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Keeping Your Home Renovation on Track: An Interview with Bruce Irving of Bruce Irving Renovation & Real Estate Services

By Bruce Irving

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

I provide consulting services for people considering a house purchase or the renovation of their existing house. I bring 25+ years of experience (17 of them as producer of TV's "This Old House") to the task of setting expectations, giving unbiased estimates of time and costs, and recommending the right professionals and products to use. If desired, I can act as the homeowner's representative (and advocate) throughout the project.

Can you briefly describe what a renovation is? Is it the same thing as a remodel?

The root of the word renovate is the Latin for "to make new again." To me, that means updating the house's mechanical systems; giving good original parts like windows, doors, floors, and interior and exterior woodwork new life by tuning them up and refinishing them; and redoing hardworking spaces like kitchens and bathrooms with modern amenities, ergonomics, technologies and finishes. A remodel sounds to me like a less-considered updating, with less regard to the house as a system.

What are some of the most common renovation projects for houses in Rhode Island?

As mentioned, kitchens and bathrooms are updated by every generation, and that's as it should be. New master suites often appear on the floor above an expanded kitchen or family room addition. Other common renovations have to do with restoring the exterior to its original materials, now that materials like Transite (asbestos-containing concrete shingles), aluminum and vinyl have proven themselves to be unattractive and in some cases harmful to the building.

When a house needs a lot of improvements, how should homeowners decide what to do first?

Call me! Barring that, I would always recommend talking to an architect first. If the house needs enough re-working, professional design is worth every penny.

What's the importance of choosing the right designer and builder, and do you have any tips for how to do that?

There's nothing more important. As mentioned, larger projects usually merit an architect, and I would recommend bringing in a builder as soon as the schematic designs (as opposed to finalized, "bid" drawings) are complete, as the team approach is a winner. Picking the right people is a complicated process (which is why folks hire me), but I would say one rule is to always speak to the last three clients an architect or builder has had - as opposed to the three they might offer up.

What are one or two of the biggest challenges that homeowners run into during the renovation process? How can they successfully deal with that?

Unrealistic expectations, either of their own making or encouraged in them by folks wanting their business. Careful planning and not changing direction mid-project are also important. Again, look for unbiased advice from someone like me. Barring that, add 20% more money and 25% more time to any project you're getting estimates on. That way, hopefully, the only surprises you'll have will be pleasant ones.

What's the best way for people to contact you and your company?

Email me at bruce@bruceirving.biz, call me at 617-719-2196.

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