The Most Important Things to Do Before You Start Remodeling

If you’re diligent in preparing for your home renovation, the process will run smoother, the job will be finished on time, and you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful new space that you and your family will enjoy for many years to come.

Are you a “planner” or more comfortable “going with the flow?”  Do you “map out” a vacation or “hit the road” looking for adventure? How about your daily routine? Do you have a set work schedule or do your shifts change every day? Regardless of how comfortable you are with your own personal process, remodeling your home can create havoc for even the most flexible dynamics. Add a spouse, children, other family members, and pets to the mix, and you’ll soon learn that following a “wing it” philosophy can turn your exciting home improvement project into a full-blown disaster.

Look at it this way: whether your project is inside or outside, you tackle a renovation yourself or hire a professional contractor, your home life will be disrupted. Unless you have the ability to move to another location while the work is being done, it’ll be important to plan ahead.

Get Out the GPS

It’s necessary to identify your route toward a successful project. If you’re a DIY-er, good for you. You may already have some experience with reno projects, but if this is your first attempt, you may need some preparation advice.

  • Establish your goals and understand exactly what tasks will be required to reach them.
  • Visit websites like YouTube for “how-to” demonstration videos. Not only can you find step-by-step instructions for just about every home improvement project online, you can also visit discussion forums to ask questions about your particular situation.
  • Prepare a budget. By determining exactly how much you plan to spend ahead of time, you’ll have an opportunity to “shop” for the best prices on materials.
  • Make a list of tools While it might be nice to purchase new equipment to do the job, you may find significant costs savings through renting specialized equipment from your local home improvement centre or borrowing from family and friends.
  • Purchase supplies. You can either purchase everything at once or split the project into phases and buy materials as you need them. Don’t forget fasteners, hardware, adhesives, sandpaper, and assembly items so you won’t have to stop work to go back to the store.

If a professional remodeling company is going to be doing the work, planning ahead can alleviate stress, save time and money, and help minimize disruption to your family’s routine. An interior remodeling project will mean workers will be trekking through your home and bringing with them dirt, dust, and clutter. Prepare a plan on how to handle these issues:

  • Privacy—Establish work hours to coincide with your family’s schedule. It will be really awkward if you run into a worker in the hallway while you’re still in your pajamas.
  • Security—You’ll be vulnerable to theft during this time when strangers are constantly coming and going. Construction vehicles outside your home may also create unwanted attention from opportunists looking for an easy way to gain access. Be sure to use your security system if you have one, or invest in a programmable lock system with a smartphone app that can monitor everyone entering your home. Consider moving valuables offsite or make sure they’re protected in a safe.
  • Personal use of your property—Specify which areas, other than the work area, construction team members are allowed to use. Will a portable washroom be set up on site or will workers use your home’s facilities? How do you feel about eating or smoking in the work area? Will construction traffic be limited to one entrance or several?
  • Protect children and pets—Construction zones are dangerous for both children and pets, so make sure to use safety gates to block off the work area. Stress the importance of keeping the area secured at all times. Keep a close watch on young children and alert older children to the hazards in the area. This is equally important for outdoor projects where dirt piles, construction pits, and heavy equipment may lure kids and animals as a fun place to play. Your contractor must be diligent in cordoning off the area, and you’ll want to make sure everyone stays away and safe.

The next step

Each home renovation is a little unique and requires a different action plan. You can count on the fact that the disruption to your routine will leave you feeling confused each morning and finding even the simplest items will seem impossible. So, before work begins, make sure you have a temporary holding center, away from the construction space, to keep all your most important items—keys, cell phones, chargers, pet leash, mail, and any other objects you need every day.

Here’s a list of the most common room-specific reno projects and the steps you should take before work starts:

It’s In the Details


Renovated kitchen

This reno project is probably the most disruptive of all, so planning is essential. Regardless if you’re doing a complete overhaul yourself or have a contractor doing the “heavy lifting,” assume your kitchen will be out of order for a little while. Follow these steps to make the displacement a little more bearable:

  1. Set up a temporary kitchen. While it sounds like fun to have someone else do the cooking for awhile, eating out or ordering takeout every day will put a strain on the family budget (that you might want to put into your new kitchen renovation.) Big meals will have to wait, but setting up a mini-kitchen in another part of the house will give you a place to pack lunches for the kids, grab a cup of coffee to wake up in the morning, or rustle up a nice supper at the end of a long day.
  2. Scale down. Think “first apartment” kitchen essentials. Remember when you moved into your first apartment and you had the bare minimum in kitchenware to work with? Well, if you’re doing a complete do-over, you’re going to have to choose a few of the most-used items to keep accessible and pack up the rest. You’ll want things like a coffee maker, microwave, toaster oven, slow cooker, and hot plate in your temporary kitchen space. If you can, move your refrigerator close by. If not, consider getting a used mini-fridge and chest freezer. Skip the pots and pans; instead, bring microwavable casserole dishes with lids and a big roll of aluminum foil (this will help keep the toaster oven tray clean.) Don’t forget a few serving utensils, your favorite spices, and your oven mitts.If the weather’s nice, you can use your outdoor grill or camp stove and make it a cookout.
  1. Stock up on disposables. Without a kitchen sink or dishwasher to help with meal cleanup, you’ll end up washing up in a laundry tub, bathtub, or perhaps a cooler with soapy water. Prepare to streamline the process with a supply of paper plates, paper towels, napkins, cups, and utensils. Don’t forget a box of trash bags. To eliminate lingering odors in your makeshift kitchen, dispose of all garbage in a covered outside can.
  1. Get a movable storage cart. This will give you a place to organize all of your kitchen gear, so you won’t have to dig around in a box every time you need something. Because it’s on casters, you can easily move it out of the way when mealtime is over.
  2. Keep non-perishable snacks on hand. Who hasn’t had a desire for “something quick and easy” to nibble on? Well, you may find this happening more often with your main kitchen out of commission, so stock up on canned goods, peanut butter, dried fruit, cereal, trail mix, crackers, and some of your favorites.
  3. Portable table and chairs. If you don’t have a separate dining room and want to keep your family room from turning into a catch-all at mealtime, set up a card table with some folding chairs. If you don’t already own a set, it’s well worth the investment. Not only will you be able to store it away when not in use, you’ll have extra seating for family holidays when your new kitchen is finished.


