The first step in your home renovation is finding the right professional for the job. General contractor, structural engineer or architect? Here are some tips for getting started.
Define your scope of work
Write down a clear description or “wish list” for your renovation project. For instance, if you’re planning a kitchen update, will you be changing your appliance layout? This could require electrical work as well. The more detailed you are in defining the scope of work, the more likely you are to get a realistic deadline and estimate.
Who do I hire first?
Ask yourself whether or not you want to spend time hiring and managing different vendors for each task within your project (i.e. demolition, cabinet and countertop installation, electric rewiring, finishing). It can be a significant undertaking – which is why most people opt to hire a general contractor or project manager from the get-go.
When to hire a project manager
Unless your project is very simple and requires only one or two tradespeople, a project manager could end up saving you time, stress and even money. Not only will a good project manager have the industry contacts to get you quotes from qualified, trusted contractors (so you won’t waste time reading reviews or sending dozens of emails for estimates) – they’ll also keep budget on track and make sure everything is done in the most time-efficient manner. That means you can enjoy the finished product sooner (a major perk, whether you were planning on moving upstairs or to the in-laws’).
What do project managers do?
A project manager represents you and helps with planning and budgeting, connecting you to the right design professionals and general contractors, monitoring and documenting construction progress,, and overseeing everything as it gets done to make sure your project stays on track.
Does my renovation need a project manager?
If you have no time to oversee your renovation (or aren’t physically present to check on construction), a project manager can minimize the risk of something going wrong. As an added benefit, they’ll probably have an existing network of pros on hand for each task.
How soon should you hire a project manager?
In most cases, a project manager would be the first professional you’d hire, since they’ll be overseeing the renovation from start to finish.
When to hire an architect
Whether or not your project requires an architect (by law) depends on local by-laws. If you’re extending your property or planning a new build, there’s a good chance one will be required.
What do architects do?
Architects create blueprints for new construction projects and significant structural renovations. Their expertise ensures that a design is safe, functional and well-planned (even maximizing natural light, for example).
Does my renovation need an architect?
When your scope is unclear or you’re not entirely sure what you want, working with an architect can help you feel more confident with your plans – not only in terms of following code, but also for establishing an optimal flow and design for your space, taking into account lighting, ergonomics, etc. Once this brainstorming and revision process is completed with the architect, a more accurate estimate can be provided by general contractors or project managers. Of course, hiring an architect is not always necessary – if you know what you want done, you can consult your city’s home regulations department directly to find out about permits.
How soon should you hire an architect?
Although an architect’s blueprints would likely be your starting point (if needed), you may still want an estimate from a project manager or general contractor before hiring an architect. They’ll give you an estimate to make sure your project is doable within budget before you move forward with architect plans.
When to hire an interior designer
A skilled interior designer can help you make the most of your space and make plans for a functional, visually appealing layout (which will generally be brought to life by a general contractor). They’re especially beneficial if you’re planning a renovation requiring a new layout. Post-renovation, designers can also provide palettes and mood boards including paint colors, finishes, furniture and more.
What do interior designers do?
An interior designer will visit your space, take measurements and discuss your needs before providing a plan or moodboard. They’re relatively versatile: You might use an interior designer to optimize a kitchen layout and help you plan cabinetry, but you could also use their services to bring to life a bare space in need of furniture, storage solutions or decor.
Does my renovation need a designer?
If you’re facing questions or challenges in terms of layout – you really want a kitchen island but space is tight, or you’re wondering where you might add a powder room to your main floor – you can probably benefit from the services of an interior designer.
How soon should I hire an interior designer?
If you’ve decided to use an interior designer, contact them before engaging with a general contractor, since their plans and advice will impact the scope of work. They may also be able to recommend reliable general contractors and tradespeople they’ve worked with in the past.
When to hire a structural engineer
For any renovation that involves changing the structure of your home – an addition, or removing internal walls to open a layout – a structural engineer should review your plan to ensure that the project will be structurally sound (and safe).
What does a structural engineer do?
While a structural engineer is similar to an architect, an architect will generally spend more time considering the functional and visual aspects of a renovation, whereas a structural engineer is focused on the stability and strength of your building. They’re licensed professionals who calculate and assess the factors that exert force on your home and whether or not your structural changes will be able to withstand them.
Does my renovation need a structural engineer?
When there’s any concern as to structural integrity (for instance, adding a balcony to a second floor, removing a load-bearing wall), a licensed general contractor or project manager will let you know if a structural engineer is required.
How soon should I hire a structural engineer?
If there’s any question as to whether or not you need a structural engineer for your project, consult your general contractor first. A structural engineer’s services are usually quite pricey, so it’s best to have plans ready to show them before you hire them. In the case of an extension or addition, you’ll want the rough draft or preliminary plans from an architect before bringing in the engineer.
When to hire a general contractor
For most residential renovations, a general contractor may suffice. What’s the difference between a project manager and a general contractor? In short, a general contractor will also be responsible for a lot of the physical work itself, while a project manager is more about full-service coordination for larger-scale operations like condominium developments or complete house flips.
For most residential renovations, a general contractor is a great choice. They will manage your project's timeline, hire and coordinate the required subcontractors and trades, and supervise the workers on-site. General contractors can also help you buy the required materials and finishes for your project (like flooring, tile, faucets, vanities, and appliances).
What do general contractors do?
General contractors will be the ones doing a lot of the work on-site, but they’ll also hire subcontractors as needed (like electricians and plumbers). They are responsible for ensuring that all work is completed properly, securely, up to code and in the most efficient order.
Does my renovation need a general contractor?
If your project requires several tradespeople, consider hiring a general contractor. Their knowledge will make sure your project gets completed as quickly as possible since they know the best order for each step. Plus, they’re licensed and insured, so you’ll have peace of mind knowing that the work will comply with local building codes.
How soon should I hire a general contractor?
A general contractor should be hired once construction is ready to begin. It’s best to approach a general contractor with a detailed scope of work and finalized construction plans, plus any required permits or approvals (this will allow for a more accurate pricing estimate). A general contractor will then provide a quote based on the scope of your project as well as current material and labor costs. Once a contract is signed, they’ll move forward in managing the project once a client gives the go-ahead.