Winter Renovation Survival

Winter might seem like an unusual time to undertake a renovation, but with the right knowledge and a bit of preparation, it can be a great time to add value to your home.

The secret to a successful winter renovation is good planning and working closely with your renovator, says Sam Lapidus, RenoMark renovator and chair of BILD’s Renovation and Custom Builder Council. Talking to your renovator in advance about potential challenges can help you save time and money in the long run. Snow and cold weather are two of the biggest factors that can hamper a winter renovation, and they require precautionary measures so nothing’s left to chance.

Major renovations often require you to vacate your home for a few weeks. To ensure that your contractor has easy access to and from your home, arrange for snow shoveling and salting of steps and walkways in your absence. Some renovation companies may offer the service for an additional cost, so ask about this in advance and ensure that it’s included in your renovation contract.

When you move out of your home, it will likely cool down significantly, even if the heat is still on. This increases the chance of water freezing inside your pipes, which could cause them to burst. To minimize the risk, have a plumber heat the water line coming into your house or call your municipality to shut the water off at the street side.

Homeowners doing a winter renovation in semi-detached houses or townhomes should be mindful of how it may affect their neighbours. These types of homes have shared walls, and if the temperature in your home drops significantly it can affect the comfort level of those living on the other side of the wall. If the shared wall is not properly insulated, talk to your renovator about installing some temporary insulation to prevent heat loss. This is another issue that should be discussed in advance, as it may result in additional fees.

Special precautions may be required when renovating homes with flat roofs. Major renovations or additions may compromise the structural durability of the home. Snow can build up on the roof and if your home is not structurally finished, it may not hold up the weight. For an added fee, your renovator can have someone shovel the snow or have an electrician install a specialized heater. After the renovation, you can choose whether to remove the heater or leave it to prevent snow permanently.

Ensure your renovation contract outlines the full scope of work and all associated costs. Avoid renovators who urge you to forego a written contract. It’s a sign that you’re not working with a professional. Verbal agreements make it hard for you to hold your renovator accountable for sub-par work, and you will not have a point of reference if there is a conflict over payment.

Make sure you always work with a professional renovator. A good place to find one is at – home of the national RenoMark program. All RenoMark renovators agree to abide by a Code of Conduct, which holds them to a number of obligations. In addition to providing a written contract, they offer a minimum two-year warranty, are covered by at least $2 million worth of liability insurance, and carry all applicable licenses and permits.

Your home is your largest asset so it deserves a pro, no matter what time of year it is.

Dave Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD). 

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