Homes - Renovating

10 things to think about before you renovate

Erin McLaughlin

Top renovation tips to make your renovation run smoothly.

1 Budget, budget, budget I can't say it enough. I'm an optimist who always believes that if you spend money on a quality reno instead of cheaping out, the necessary funds will magically appear. In reality, we know that isn't true! So make sure you do your homework. Talk to a friend who has been through a similar reno, do as much window shopping and cost-comparisons that you can do. Make sure that you tack on at least an extra 20% for those inevitable issues that will spring up. And check your budget with your contractor or trades regularly to make sure you're on track. Finally, don't borrow to renovate if you can. A reno is much more satisfying if you save up the necessary funds before your renovate. Trust me.

2 Find the right contractor We've all heard the horror stories (and I've certainly been witness to a few of them). My usual recommendation is that the best contractors can be found through word of mouth. But if you can't come up with a good referral, I am happy to say that you can find great contractors on the Internet. Check out sites such as or Make sure you get several referrals before you sign any agreements!

3 Be realistic Dreaming is the start of any good renovation, but to have a good experience, you have to be realistic about what you can accomplish based on your budget, resources and your existing home. So many of us (particularly in this era of low interest rates and easily accessible home equity loans) will live beyond our means-just to have that gorgeous gourmet kitchen or marble bathroom. If you are absolutely committed to the dream of something that you can't afford, see if you are able to renovate in stages. For example, in my first home, I really wanted a stone floor in my kitchen. The price well exceeded my budget. I didn't want to compromise so I decided to wait to do the floor until I could afford the stone that I really wanted. I ended up painting my subfloor a putty grey and had the millworkers design my kitchen with an extra-high kick – which allowed me the room to install the stone floor later. Ironically, I ended up selling the home. One of the things that the new homeowners loved was the painted wooden kitchen floor!

4 Do your research Talk to friends who have renovated as well as other real estate and reno experts. It's really important before you embark on the renovation rollercoaster that you have a clear understanding of what to expect. Plus, you need to make sure that you bring your thoughts and research to the table. Clip photos out of magazines of rooms that you love. Scour shops and the Internet for the latest and greatest. Have a general idea of how you want the space to look and feel. If you are overwhelmed, find a designer who can help you lead the way. If you want to find a reputable interior designer, log on to the Internet. In Ontario, you can get fantastic referrals through the Association of Registered Interior Designers. Other provinces also have their own associations.

5 It's all in the details Thinking big picture should be commended, but we know that details are what can make or break a reno. I will never forget standing naively in the catacomb that was eventually to become my gorgeous new bathroom, delighted with myself that I had ordered my faucets, my tiles and my vanity. “Where are the rough-ins?” bellowed my plumber? “Rough-ins?” I asked, a shaky note of trepidation colouring the tone of my voice. Within moments, the glory of having provided everything to my trades had vanished as I realized that I had not ordered the “cake” of the faucets, only the shiny chrome icing. My error held up my reno for another two weeks. So make sure you have a list (or multiple lists for each room), and make sure that you confirm and reconfirm that everything has been ordered, has been delivered, etc.

TIP: If you want a truly beautiful reno, pick everything BEFORE your reno starts. Something as simple as a cabinet knob can really decide the look of a room.


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