Renovated dream bathroom

Of course, a bathroom reno is equally as challenging as a kitchen reno. Obviously, if you’re living in the house while the work is being done, you’ll need a second bathroom or at least a fast turnaround for a bathtub/shower replacement in the main area. Here are some things you’ll want to do before demolition starts:

  • Remove all personal items from the sink, vanity, toilet, bathtub/shower, medicine cabinet, towel racks, and floor. Relocate only the items you use every day to the guest bathroom and store the rest. It’s a good time to throw out those nearly empty shampoo bottles and toiletries you don’t use anymore.
  • If a contractor is doing the work, be sure to locate water shutoffs and remove towel bars and paper holders you want to reuse.
    • Determine the best entrance and flow of traffic to bring in tools, equipment, and materials. Put down plastic sheeting in the walk areas to protect flooring.
    • If workers will arrive early while you’re getting ready for the day, consider placing divider screens between the work area and your private space.
  • Factor in extra time for the work to be completed. Bathroom renovations often uncover hidden problems such as water leaks, rotting subflooring, insufficient venting, or mold growth. Older homes are especially prone to challenges of retrofitting old piping with new fixtures so plan accordingly.

Laundry Room

While a laundry room renovation doesn’t create the same havoc as a kitchen or bathroom project, running out of clean clothes or being forced to go elsewhere to wash them can be frustrating.

Because of its small size, you may be tempted to make this a DIY project. If you’re moving the laundry from the basement or garage to a first- or second-floor, hiring out some of the hazardous tasks like moving a gas line, running plumbing pipes or electrical wires, or installing a new dryer vent may make sense.

Careful planning will help you determine the amount of time needed for the job. Answer these questions before tackling this job:

  • What’s your deadline for completion?
  • What’s your plan for doing laundry during the renovation? Laundromat? Friend’s or family’s home? Can you afford a laundry service?
  • Are you reusing your old appliances or buying new?
  • Have you allowed extra lead time for special orders on appliances, countertops, and cabinets? What if you experience scheduling delays with contractors?


Basement renos can take a couple of different tracks—waterproofing or finished living space. In some cases, major waterproofing will be needed before finishing the basement to repair leaks, alleviate moisture issues, and eliminate the risk of flooding. In both instances, hiring a professional can provide peace of mind that your investment is protected and your family is safe.

Basement renovation

To prepare for interior basement waterproofing:

  • Move all items (shelving, furniture, workbench, stored items) away from the foundation walls.
  • Roll up any carpeting and move it out of the work area.
  • Discard any damp cardboard boxes or other items that retain moisture.
  • Seal off cold air returns that may circulate waterproof paint or epoxy sealant fumes throughout the house.
  • Run a dehumidifier.
  • Cover traffic areas from the entrance to the basement with plastic sheeting to protect flooring.
  • Keep children and pets out of the work area by closing the basement door.

To prepare for exterior basement waterproofing:

  • If excavation is necessary, you will need to move plantings away from the foundation walls.
  • Designate a staging area where work vehicles can park and materials can be offloaded.
  • Make sure your contractor has applied for and received any necessary work permits before work begins.
  • Identify areas where excess soil from the excavation can be piled. If you’re having drain tile installed, gravel and PVC pipes will take up much of the excavated space, but some soil will be needed to backfill the trench. Your contractor should arrange to have any excess soil removed at the completion of the job.
  • Keep children and pets from entering the work area. Adults should take caution also as there are significant dangers from the open trench, unstable dirt piles, heavy equipment, and other hazards.

If you already have a finished basement but are preparing to renovate it due to flooding, you’ll need to remove all damaged or destroyed furniture, carpeting, media equipment, or other items. You’ll need to remove excess water with a pump and run a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air. Hire a contractor to check for and remove any mold growth.

If your basement has never been used for anything but storage and you’re ready to take advantage of the additional living space, contact a professional waterproofing company to evaluate the area before you begin work. They’ll check for trouble spots and make recommendations for repairs before embarking on the construction work.

Deck/Patio – Outdoor Living Space

Outdoor living space through the addition of decks and patios has become one of the top trending renovation projects in recent years. If you’re doing your own work or hiring it out, safety must come first. Keep the workspace contained behind safety gates so power tools, materials, and fasteners don’t your children, or neighbours to enter the danger zone.

updated landscaping

Once work begins on your deck or patio, you’ll need to find an alternative to the regular pet visits to your backyard. Cats and dogs can be frightened by all the noise from the reno work and the work area can be dangerous for them too. Think about having your pets stay with a friend or relative or board in a kennel. While you’ll probably miss them, you won’t have to worry about them getting hurt, being skittish, or running away.

The Last Word

Renovating your home can be an exciting time. There’s no need to do it alone. Talk to friends and relatives who have gone through the process themselves. Ask them about how they survived living in their home while the reno work was being done. Ask what they would do differently if they could do it over again.

Research online, clip photos, consult with a real estate or interior design expert to help create the perfect space while you’re living there and the maximum value for when you’re ready to sell.