Planning Your Home Renovation

Renovating your property can be a rewarding and cost-effective way of improving your home. Home maintenance and the necessary upgrades tend to get away from most of us; and soon there’s a list of noises to track down, cracks to seal, leaks to stop, appliances to replace, and outdated and deteriorating systems and materials to upgrade. It’s time for a home renovation.

These are some of the most popular renovation projects:

  • floors and ceilings
  • plumbing fixtures
  • light fixtures
  • built-in appliances
  • single pane window replacement and new doors
  • garage door
  • water heater

  • roofing
  • landscaping and sprinkler system
  • air conditioning
  • minor bathroom remodel
  • electrical wiring and safety upgrade
  • fencing and rock walls
  • built-in heating system
  • painting

Is there a difference between a renovation and a remodel, and which is best for us?

Both a renovation and remodel will improve and update your living space. A renovation focuses on the look and feel of the home – from one room to the entire building – without changing its functionality. In other words, a living room would still be a living room after your renovation.

Will you get a good return on the investment? With an extensive renovation, here’s something to consider. If your home is priced on the high end in your neighbourhood, recouping the costs of a big renovation or addition may be difficult. It can be challenging for even the most talented Realtor® to sell the “overpriced mansion” on the block. But the very same house in a more expensive subdivision may sell quickly, particularly if the remodel brings the value and curb appeal up to that of the other homes on the block.

Property renovations that allow you to enjoy the home more, improve its functionality, or address structural damage while improving curb appeal, generally are a solid investment. Some of the renovations may be recovered someday if the home is sold, and the added convenience and enjoyment will typically more than make up the difference. A permit may be required for an involved renovation like reroofing, but won’t be required for simple jobs like repainting or changing floor coverings.

A remodel, on the other hand, will usually be pricier than a renovation because the design, and often the structure will be altered. Due to the scope and cost of a renovation project, the return on investment may not match that of popular renovations. A remodeling project may involve removing or moving walls, building an addition, rewiring, plumbing or changing the ductwork. A permit will almost always be needed for any remodel work.

According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2022 Cost vs Value Report, the cost recouped on a renovation like replacing a garage door is 93.3%, while a major kitchen remodel would be 58.9%, or a bathroom remodel 56.7%. But homeowners typically enjoy the benefits of remodels far more because the home better serves their family’s needs.

When is a renovation a good idea?

If you’re currently living in the right location, you should renovate (or remodel). You don’t want to move away from the area that has everything you need and love. Renovating can make your life easier and bring your family a lot more enjoyment from your existing home.

Renovating makes a lot of sense when home prices are skyrocketing the way they are now. Selling your existing home, searching for and buying another in this competitive market, Realtor® fees and closing costs, and moving expenses will consume a lot of time, and the investment will be significant. Renovations are by no means cheap, but generally far more affordable.

If you’re planning to live in the home for some time, a renovation allows you to repurpose some of the spaces in the home, so they better fit your needs or put your unique touches on the design.

And lastly, renovations can increase the value of the home and improve its curb appeal. In today’s uncertain employment climate, many investors are choosing to purchase properties for resale, as a way to generate more revenue. It’s important to look for ways to affordably increase the property’s value, so it’s one of the nicer properties on the street, without pricing it out of the market.

Spotting a money pit

A good rule of thumb is to set aside a fund to cover any unexpected home repairs along the way. And you’ll want at least 10% on hand for contingencies in case you need to address some unexpected challenges during your renovation. Surprises like structural damage can sometimes come to light, and you want to be prepared to handle those. If problems have been handled promptly as they were discovered along the way, runaway costs should have been kept in check. But if water or structural damage has gone unresolved for years, you may find yourself in the dreaded money pit scenario.

While not all damp and subsidence-related damage are a major problem, they can become financial pitfalls. In worst-case situations, the property’s underlying structure may need extensive repairs or alterations to counter structural rot or sinking. If you decide to make a substantial investment into renovations it’s a good idea to have your renovation contractor or a professional home inspector evaluate the condition of your home first.

The importance of planning

You may feel a pressing need to make some home improvements, but it’s important to start with a plan and budget; not just start buying stuff and hiring people. Disorganization and flying by the seat of your pants can become very costly, very quickly when embarking on an open-ended renovation.

Are the renovations you’re planning safe? Are there any structural issues that need to be addressed first? Asbestos in the walls or attic, that will require a qualified professional to remove? The adage, measure twice, cut once certainly applies. Make sure you know what you’re doing before you forge ahead.

Should you do your home renovation work yourself?

If someone in your home has carpentry or home improvement skills, you may be able to do much of the renovation work yourself. If DIY is not your forte, and the work might scream, “we did this ourselves”, the renovations could negatively affect the value of your home, and it’s best to leave it to the professionals. If the job you’re planning puts you outside your comfort zone or involves permits or licensed professionals, you definitely want to bring in outside resources.

There often is a considerable savings by completing your entire renovation list in one project, rather than chipping away at it over several years. It’s also easier to secure credit for a more substantial home renovation project.

Your best bet is usually having just one renovation contractor handle the project management and schedule the trades, rather than interviewing your own tradespeople and making the selections and arrangements yourself. Contractors will use their own staff or select tradespeople they have vetted and worked with before. Tradespeople may try harder to please a construction company that is likely to send them a lot more business in the future, versus a single homeowner. Because renovation contractors do a lot more business with suppliers and trade sub-contractors, often the saving on materials and labour are passed down to the homeowner.

Choosing a home renovation contractor

It’s important that you feel comfortable with your contractor, you trust them in your home and you have every confidence the project will be completed to your complete satisfaction. If you don’t feel that way, picking the lower bid on price alone could become a mistake. It’s important to interview renovation contractors; in person if possible.

Here are some of the things you want to know:

  • Are they able to do the job? Have you looked at their portfolio of work on their website?
  • Are they the right size for your project? For example, a large national renovation/remodel contractor that works on large apartment and condo projects is probably too big to give you the local, personalized service you’re after.
  • How long has the company been in business? Do they do most of the work with their own staff, or do they predominantly subcontract to local trades?
  • How are they rated on the Better Business Bureau and are they a certified Renomark Renovator?
  • Are they able to provide at least three references from past customers, for projects of similar scope and complexity; and are you able to contact them?
  • Can they give you a ballpark estimate of costs and a timeline?
  • Do they offer a warranty on the work?

Your family’s lifestyle and the neighbours

Renovation is going to be an unavoidable hassle, and you need to be prepared for that. Your family will have to endure inevitable interruptions, noise, dust, and the presence of workers temporarily trudging through the house. For a while, your lifestyle is going to have to adjust, as entire working and living spaces become inaccessible and your driveway is blocked by the vehicles of tradespeople.

If your renovation plans include gutting the kitchen or bathrooms, you’ll need to either make some temporary workaround arrangements in the home or consider setting up temporary accommodations at a hotel or with family members.

If your renovations will be messy and potentially noisy – like a re-roof, roof replacement, or installation of new siding or tree removal – you will want to speak with your neighbours. The same goes for having several trade companies working on your property at the same time, and potential parking challenges on the street. Let your neighbours know in advance, provide them with a timeline and ask them for their kind understanding.

Reid Madiuk

Reid Madiuk's been putting on a toolbelt since he was twelve years old, alongside his father, one of Whistler's first residential builders. As a third-generation Squamish and Whistler builder, Reid brings over 20 years of carpentry expertise to designing and constructing exceptional homes.

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