The Canadian Renovators' Council of the Canadian Home Builders' Association offers a number of golden rules to help renovating homeowners achieve their goals.

Know what you want

Take the time you need to explore the possibilities for your home and develop a firm plan. Begins with the fundamentals - what do you need and how you want your "new" home to look, feel and work for you and your family. Once you have a clear idea of the "big picture", your renovator will help you work out all the details.

Set a realistic budget

Decide as early as possible how much money you want to spend - this allows you and your renovator to focus on the work that is doable within that budget. Experienced renovators can provide sound cost advice and recommendations. Sit down with your lender and discuss the amount you can reasonably afford and the most suitable financing options. Remember that your budget should cover everything that may arise from the renovation, including such items as new drapery, blinds, furniture and appliances.

Plan for the long term

Thinking ahead avoids short-term renovations that may need to be redone in the future. Discuss your short- and long-term goals openly with your renovator. Professional renovators can conduct a thorough inspection of your home and offer suggestions for the most effective sequencing of work over a period of time.

Don't jeopardize the quality of your renovation by compromising on the quality of products or materials

If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well, and that means using products that offer the right combination of performance, durability and aesthetics. Experienced renovators can help you choose the best products within your budget.

Don't choose a renovator on price alone

While it is always tempting to go for the lowest price, you need to consider the implications of doing so. Does the renovator understand what's involved in your project and have the necessary experience? Will the renovator offer a warranty on the work? Will the renovator still be in business if you need to call back?

Protect yourself

Dealing with a professional renovator is your greatest protection against an incompetent or unfinished job. A written contract spells out the arrangements between you and your renovator and describes your renovation in detail. Professional renovators also carry workers' compensation, liability insurance and any licenses required by your province.

Don't buy from a door-to-door salesperson without carefully checking out the company

Before you enter into any kind of agreement, talk with friends and family. Contact your local Home Builders' Association to see if the company is a member - membership is an indication of professionalism. Also check with the Better Business Bureau to see if anyone has lodged a complaint against the company.