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The more time you commit to planning your renovation, the less likely you are to come across surprises, overspend, or make decisions you regret. A well thought out renovation should give you the aesthetic and space you’re after, while also increasing your home’s value and potentially helping you save money on insurance and energy bills. Before you start swinging hammers and tearing out drywall, here are seven common renovation mistakes to avoid.

  1. Setting an unrealistic budget. No contractor can give you a $20,000 kitchen renovation on a $10,000 budget, and you should avoid the ones who say they can. If you’re unwilling to compromise on your dream reno, save up more money before getting started or cut back on areas that could be updated later, like appliances or premium furnishings. Set aside some extra money, usually about 10 to 20% of your budget, for unexpected expenses. If you’ve ever watched a home renovation show, you know there’s no limit to what you could find lurking behind the walls.
  2. Going DIY instead of leaving it to the pros. There are certainly a lot of DIY projects you can tackle around your home, but when it comes to major renos, it’s best to call in the pros. Plumbing, electrical work, and roofing, for example,should all be left to qualified tradespeople. This is for your own safety and to protect your home, as mistakes could be costly and dangerous.
  3. Hiring the cheapest contractor. There’s a lot that goes into hiring a contractor. The cheapest contractor is usually not the best one, so beware of low-ball quotes. You’ll be investing a lot of money in your home and certainly want the work to be done well and on time. Ask for references and get everything in writing before starting any work. You should also ask your contractor whether they’re licenced, fully insured, and have general liability insurance. Ask about their expected payment schedule, too.
  4. Choosing style over substance. This is an easy trap to fall into. It’s unlikely that your family and friends will compliment you on the R-value of your insulation, your fire-resistant windows, or your dazzling new sump pump. While less satisfying than aesthetic updates, these types of renos are the most vital to your home’s safety and efficiency. If you’re ready for a makeover, make it an opportunity to check on the overall health and safety of your home. Your new wood floors will be grateful that you patched that hole in the roof.
  5. Forgetting about permits. This is by far the least exciting part of renovations — but also one of the most important. Whether you’re handling the permits yourself or including them in your contractor’s agreement, getting permits is an essential step in protecting the future value of your home. Without the proper permits, city staff could delay work, issue fines, or even order the reversal of work already done. Prospective buyers could also try to negotiate a lower price if they find out you didn’t get permits for recent renovations.
  6. Ignoring your insurance. Before you even start your renovations, it’s a good time to reconnect with your group’s broker to understand how changes to your home could impact your insurance premium and your coverage in the event of a claim. For instance, some upgrades to plumbing or electrical can help lower your premium. Alternatively, if you’re creating an addition or putting in a pool, your premium could increase to reflect your home’s new value and liability risks. Your insurance policy may require you to let your insurer know when you’re completing substantial renovations, so be sure to review your policy before you get started.
  7. Tackling too much at once. It may be tempting to get everything done at the same time, but there may be a few reasons to wait. For instance, maybe your new open concept kitchen is where everyone likes to hang out during get-togethers, so you don’t really need to splurge on a new living room right away. Or maybe you can skimp on custom cabinets so you can also afford to put in a gas fireplace. In the long run, you’ll be happier if you dedicate the proper amount of attention and budget to each project. 

No contractor can give you a $20,000 kitchen renovation on a $10,000 budget, and you should avoid the ones who say they can.

There’s nothing wrong with Pinterest boards of inspiration and dream renos. But when it comes time to actually write a cheque, it’s best that you’re prepared for anything that could pop up along the way.


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