How does it work? Where do I start? Do I need an engineer? How long does it take? How much will it it cost? Do I need a building permit?

These are all questions I hear over and over again, and they are all very good questions. Every project and renovation is different, and each of these answers are unique to the project. I am here to take a little guesswork out of the equation so you can plan a successful renovation or construction project.


Every successful project is the result of a well executed design and proper project management. Whether you are managing and designing your own project, or you are working with a designer, or hiring a contractor, proper planning is key.

I always say – Design first, build second. If your renovation is not planned or designed properly, and you begin construction or demo before you have anything planned, you are going to see nothing but delays in your project. Delays cost not only valuable time, but money. Trades are busy! They will not necessarily be available when you are ready for your tile or floor installation, drywall, or custom shower glass. So plan, plan, plan.


There are many people involved in any one renovation. From demolition crew, to tiler, electrician, finishing carpenter, to painter. Below is the typical order that trades will work on a project:

  1. demolition
  2. framing
  3. electrical and/or plumbing rough in
  4. HVAC/ductwork
  5. insulation if necessary
  6. drywall (1-2+ weeks on average, dry time depending)
  7. paint – 1st coat
  8. flooring install
  9. cabinet install
  10. counter measure
  11. counter install
  12. backsplash and wall tile install
  13. electrical and/or plumbing finishing
  14. appliance install
  15. finishing carpentry
  16. paint – final coat

The Interior Design process in itself is structured and divided into 5 stages of design. Check out our design process for more information and what you can expect when working with us.


So many variables here. Lead times on materials, trade availability, drywall dry time (this is the most time consuming part of a project), speed of making decisions on both the homeowner and designer, unpredictable delays (ie. weather), complexity of the project, whether or not there is a building permit… There are so many things that go into scheduling a renovation, a project will run smoothly and as efficiently as possible if you have everything pre-designed, a handle on your budget, and trades coordinated properly and in well in advance. If I were to give an average, I would say expect a month for a bathroom reno, 4-6 weeks for a kitchen reno, and upwards from there depending on the scope of work.


This goes back to my original advice – design first, build second. This will provide you with the drawings and documents that you or a builder will need in order to accurately price out your job. It’s impossible for a contractor, supplier or trade to give you a price when they don’t know what they are building for you. Will you use $3.00 subway tile for your walk-in shower, or $25 carrara marble tiles? Will you be doing a solid maple custom kitchen, or a pre-fabricated MDF kitchen? Laminate counters or solid stone counters? See where I’m going with this?

Alternatively, they may give you an allowance based budget, or ranges. For example, they may give you an allowance of $8/ft for wall tile. If you decide to go with $30/ft tile, you will be over budget, by choice. However, lets say you fall in love with a $4/ft tile, you will have a budget surplus, which you can choose to then put towards another area of your project. Maybe you can now afford to splurge on that chandelier you have been eyeing. I always tell my clients that it is their budget, and how they wish to use it is up to them, but to be careful as budget overages can add up very quickly.


The general rule of thumb here is if you are removing walls, adding floor space, or making exterior changes, you will need a building permit. If you are doing a kitchen or bath reno, or refacing your fireplace, you should not need a permit; plumbers and electricians will pull their respective permits if necessary. Your best bet is to check with your city building department on requirements for building permits. Your designer or contractor will be able to help you assess if a permit is necessary and what steps to take.


If you are removing or adding walls, or doing an addition, you will likely need a structural engineer. I recently had a project where we were taking out a section of a kitchen wall that had a pocket door, and to our surprise when we opened up the wall, sure enough it was load bearing. We were able to remedy the situation without an engineer by installing a new beam, but on more significant reno’s I highly recommend working with a structural engineer. to ensure correct measures are taken on your renovation.

Still have questions? We would love to hear from you! We are passionate about design and construction and are here to answer your questions. Contact us here to discuss your project, we love to talk design!

Stephanie Hilton Design is a boutique full service Interior Design firm based in Chilliwack, BC.

We service the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley, and specialize in Residential Interior Design.



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