Renovations on a Budget

October 27th 2007
Renovations on a Budget

For the majority of homeowners, renovating entails balancing what you want and the financial resources you have available. Professional renovators suggest a number of approaches that can help to stretch your budget.

Points you should consider in your financial plan include

  • Be clear about why you are renovating:
    People renovate either to add value to their home or to improve their quality of life.

  • Be realistic about what you can achieve for your money:
    After you work out what you want to achieve - ie new bathroom, extension, new kitchen, then work out a financial plan. There is no point carrying out renovations if they translate into a financial nightmare.

  • Have a plan and set priorities:
    A plan is essential to keep you on budget and on time - Living in renovations can be inconvenient so being as organized as possible will make it go as smoothly as possible. Decide up front what is really needed and what would be "nice to have"? How will your needs change over the years? Discuss in detail with your contractor, who can offer sound advice on costs and approaches.

  • Do the work in stages to suit your budget:
    Ideally, we would like our whole home to have a complete makeover in a day. For the most part our budget decides what and when projects get done. Phasing the work allows you to achieve the results that you really want without financial pressure. Develop a master plan with proper sequencing of tasks, timelines and expected costs. If you want to get the work over with, you may want to consider financing options such as a home equity line of credit.

  • Work with what you have:
    With a little creativity you can utilize the space you already have. Homeowners sometimes assume that they need extra floor space when maybe all that is needed is more effectively designed space. By rearranging or removing interior walls a room will appear bigger and create the sense of spaciousness. Installing larger windows or skylights is another great way to open up a room with natural light. A professional renovator or structural engineer will be able to advise you on what is structurally possible.

    Under existing flooring or carpets - there may be old hardwood that can be refinished. If your old trim and doors are in good shape, they can be refinished or painted rather than replaced. You may be able to resurface your kitchen cupboards instead of installing new ones, or perhaps just replace cabinet doors. Adding new hardware and new faucets is another update that will instantly bring new life to a kitchen or bathroom.

  • Less expensive product alternatives:
    When it comes to good, better, best you don't want to compromise on the overall quality of your renovation. However, where performance is not affected, you can consider using less expensive alternatives - you may have to forgo the granite countertops or use ceramic tiles instead of slate on floors; 4 inch baseboards rather than 7 inch; and stock cabinets to mention a few possibilities. Most importantly you will want to do your research about the price ranges and pros and cons of the products available to homeowners.

  • Energy Efficient Alternatives:
    Energy-efficient lighting and appliances, high-efficiency heating systems and electronic thermostats mean long-term savings. Water-conserving fixtures will save a considerable amount of money over time in areas with water metering. Also, be sure to research grants available to homeowners for switching over to energy efficient options. Contact your local utility company and natural resources Canada for programs such as energuide. There may be grants available for residents that switch over to alternative energy sources such as geothermal or solar energy.

  • Do it yourself:
    There are real savings to be had if you are able to do the work yourself. This would significantly lower the design cost, contractor fee and labour costs. If you have the skills and the time, you can stretch your renovation dollars even further. Generally, it's recommend that you leave structural and mechanical renovations to the professionals, but many homeowners can do their own painting, tiling, landscaping or other finishing jobs. For the more modest handyman or woman there are a variety of resources available on the Internet or at libraries on how to complete projects such as refinishing, tiling or installing moldings.

  • Financing a renovation:
    Ask your financial institution about financing options, and how much you can borrow on a realistic budget. Without the cost of moving, considering renovating over relocating may be a more economical option, and perhaps increase the value of your home.