Anatomy of a Renovation

By Baruch Tenenbaum

A renovation is a multi-faceted project that involves a multitude of professionals all working towards the same goal: to make your home beautiful. It takes teamwork to fit the pieces together and make sure the tasks are done in the right order. In this article I will explain who the various professionals are and what role they play. Of course, there is overlap, and not all projects require every one of these professionals, but I’ll try to walk you through a typical large renovation that does.


It all starts with identifying your needs or wishes. Typically, you, as the client, have either lived in the house for a while or are purchasing a new home for yourselves. If it’s the former, you have lived with a certain layout and identified things that irk you—or, you want to change the look of some of the rooms. If it’s the latter, you want to take advantage of an empty house to upgrade its functionality or aesthetics. Either way, come armed with your wish list as you meet with…

The architect is the person who plans, designs and reviews the construction of your project. She listens to your needs, comes up with proposed solutions and puts it down on paper, so someone else can translate her ink into floors and walls, i.e., build according to her plans. She is the expert on how rooms should flow into each other and understands the proper placement of furniture and fixtures; she ensures that the project you are building will work with its surroundings.
If you are building an addition or enclosing a mirpeset, you need to get a building permit. For that you turn to…

This person walks you through the bureaucratic process of getting your building permit. He gets signatures from your neighbours if required, submits the documentation and tells you which fees need payment. Depending on the location, this process could take months. Best to start it early—well before
you plan on breaking ground.

Something needs to hold up the concrete roof of your addition! The engineer plans the steel and concrete required, from 12m down in the ground to the top of your roof. If the architect planned to open an exterior wall of the building and eliminate a column, the engineer calculates the loads and specifies
which size steel beams are needed to re-distribute the load. How do those porches that protrude from the side of a building stay up? Beats me, but that’s why the engineer is involved.

Interior design is the art and science of enhancing a space to achieve a healthier, more aesthetically pleasing environment for the client. The interior designer will plan pretty niches in the shower, figure out the best furniture configuration, help you choose tiles and plumbing fixtures and plan the layout of your kitchen. She will design the ceiling and plan appropriate lighting, and generally works with the client to create a space with the desired look and feel.

It’s now the contractor’s turn to take the plans and convert them to bricks and mortar, Jerusalem
stone and tile. The first thing he does is have a coffee break—or at least yell at his workers for slacking off. The contractor reviews the plans, makes sure the architectural and structural plans work together, and puts the shovel in the ground—or takes a Kongo to the wall. The general contractor is like the conductor of an orchestra; he coordinates all the pieces of the ensemble to renovate your home in perfect harmony. He orders the materials, makes sure the workers are properly equipped, and calls in sub-contractors to move the project along quickly and efficiently.
He schedules the deliveries and ensures everything is done in the proper sequence. For example, he has to make sure that all the electrical and plumbing rough-ins are completed before the plasterer (tayach) smooths and repairs the walls. The tiles need to be delivered before the tiler (ratzaf) can install them. He must call the engineer to inspect the site before concrete is poured, etc.
There are so many details to consider—and all the while the contractor is liaising with the client, designer, engineer and sub tradesmen. He should keep the client informed of changes and any increased costs incurred so the client can budget accordingly. The contractor has to communicate effectively and
often serves as ‘mediator’ between conflicting forces. Perhaps the plumber and electrician want to work in the kitchen on the same day, or the gas point and electric point are competing for precious real estate in the cooktop cabinet. What happens when the spotlight ends up under a steel beam? Is that location crucial, or can it be shifted over a bit? (The answer, by the way, is to move the painting).

No one said renovations weren’t dusty! Sort of like that machine at the end of The Cat in The Hat, the polish company puts everything back in order and shines your floors and windows. They get the dust out of the shutters and prepare your home for occupancy.

With the help of a good team of professionals you can transform your dreams into reality. Just don’t forget to put on another pot of coffee.

Baruch Tenenbaum, owner of Quality Home Improvements, is a professional local contractor, providing
high-end jobs with proper Anglo service.
He can be reached at 050-674-1976.

Baruch Tenenbaum

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