Before you spend your own hard-earned dollars on a renovation, before you start tearing down walls, be sure to ask yourself the right questions – and be ready to give yourself some honest answers.
The first and most important part of any renovation is your budget. Decide how much you are willing and able to spend, and set aside at least 15% of your budget for contingencies – more if you live in an older home. Unexpected repairs, changes or additions to the plan and overly optimistic budgeting can all contribute to “project creep.”
After your budget has been established, a comprehensive plan and scope of work can be created that you can comfortably afford; if you don’t end up using your contingency fund for unforeseen expenses, you’ll be able to splurge on a few upgrades.
The next step is to establish a realistic schedule that you and any trades you plan on hiring can stick to. Here, too, it is essential to plan for contingencies – your projected completion date should have some extra time built in. And remember that renovating is a fluid process, so be prepared to adjust your daily plans while keeping the goal in sight.
If you’re planning a do-it-yourself project, there are additional factors you’ll want to consider. Be sure you have the skills, patience, time, perseverance and dedication you’ll need to complete the job. Something a skilled trade could do in a day may take you three or four. Viewing a project as a whole can be daunting, so break the job into smaller parts and reward yourself as you complete each step. You may not love my job as much as I do, so be sure you’ll enjoy tackling a DIY project before you begin. Losing interest means leaving the job unfinished, or sacrificing quality for speed.
If you plan to hire someone to handle the job for you, do your research. Finding a local contractor is the first step, but you’ll want to do your due diligence to make sure they are a good fit for you and your renovation.
Be sure to obtain copies of current licenses, liability insurance coverage, a WSIB clearance certificate and current Tarion enrollment (if you’re building a new home). A list of references is good to have, but be sure to speak to trade references as well as former customers. Hiring a contractor means you’ll be opening up your home and your wallet, so good communication and trust are key.
How you spend your money depends on why you’re renovating. If you’re renovating for resale, remember that you’re not building your own dream home and be careful not to overspend on items specific to your own taste.
And speaking of taste, the interior finishes of your home are relatively easy to replace as styles change, but it’s the parts we can’t see that are more important: proper structure, adequate insulation and safe, efficient mechanical systems. In the long run, a well-built, energy-efficient home that is affordable to operate will always be more valuable than a nicely decorated home that costs a fortune to heat in the winter.
Now, go tear down that wall...
Bryan Baeumler is host of HGTV’s Disaster DIY. New season airing Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.