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Custom Home Construction and Remodelling Tips

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A cottage country house (with boathouse) under construction.Your dream cottage has spent enough time in the cozy confines of your imagination. It’s high time to make it real so you can invite your friends and family over.


All that’s left is for you to build it...you know, while you deal with your day-to-day life, paying utility bills, working your day job, taking time to enjoy yourself, and so forth. Meanwhile, you’ve got that big construction project going on in cottage country. With all these things to do, how long will it take before you can move in?


First: Don’t believe what you see on TV. Reality shows make it seem like home renovations get whipped up in just a few days. Well, you can put that notion to rest. There are a lot of other things you’ll need to deal with in your life, so planning for a long-term build is essential. It might seem like a hassle at first, but setting a realistic schedule with clearly defined steps will ensure your new cottage meets your high standards.

 

A team of architects are at work designing the blueprints for your new cottage.

Research Your Design/Build Team

Know who’ll be doing your job. Find contractors who are experienced in building the types of things you want to see in your renovated house – there are many different people you’ll be working with. Go to their websites and see if their work looks like what you’ve been imagining.

 

Pay attention to the details of the work the different contractors have done. You’ll be seeing their final handiwork up close for a long time after. Don’t be frustrated seeing the imperfections that don’t live up to your expectations. You’ll never be able to unsee them. And when you see a builder you like, reserve them early; they often book a year in advance.

 

A design-builder is your best bet, too. A team that does both will eliminate the chances of “telephone game” breakdowns between the design and the final product. And with plenty of options and details for you to consider – material, colour, style, to name a few – it makes for a lot of variables that could deviate from what you want to see.

 

A team of builders are at work on the roof of a cottage.

Get Your Permits

Your dream cottage likely didn’t need permits. Unfortunately, your real one will. Especially if you plan to build an addition to the structure or dig a basement, you need to take time to learn as much as you can about the space. Get your hands on blueprints and documents from previous construction projects and calculate a budget that’s realistic in both time and money. Once you know what considerations and limitations you might have about your build, it will help set parameters you and your team have to work within and the goal lines you want to achieve.

Prepare Your Timeline

When you hire a builder, they’ll take care of coordinating and scheduling all the trades. With this in mind, as the client, your role will be to make all your design decisions in a timely manner. That way, your builder can get the job done within the schedule laid out.

 

A stone fireplace in the middle of a cottage living room. There are construction materials scattered around the site.

Set Aside Time and Money for Design...and Permits

It’s important to set include a design phase in your timeline. For a new cottage, this should range from four months to a year.

 

A BCIN-licensed designer will know the Building Code and work with the local municipality. The builder should also visit the site for their assessment. During this time, you’ll want to have other experts visit the future building site so they can give you a sense of the possibilities at your disposal.

 

You’ll then want to take one to three months to gather a wide cross-section of images that inspire your construction plans. If you already have plenty of images, great! Share them with your designer and work together to flesh out what you hope to get out of your new cottage, in style and functionality.

 

Finally, you should take two weeks to three months to shop for the materials, furniture, and finishes you want. Take this time to compare the different options, looking at price and style. Be aware that some designers will include finish selection help in their fee, so what you choose at this stage will affect your budget! Figure out your furniture layout early on in the design process, so you don’t have to do your construction plans over again.

 

You’ve assembled your resources. Now it’s time to bring them all together.

 

An extension to a cottage is being built. At the moment, it's only a wooden framework. Ensure you have the proper permits and that the construction is up to Ontario Building Code standards.

Set Aside Time for Construction

As an owner, it’s your job to pick a good, organized builder, make decisions when asked, and not try to change things too much.

 

Your builder will schedule your tradespeople in a logical order, allowing for smooth transitions and keeping your construction schedule efficient and on track (no sense in having your kitchen sink installed before the kitchen is built).

 

Ordering material is also your builder’s job, so if you find construction material or fixtures you like, make sure they know ASAP. When it comes to product delivery, many items take at least four weeks to be delivered from time of order. It can take eight weeks if the item is coming from overseas, and up to twelve weeks if the pieces are custom-made.

 

In any case, every construction period will vary based on size and complexity. But, for an entirely new home, it will take a minimum of six months.

 

The deck of a nearly finished cottage. There are still construction materials lying around.

Give Yourself a Buffer

Even when you plan everything out, life happens, complicating that meticulously laid plan of yours. The solution? More planning. Make sure you give yourself and your team a little breathing room to account for when things go wrong.

 

Take as an example some bathroom tiles you’re importing from Italy. There was a problem with the shipment and it took an extra week for them to arrive. This can throw your schedule off. Allocate two months for unexpected occurrences like this. And if you hope to have your home completed by a certain date, schedule the completion two months prior to that date.

 

Your builder should also allow for buffer time when inclement weather and the unexpected arise. Make sure those allowances are included in their schedule.

Set a Realistic Budget

Just because you bring your new cottage dreams down to earth doesn’t mean you’ll be disappointed with the final result. In fact, being honest with yourself and your design/build team will ultimately make things easier. From the outset of the design phase, relay your ideas to a seasoned builder who has a good reputation. This will be the best way to get a clear budget idea. Your final design, finishes, and site conditions will determine the final budget.

 

A cleared building site for a cottage is being prepared for construction. In the background, a lake can be seen.

Plan Your Start Date

Everything’s set. Now you can set a time to get your construction underway.

 

If your builder is good, they’ll double-check that the tradespeople they recruit aren’t away on holiday or vacation. Spring and summer are ideal times to start building but ensure you start your design process early enough so you can book during this prime construction time. As well, building just before the winter holidays can be very difficult. If it’s necessary to build during this time, expect to have a number of different tradespeople working on the project at the same time.



Now that you’ve taken care of all these considerations, you’ve got a realistic framework to put your new cottage together. It’s time to take the next step and download our eBook for Building Your New Custom Home. Let’s bring your plans to (real) life.

 

Download the Free Complete Guide to Planning, Designing and Building a Custom Home

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