When it comes to planning home improvement projects, timing is everything
Any homeowner who has already gone through a major renovation project knows that it can take weeks, months, or even years from the time you decide to sign a contract until the job is fully completed. Lining up the trades, ordering the various stock and custom materials, and going through the permit approval process are just a few of the components that can hold up completion.
Some renos require more prep time than others, while others are best to avoid once winter settles in. Here are four projects that you’ll want to have a lot of lead time to prepare for, or should simply wait until the warmer weather returns.
No matter how small the addition you plan to build is, you’ll almost certainly need to get approval from your municipality for what are known as “minor variances” to existing bylaws. These include setback requirements, restrictions on height, and capping the amount of square footage based on the size of the lot. The City of Toronto has a weeks-long backlog of permit applications waiting for approval from the Committee of Adjustment.
Even if you live in a community that’s processing building permits in a timely fashion, additions require a lot of time to coordinate.
Finally, if you haven’t already broken ground on the foundation, you’re going to have to wait until the spring thaw to do it now.
Window installation companies will tell you they can and do work throughout the year. And, if you have an emergency situation, such as a broken or extremely drafty window, you’re best to get it repaired as soon as possible. The installer will close the door or tarp off the room in question to reduce heat loss.
But if you’re looking to replace your entire home’s windows, you’d be better off waiting until spring. Yes, they can do the installation one room at a time. But mistakes and accidents happen. If a window frame was mis-measured or the glass breaks during installation (and I’ve seen it happen more than once), you could end up with a plywood window while the company tries to get a rush replacement order in.
Plus, the caulking used to seal the frame doesn’t flow or bind properly in extreme cold, and finesse work gets sloppy when you can’t feel your fingertips.
Finally, most of the exterior finishing work is done on ladders. Do you want to take on the liability risk if a ladder slips on the ice, particularly if you haven’t done your due diligence and checked that the company has all the proper licences and insurance?
If you need an emergency roof repair to prevent water leaking into your attic during winter warm spells, get it done as soon as possible. But if your entire roof is due for replacement, but it isn’t imminently critical, at this point you should wait until spring. For one, do you want to risk having your old roof removed just as a days’ long storm rolls into town, leaving your home protected from the elements by nothing more than a tarp?
Also, as with windows, the adhesives and caulking used to seal down a new roof require warmer temperatures to work properly. And, again, even if you’re sure your contractor’s insurance all checks out, would you be comfortable with someone working on your roof in icy conditions?
Landscaping and hardscaping
No legitimate landscaper is going to suggest planting trees or install retaining walls in a snow-covered yard. Once the ground is frozen, it’s impossible to do much of anything outside.
Most landscapers, if they’re not busy running winter snow removal businesses, like to spend the winter months finalizing contracts and project components to break ground once the frost is out. If you haven’t already, now is the time to reach out and start planning your yard for 2020.
CAPTION: Photography courtesy of Margaret Mulligan
Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor
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