This past December, as most people were decking the halls for the festive season, we began major basement renovations.

Yes, you read that correctly! Crazy, I know, but we actually didn’t intend for it to happen during the midst of winter and holiday madness. Since it was the first major renovation we did to our home, a series of events, some by design, others mostly accidental, led us to that time and place of no return. As our beloved contractors literally moved in to rock our foundation and lives, keeping it all together with two small children who were confined to a teeny play area in our jam-packed living room was no small feat. Nothing could really fully prepare us for the renovation, but looking back, I learned some valuable lessons, the main one being: before you renovate, do your homework.

This could mean many things. Talking to family members, friends, and neighbours who have gone through similar renovations will offer some invaluable advice and tips. It could also lead to some reputable contacts, professional contractors and designers who won’t lead you astray, mainly because of the referrals, when all the walls come tumbling down. I would also recommend interviewing at least three contractors and other home professionals, as well as gathering a few quotes before making any final decisions about a renovation team. You’d be surprised at how many contractors disappear or don’t ever deliver a quote. Finally, I’d look for answers in books and magazines.

We gathered quite the library of reference materials. Of course I went to Make it Right® sources, foolproof tips and advice from Mr. Mike Holmes himself. A few of our favourites were The Holmes Inspection and Make it Right® Attics and Basements.

In The Holmes Inspection, we learned, albeit after we bought our home, how to identify problems during the inspection process that can prove to be very costly for home owners down the road. Our basement was unfinished when we bought our home and although we didn’t identify any major problems in that state in the four years we lived in our home, the real problems came out during the renovations. We sure could have used Holmes’ inspection checklists as references.

Another favourite was the Black and Decker Complete Photo Guide to Home Repair. It includes 350 projects and 2000 photos for people, like my husband and me, who sometimes need the visual guide to explain complex undertakings. The useful advice and easy-to-follow instructions on almost every home repair and maintenance job from the interior to the exterior of a home make this book essential for all home owners, whether you like to fix things yourself or hire help. And, finally, but by no means the end of my book recommendations for home renovation and repair information, we found Real Simple: 869 New Uses for Old Things, a comfort read for making life easier every day. Finding new uses for old things is not only fun, it’ll also save you a ton of money so you could start the next major house renovation project.

I’ve got my eye on the kitchen. What’s yours? Good luck!

Follow Marisa on Twitter at @MarisaIacobucci.

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