Prioritizing reno work helps get it done
IT’S easy to let all those maintenance and repair jobs build up around the house. Most homeowners are in the same situation — you fix one thing and three other new repair projects magically appear. Or, how about this situation: you get halfway through a repair when another area of the house requires immediate attention and you have to abandon the first job. Before you know it, you are surrounded by a patchwork of half completed fixes.
If this sounds like you and you don’t know where to start, you should take a second to step back and make a priority list.
I don’t think you need to have more than a limited knowledge and experience of construction to do this, just some common sense. That will help you make a master plan that will tell you the order in which the repairs should be tackled.
The first part is easy — make two basic lists: Need To Do and Want To Do.
For the Need column, just walk around your home inside and out and take note of any irregularities. (Note I’m not saying ‘problems’. Just what doesn’t look right.) You don’t need to try and get technical, or list the probable underlying cause of the problem — just list what doesn’t look right to you. For example, you might see that the paint is bubbling in a bedroom. Just write, Paint Bubble on wall in (master bedroom).
As for the Want column, that’s completely up to you. But to my mind, the list needs to be realistic, based on budget and time. So instead of writing something like Total Kitchen Makeover, try to break it down to items you would want worked on specifically. One item on your list might be, Replace old countertops with new laminate countertop. These specific points will help you talk to the contractor you bring in to do the job.
When you compare the two columns I’ll bet you’ll find that the Need’ column is far longer than you expected. Getting to anything listed in the Want column might look pretty unlikely. But you need to remember that your home is all interconnected and in the process of repairing an item on the Need To Do list, it might effect an item in your Want To Do list, and you get to knock off an item on each list with just one repair project.
The tricky part in making a priority list is knowing what needs immediate attention, what can wait awhile, and also — how long it can wait. This is where you will probably need some professional help. A general contractor or knowledgeable handyman or a qualified Home Inspector can be of assistance here. An experienced professional can arrange the items on the list by simply giving an educated guess at probable causes, and following some general rules. But for an accurate assessment, they will need to take a close look at each item and get an indication of the condition of the problem and check to see if the issue is causing collateral damage to other areas in the house.
When a professional works with you to arrange the items in your Need To Do list, what they are looking for would be anything that might have negative long-term affects on the structure. Public enemy No. 1 is always water penetration. When it comes to dealing with water, the general rule for prioritizing (with exceptions) is to start at the top of the house, and work your way down.
This means the integrity of your roof is everything. Even a small leak can cause big trouble to the rest of the house. Let’s say you have a roof leak as well as a basement leak, if you need to choose which one to address first, it would be the roof.
Why? Because water travels downhill. Everything below that roofline is in danger of being damaged — trusses, insulation, drywall, joists, trim, hardwood flooring, paint (like that paint bubble on the bedroom wall) and on and on, multiplied down through each level in the house, until the water eventually reaches the basement.
The basement leak on its own, as serious as it might appear, the water damage is only limited to the basement, and not the entire house. So, it is the lesser of two evils. This general rule applies to situations like plumbing as well. If you have a leak in an upstairs bathroom, it would be prioritized over the basement for the same reason.
We are not ignoring the basement, that leak will eventually need to be addressed, but in the priority assessment by your professional contractor, they will be looking at all factors such as — is the basement situation a seasonal occurrence? Is the basement finished or unfinished? Is mould growth an issue? These and other considerations will put it in its proper placement within the list.
Once you have your priority list finished, and a game plan, the only thing to do now is get to work, and of course, make it right!
Fixing everything that’s wrong with a home may seem daunting, but if you break it
up into smaller projects and prioritize correctly, it will be more manageable.