Are You Renovation Ready? Part 1: Planning Your Project

By Don Epp, SARC Facility Planner

Every home or building owner knows that renovations are a necessity for their building over the course of time. Items wear out, the purpose of rooms change, or the needs of the people using the space have adjusted.

Renovations can replace items at the end of their lifespan, rejuvenate the building, or alter spaces to meet current needs. To undertake a renovation is a big deal; there are many things to think about and many actions to take to make a renovation a success. Knowing which steps to take and when requires a lot of planning and awareness of your current and future needs. In this three-part series, I will discuss what it takes to be renovation ready: planning your project, selecting and hiring a contractor, and managing the construction process.

Deciding on a Project

How do you choose what needs a renovation or rejuvenation?  Maybe the bathroom is not functional or accessible. Perhaps the kitchen cabinets are dated and the current layout interferes with the flow of movement or sightlines in the building. Or, suppose the deck and ramp have splinters and the railing is wobbly. Whatever the issue, often choosing a renovation project comes down to the priority of your organization: what’s a necessity, what’s feasible, and what’s simply cosmetic.

  1. Life Safety – the people living, working, and spending time in in the building are the highest priority. Their safety is important and a renovation project should reflect this. If their safety is in jeopardy, this becomes first priority.
  2. Structural Integrity – making sure the building’s structure remains sound and essential components (furnace, plumbing, electrical) are in good repair. Preventive maintenance is also a priority as it can extend the lifespan of many components.
  3. Legal Requirements – licensing requirements, health and fire inspections, permits and code requirements are all necessary and must be followed when deciding on renovation projects. Additionally, Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) and possibly labour contract obligations may affect a renovation project as well.
  4. End of Useful Life – when a portion of a building (roof, flooring, furnace) reaches the end of its life span, it may be ready for replacement and can be included in the renovation project.
  5. Cosmetic upgrades– a renovation project often focuses on making the building “look better”.  While this is important and often is part of the renovation plan, cosmetics are not the highest priority.

Determining Future Needs

Often a renovation project can meet all these priorities at the same time, but another priority to consider is your organization’s goals and vision. It is good to ask yourself, “How does the renovation project fit into our goals, vision, and capital plan?”  Viewing a potential renovation project with the organization’s goals and vision in mind will help you prioritize your renovation needs.  Goals may reflect the need to increase accessibility for the people who use the space, or they may be to sell the property in a few years.  Whether the goals are short-term, and return on investment is a priority, or long-term, where accessibility and future needs must be anticipated, it is important to consider these priorities.


Once a renovation project has been decided upon and has passed all the criteria listed above, it’s time to start the pre-planning phase:

  1. Budget – Decide on a maximum construction budget, determine what you are willing to spend on the renovation, then once that number is confirmed, deduct 10% of the maximum for a contingency plan. Renovations are notorious for going over budget, as often there is an unforeseen item that requires attention. The contingency can address those unexpected expenses.
  2. Drawings – Professional drawings are crucial to any renovation plan. Concept drawings can be used to discuss the renovation with stakeholders, staff, the people using the space, and local building authorities. New ideas and alterations can be discussed and the plans improved upon. Concept drawings can also be used to get a “ballpark” estimate from contractors to make sure your project is compatible with the budget.
  3. Plan – Along with the drawings, a scope of work is needed. A scope of work outlines all the work that is part of the renovation. The scope adds details to the project and identifies the finishes included in the renovation project. Doing the research and making lists of what is needed ahead of time will go a long way in clarifying instructions to the contractor.It is also important to consider how the renovation will affect the daily life in the building. How long will it take? Will people be able to use the building during the renovation? Do the furniture and personal items need to be put in storage or moved out of the renovation area?

Like any building project, it is a good idea to start with a strong foundation when planning a renovation. Choosing a project that fits an organization’s priorities and budget, creating an accurate set of drawings, and assembling a scope of work are 3 pillars to a successful renovation project. Hiring a contractor and managing the construction process for your project are made easier when there is a strong foundation. These will be discussed in the next article, so stay tuned!


Please Note: The included information is for reference only, and SARC and its Members, their employers, officers, and Directors assume and accept no liability for any consequences arising from the use, non-use, accuracy, or legal compliance of any of the information, tools, or resources provided.

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