HOME SCHOOL: Renovation 101


A local contractor nails down some renovation basics.

General contractor Bo Pennington of Pentek Homes knows and loves historic New Orleans architecture. Below, he offers a few tips to ensure that your next renovation goes as smoothly as possible.

Build a strong foundation. The very first thing to consider when undertaking a renovation or rebuild, says Pennington, is the house’s foundation. Houses in New Orleans are often raised on piers in order to avoid flood damage; however, because the ground here is soft and swampy, these piers can often shift or sink. “You’re going to have settling in the piers, which creates sagging in the floor system,” Pennington says. There’s no point in renovating if your house will need to be rebuilt just a few years down the road!

Plan and prioritize. “When considering renovating, especially renovating a historic property, people sometimes underestimate the cost,” Pennington says. “You have to prioritize your list, especially if you’re on a budget.” He’s been involved in projects where the previous contractor’s work had to be ripped out and redone — all because of a lack of preparation.

To avoid a similar situation, Pennington recommends working with an expert to create a floor plan. “Having an architect or designer draft a floor plan makes everything go much more smoothly,” he says. “Everything has to be done to an eighth of an inch. Everything has to be absolutely square.”

Be open to new ideas. Renovation is “a continuous process of learning,” Pennington says. “No project goes completely smoothly.”

For instance, you might love your home’s old windows but hate the impact they have on energy efficiency. In cases like this, Pennington suggests working with a custom millwork shop, which can retrofit energy-efficient coatings and appliances into old, historic architecture.

“The key to renovating is to know that with every project you take on, there’s going to be something that pops up, and [you should try] not to stress out when it does, and only think about solutions,” Pennington advises.