The Yucky Part 3 Of Renovation

College Street / Little Italy

If smarty pants Benjamin Franklin had written in 1789 “Nothing is certain but death, taxes and construction delays“, I have an inkling this founding father’s legacy as genius polymath might have been elevated to enlightened soothsayer. This alternative quip as common lore could have single handedly slowed down America’s quest to build bigger and better, which might have lowered the collective blood pressure, improved relations with their contractors, and curtailed their use of guns. Instead, this megasized SuperPower was built too quick and without delay. Today the country with the White House has cracks in its foundation, lacks sufficient structural support, and needs oil for its furnace.

Not that I’m throwing stones from my Canadian glass house, as our current political climate prohibits the use of a comparative analogy that implies transperancy while keeping the wind out. With all the blowing that’s been leading up to our Federal Election (on May 2nd), we Canucks have learned our own government may be a house of precariously-constructed cards.


However, this blog is about construction and delays.

Today marks the target completion date of my four month renovation program of my Movie House loft located on that hip strip of College Street in Little Italy. Like all renovations, this journey has been a roller coaster, including my April 4th freak-out blog questioning whether it would be finished on the exit date of my temporary accommodations (which just happens to be Today). Click HERE to link to that post.

I should take this opportunity to confess that renovation freak outs and construction meltdowns are not new, nor unusual, for me. Nor are they truly unusual for any one else who is party to these sorts of undertakings. Regardless of whether you are renovating your basement washroom or constructing a condominium tower, the process from start to finish is shockingly complex. Beyond the drawings, approvals, permits, demolition, and readying the site for construction, there’s selecting and specifying the exact quantities of the multiple materials and building components required, coordinating their systematic installation using dozens of independent trades, all while ensuring it is executed on time and on budget. And guess what? It’s impossible! During my twenty-five years in the housing industry I’ve witnessed delays at every loft conversion and new development program I’ve been engaged on, counselled numerous real estate buyers on the trials and tribulations of renovation and construction, been the listing agent of glossy ‘just-completed’ properties where the sellers are divorcing over the colour of the backsplash, and had my own occasionally spectacular renovation freak outs and construction meltdowns on each of the 15 personal renovations I’ve completed. Fortunately with experience comes awareness, and the understanding and acceptance that both problems and delays will inevitably arise. When they do one learns that temper tantrums will not fix the issue, playing the blame-game can be counter-productive, and that deep breathing actually helps. In most circumstances, the fix is purely a matter of how much more money it will cost to correct, and how much longer it will take to complete.

As an optimist by nature who hopes every renovation will be ideally executed on time and on budget AND a realist who understands one should build a contigency plan to allow for circumstances that might send a construction program askew, I estimated it would take 8 weeks to complete the Movie House renovation in my perfect world. To accommodate the real world, I doubled the time frame and budget. Surely that would allow me to navigate through any storms that might arise, right?

Here are a few snaps of what my Movie House loft looks like today, April 30th, 2011.

As you can see my renovation is substantially complete and yet entirely uninhabitable. Arg!

Lucky for me, the landlord of my amazing sublet granted me a two week extension. That was sheer luck as the next tenant moves in June 1st! Phew!

The lesson here? Even when building in a contingency plan, one must recognize a whole bunch of situations and circumstances you never even thought possible can change events. In the case of my Movie House loft renovation, one of the variables that created several more significant delays was ME! Yes, yours truly. Yikes! As anyone who has gone through this process knows, you can become your own worst enemy when you change your mind during the construction program. Note to self. In the world of construction and renovation there is no such thing as a small change or a large change. Every change results in a delay and increase in cost. Period.

My advice to you? To stay as close to budget and timing, commit to a construction program that prohibits changes once the work has started.

My advice to me? Triple your budget and time frame to avoid budget overruns and the possibility of homelessness.

My perfect solution? Find a magic tree that grows $100 bills (while searching for that elusive fountain of youth)!

Stay tuned for more Renovating The Movie House Loft in Toronto, Ontario, Canada!

~ Steven and the urbaneer team

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Renovating The Movie House Loft

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