Thinking Of Renovating? Where do you begin?


Many people have thought of a renovation project for their residential or commercial space at some point, but quickly became overwhelmed on how to get started. Some people lucky enough to know a contractor, rely on them to guide them through the process. However, most people don’t know anyone remotely related to the field. It’s probably because, like most things, no one gives much thought of being in this situation until….well, they’re actually in the situation. So, I will provide some guidance to get you started.


People come to me wanting to either add an extension, or build a second level to their home and sometimes both. The first thing you should find out is if what you want done to your home is actually allowable. Each town or city has their own zoning ordinances which limit the amount of house that can cover your lot. They also limit the square footage, the height and the proximity to your required front, rear and side yards. If not for these guidelines, people would build whatever they wanted, which would result in neighbors clubbing each other in the front yard and ending up on an episode of “COPS”. You don’t want that, right? Of course not. You should make an appointment to speak with your local zoning official to discuss your plans. The town or city usually has a survey of your property on file which the zoning official will use to explain what possible changes you can make. By the way, this process works if you want to build a new house as well.

On occasion, towns do not have a survey of your property, or they will ask you to obtain a more updated survey. In this case, you will have to hire a surveying company to steak-out your property which can cost $1000 and up, depending on the size of your lot. I like to call this part of your journey “Mind numbing frustration #1”

Next, you need to establish a budget. I know what you’re thinking: “How the hell would I know what this construction would cost?!?!?!”. I usually use this rule of thumb: It’s more expensive than you could possibly imagine! But, if you need a ballpark figure try this: a 10 foot x 10 foot extension may start at around $50k – $60K and adding an entire second floor to your home may start at around $70K - $80K for a small house like a cape. The construction time can take up to 6 weeks to complete.

Once you have these basic things in place you are ready to hire an architect and begin your journey. When beginning this project try to keep your eye on the prize at the end. Think of how happy you’ll be in your new home. Until then, breathe, where hats to prevent from pulling all of your hair out ......and remember to have fun.


These types of projects are different in that there are an additional cast of characters to deal with, primarily, the building landlord or the property manager. If you want to renovate your office space, your landlord is the first person you need to speak with. They may have an approved list of contractors for you to use. However, if you are the building owner, then this process is much easier, unless you enjoy talking to yourself. I won’t judge. Next, it would be best to hire an architect to get the ball rolling. An architect can provide preliminary drawings of the new layout that can be used to get pricing from contractors before the construction documents are even finished. You should expect the construction costs to be high, but the biggest costs can be light fixtures and office furniture. These costs can be astronomical depending on how high-end the office will be. But, selecting furniture and light fixtures is fun. You can get samples to try out or go to the showrooms where you are pampered and catered to. Hey, you’re going to drop thousands upon thousands of dollars on their products, so they are going to be super nice to you. The construction time line may take up to 8 weeks to complete.

If you are building a new commercial building, the process is very similar to the residential process. There will be zoning issues involved, but it will be too complex for you to discuss with the zoning official yourself. Hiring an architect from the onset will save you from listening to a zoning official use terminology seemingly created to make your head explode. Also, more consultants will have to be brought in which the architect will coordinate. You will need a geotechnical engineer, a structural engineer and a mechanical, electrical & plumbing engineer. Please refer to the MEP engineer as M-E-P and refrain from calling them a “meep engineer”, as they tend not to like being called that. The architect will also coordinate the furniture and finishes representatives, IT and phone providers. All of these consultants require intense coordination for the architect to provide, becoming the point person for the entire project. The construction time may take up to a year to complete.

These construction types are very different from each other but the process is similar. Commercial projects require an enormous amount of coordination but the same could be said for a high-end residential project. In either case, beginning is the hardest part of the process, but if you have an awesome, funny and devastatingly handsome architect to guide you along, you’ll be just fine.

That's right...... this guy right here!

That's right...... this guy right here!