Get your reno planning in gear

Hoping to renovate in the spring? Then you better get on it, experts say

Plan your design with your renovator and designer/architect, says Lagois Design-Build-Renovate, which oversaw the dramatic transformation of this home. Photo by Gordon King Photography.

By Anita Murray, All Things Home

If you’re hoping to renovate next spring, you may already be out of luck. Many of Ottawa’s top renovators are busy still dealing with pent-up demand, coupled with frustrating delays in getting materials.

“If it’s a larger project and they don’t have a contractor lined up, there’s a good chance they’re not starting work in the spring,” says Casey Grey of The Conscious Builder.

Is there still time to get organized? Yes, particularly if it’s not a large reno — and provided you get moving now.

We’ve canvassed the renovators taking part in next month’s RenoMark Reno Tour to find out what you need to do now in order to get work started in the spring. (Reno Tour is an annual showcase of renovator projects that let’s homeowners see the quality of work participating renovators can do. It became a virtual tour last year, which can still be seen at

How soon do homeowners need to research and reach out to potential renovators?

“There are lots of decisions to make during the design process. For a small to medium renovation, allow for six months, and a large renovation or a new home, allow for a year,” says Carolyn Munro of Carolyn Munro Design+Build. “Planning is so important to do so that you will not be disappointed in the outcome of your renovation.”

As well, part of the pandemic fallout means there are longer than normal lead times for some materials, notes Greg Simpson of Urbacity Design-Build. 

“We have a project that’s been waiting four months for Trex decking.”

Veteran renovator Herb Lagois of Lagois Design-Build-Renovate agrees.

 “Lead times of many products right now are substantially longer than they were before the pandemic. If the material delivery isn’t set up properly, it slows down the project’s progress.”

“To help ensure a timely turnaround, start your renovator research asap so the design process can start, finishing selections can get finalized and materials can be ordered to correlate to your project’s spring start date.”

Lagois gives the example of kitchen cabinetry, which normally would take six to eight weeks to deliver and install. Current delays mean it will be 10 to 12 weeks before you can expect your kitchen — a problem that has plagued even this year’s Minto dream home in the CHEO Dream of a Lifetime lottery. Delayed cabinetry is one of several hiccoughs that mean the dream home will not be ready in time for the lottery’s launch Sept. 6.

“The best advice we can give right now is to contact a renovator as soon as possible,” says another veteran, Steve Barkhouse of Amsted Design-Build. “The sooner we’re able to get working on a project, the sooner we’re going to order materials and lock in pricing… The reality is that costs are still climbing.”

Other tips from the renovators:

Decide on your budget and allow for at least 15 per cent for unforeseeable issues. And be careful not to overbuild for the area you live in, says Munro.

Don’t forget to keep a budget for finishing the space once construction is complete, such as window coverings, furniture and accessories,” says Simpson. “You might not want to put your old couch in the new room.”

Hiring a design professional can assist you with your project and create the home you desire, says Munro. “A professional designer will save you money by providing you with advice about the design and selecting materials and finishes that best suit your home. Sometimes it isn’t the most expensive materials that give the wow factor, it is how you put them together.”

Plan for and expect delays, says Lagois. “There are always bumps in the road for any renovation, but being kind and flexible ensures your team will always go above and beyond for you.”

For more on renovation planning — and how to keep your reno from going off the rails — download the free All Things Home reno guide at

Anita Murray is former Homes Editor of the Ottawa Citizen and co-founder of, Ottawa’s trusted resource for home buyers and homeowners.

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