Planning your Renovation

For some people, the fears of cost overruns and months of living in a construction zone are enough to dissuade them from undertaking a renovation project. That's a shame because there are many good reasons to renovate. If you like the neighbourhood where you live, for example, but feel cramped in a small, outdated kitchen, upgrading may be a better solution than moving. A well-planned renovation might also increase property value. If your home is older than most in your area, new flooring or other updates can help to bring your home up to par with others on the market. Knowing the basics about the renovation process and the professionals involved can help you avoid unnecessary expenses and delays.

The Planning Stage

A renovation project is an opportunity to create the space you've always wanted. In the initial planning stages, create a wish list. Write down everything you would want to add or change in a room. For example, you may wish to install a convection oven or a larger refrigerator in the kitchen or new flooring and a Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom. Later, when you get an idea of cost from a professional renovator and from your own research, you can decide which options to keep and which ones are too expensive.

To help you plan your renovation, browse magazines and online home decorating websites. Visit home shows and home décor stores to see some of the latest innovations in building products, countertops, appliances etc. Take note of product prices and energy ratings as you shop. You may find that certain upgrades will pay for themselves over the long run in terms of energy and water savings. A professional renovator can also be a good source of ideas and product suggestions.

Home Inspectors

Once you have created your wish list, you are ready to consult professionals for their input. If the renovation you are planning is extensive (e.g. involves knocking out a wall or electrical adjustments) it is wise to hire a home inspector. A home is a system; occasionally, a renovation in one area can have unexpected consequences in another. In addition, if your home has any existing problems such as water damage or a weakened floor, it is best to find out about them before you begin construction. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) recommends that home inspectors start their assessment in the basement as many problems in other parts of the home originate there. A cracked foundation and excessive moisture, for example, can cause deterioration throughout the entire structure.

A home inspector can help you to evaluate the overall condition of your home and set priorities for current and future renovation projects. A copy of the inspector's report should be provided to the professional renovators asked to bid on your project.

Real Estate Appraiser

Many people undertake renovations in hopes of increasing the value of their homes. Unfortunately, there is no simple 1:1 formula for recouping the costs. Many factors come into play including the age of your home and the value of those in your neighbourhood. If you are concerned about the return on your investment, you may wish to consult a real estate appraiser. The appraiser can help determine how a renovation would affect the value of your home. In general, homeowners can expect an eventual return on investment of approximately 70 percent for the kitchen and bathroom but only 50 percent for finishing a basement, according the Appraisal Institute of Canada.

Renovators

The next step is to solicit bids from professional renovators. It is a good idea to get more than one opinion on the best way to proceed with the project and the estimated cost. They will quickly examine the space you wish to upgrade along with the items on your wish list in order to give you a price estimate. They can also advise you if the project requires further design or architectural services.

When choosing a renovator, consider not only their price estimate but also how well you can communicate with them and whether they seem knowledgeable and organized. It is amazing how much you will miss a kitchen or bathroom as it is undergoing renovations! A qualified renovator will be able to get the renovations done within a reasonable amount of time.

Once you have selected a renovator, it is time to go over your wish list in detail. They will inspect your home to take measurements and ascertain the locations of electrical and plumbing lines. The renovator may be able to offer logistical suggestions on your design such as improving the flow of traffic in a kitchen. If a room requires a change to the electrical wiring or plumbing, they will likely be able to tell you at this point.

Next, the renovator will draw up plans. Review them together and if you approve of them, you will likely need to pay a deposit. (Be sure to get everything in writing and all keep the receipts. Do not pay in cash.) The final plans should include details of the project including the layout and materials as well as descriptions and prices of the products. There should also be a timeline indicating the stages of the project. Keep in mind that this timeline is not completely reliable because several variables can have an impact on the length of the project, such as availability of special-order items.

Lastly, a professional renovator should also be able to advise you on the proper permits (if any) that are required under your local municipal by-laws for various projects. Generally, the renovator will take care of acquiring the permits and arranging for inspections when the project is completed.

A successful renovation requires a team effort between you and the industry experts that you hire. To ensure a good outcome, you need a clear plan and good communication. Then all that's left is for you to sit back and enjoy the results.

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