelving & media drawers to ground the elevation and bring emphasis to their sculpture collection. Integrated lighting & hidden conduit was also designed to eliminate any cables & wires for the T.V. & stereo.

On the other side of the room we removed the banister and created a very shallow tiled step to highlight the sunk in living room and open up the kitchen to the great room. The finished product is fresh, modern and timeless which suits the character of the existing home.

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Carrie

Carrie photo

 

Inspire! Inquire?

In our office, we have regular Monday meetings to discuss our projects, goals for the week, timelines & progress. As part of these meetings we like to add a little fun by bringing in new knowledge, videos or readings that may inspire or bring questions to the group.

I was recently inspired by a video I saw while scrolling through my Facebook page and thought it was too good to only share internally. If you follow our website or social media accounts you are already aware of our passion for sustainability. The video I saw was titled “Off the Grid” which inspired me to press play.

The video captured a little island called Lasqueti which is located off of the east coast of Vancouver Island. It is home to around 400 people who have embraced the full meaning of sustainability. These residents have completely adapted to life off the grid.

I researched the community further and they describe their way of life in these words….

Lasqueti_Island

“Residents are accused of trying to put the clock back, living a self-sufficient lifestyle reminiscent of an earlier century. Lasqueti is the place where the conversation is more likely about solar panels or composting toilets than about microwaves or toasters — foreign objects for most of the 400 residents. Nobody can work a five-day week away from home because it takes three days work just to survive — to cut firewood, to maintain power, water, and waste systems, to work in your garden to produce your food. An island of individuals, with poets, artists, physicists, fishermen, loggers, tree planters, designers, professional musicians, published authors, some small scale manufacturers, some commercial agriculture, mariculture as well as professional consultants in education, engineering, forestry and alternate energy make up a population that Statistics Canada says is the most highly educated community in British Columbia.”

There way of life has shaped some of the most unusual yet beautiful architecture, as they have used all forms of building to create long lasting homes. Some of my favorites are below.

The Cod Houses formed by the Mud Girls

Their houses are formed by Cod, which is a combination of sand, clay, straw & water. The compound is often mixed & applied by hand which makes for a natural aesthetic. The technique allows the owner to create their own vision. There is no limit to the creativity whether they want clean lines or sculptural forms these house are truly unique.

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Earthship Homes

House created by using both natural & recycled materials to develop the structure & creating the layout to utilize thermal mass & cross ventilation to regulate indoor temperatures. Typically most earthships are created by recycling old tires or glass bottles, filling them with sand and casting them in concrete. The ships are then carved into the landscape to blend into the natural habitat.

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As designers we don’t shy away from the unconventional, in fact we welcome it. I am completely intrigued by the people of Lasqueti and will be placing it on my bucket list for future vacations as I’d love learn more about their way of life & how we could take lessons from their pursuit to live off the grid and apply it to the building practices of today’s society.

Carrie

Carrie Signature Photo