Ask a Renovator: Scope creep in a renovation project and how to avoid it

Articles & Interest

Undertaking a renovation project is one of the most expensive and time-consuming endeavours a homeowner can undertake, and the fear of increasing costs and a never-ending project can be daunting. To avoid project scope creep – unanticipated costs and delays in your project, consider these recommendations and work with a professional renovator to help ensure your project stays on time and on budget.

At the outset of working with your contractor, be upfront about your budget and provide a wishlist of both your wants and needs. The more information your contractor has, the better, and will help them to plan appropriately. Consider having some contingency funds set aside should any unforeseen issues arise – depending on the age and condition of your home, things like knob and tube wiring, bad plumbing, or lack of insulation can result in extra costs and delays.

Communication amongst all parties involved in your project is essential – including the homeowner, contractor, designer, and anyone else is working on the project. There should be a clear delineation of responsibilities. What may seem like a simple change can result in a chain reaction – for example, if the homeowner and designer decide to change a plumbing fixture without informing the contractor and the bathroom has already been drywalled, the room may need to be redone. Keeping your contractor informed is essential as they can anticipate what impact a change may have 20 steps down the line.

Delays in decision making are the most common cause of scope creep, and a series of small delays can snowball. If your contractor is recommending you make a decision in a specific period of time, heed their advice. Post-pandemic, supply chain issues continue to occur, delaying product orders. Sub trades are frequently booked up far in advance, so if a decision is delayed during the time your plumber or painter is allocated to work on your project, they may not be available for another 3 weeks. What can seem like a short delay on your end that impacts one sub trade can result in compounded delays with several sub trades on a job who need to work in a sequential order. Homeowners should try to ensure they follow the plan agreed to at the outset and make decisions in a timely manner.

Remember that you can never account for everything, and there are almost always going to be unforeseen issues that arise during the course of a renovation. Do your best to trust the process and the professionals you have hired. By following their advice and sticking to the plan, you can avoid costly mistakes and delays along the journey to your dream home.

Tony Gatti is the Founding Partner and Director of the Gatti Brothers, an award-winning, specialized, full-service General Contracting firm that services the GTA. Tony is a professional planner with more than 25 years of experience in the areas of residential, commercial and industrial construction, land use planning and project management in both the private and public sectors. Tony is an active member of BILD and industry public speaker dedicated to educating both trade and consumer on best building practices. Please send your thoughts or questions to and visit for design inspiration.