Avoid Renovation Woes: Documentation

Author's Note: This is part of a series of blog posts are aimed at avoiding renovation woes.

After the Cherry Hill Kitchen renovation was complete, I asked my client what she wished homeowners knew before starting the renovation process. I asked because as a professional designer I know what to anticipate during a renovation and sometimes I take that for granted. I believe that the more you know going into a renovation project the more successful it will be because you will have a better idea of what to expect.


"Keep multiple copies of updated plans in your home. Make even the smallest changes on the plans. Document as much as possible...Check with your contractor to make sure they have the most current version." - Carla, Homeowner, Cherry Hill renovation project


Contrary to what many homeowners may think, a finished project (even new construction) is almost never built exactly like the drawings. This is completely normal. It is usually minor and unnoticeable, but it happens. Often walls are not completely square or the dimension of a long wall is off by a few inches. This is important to keep in mind when doing a renovation. If the building is new construction, interior designers or architects will still often survey to confirm major dimensions on the construction drawings and create a noted set of "as-built" drawings. As-built drawings are more accurate as they show what actually exists at that moment.

As a homeowner, there are things that you can do to keep drawings updated. If you have any smaller installations made to the home, like reconfiguring a bathroom which may include rerouting plumbing, I would recommend making a few notes. If you have lighting upgraded in the home and there are new switches or changes to your electrical junction box, make notes on a floor plan or use masking tape to make notes on the junction box as well. These notes will come in handy in case you ever need to cut into or demolish part of the wall. Repainting a room to a slightly different shade? Make a note of the manufacturer and color in case you need to repaint in the future and do not want to pick a new hue.

When you are in the middle of a renovation always keep the most updated floor plans on hand. Sometimes as the project progresses (especially if it is fast-paced) there may be several rounds of revisions. Floor plans drawings are usually dated, but you would be surprised how many people reference old plans somewhere along the line, which can lead to major miscommunications. 

I recommend keeping updated drawings and notes as well as directions and warranties for all appliances and electronics in the same place. If you do a major spring cleanup do not throw away these documents. It is much more cost effective for a designer or architect to have plans to start from rather than surveying and producing a new set of drawings. Even if you do not plan on a major renovation in the future, things happen—pipes burst, beams sometimes need to be replaced etc. It makes things so much less stressful in the long run to have at least some documentation. As they say, better safe than sorry.