Category Archives: renovation loans

How much should it really cost to renovate a kitchen?

kitchen renovation

It can cost between $25K-$50K. Here are pointers to help you figure out a budget

My kitchen renovation last year was filled with surprises, most of them unwelcome (after all, our house is 100 years old). But by far the biggest surprise was the cost: After an initial meeting with our designer, we realized we needed to rethink our budget and come up with more cash (about 30% more on top of what we’d planned).

Turns out I’m not alone: Experts say most people don’t realize how much a kitchen renovation will cost and, as a result, they don’t tend to budget enough.

That could be because home renovation TV shows are notorious for showing unrealistic budgets for major work — so while a family might get a brand new kitchen for $20,000, it’s never explained what that price includes.

So how do you figure out what you should be spending?

Nancy Peterson, Founder and CEO of Homestars, a website that connects consumers with contractors and other home improvement professionals, says that, according to their data, the average kitchen renovation in Canada costs $25,593 — but, she adds, that number depends on how extensive the work is and whether you’re doing an outright gut of the space and replacing everything with new stuff. “A major renovation can cost as much as $50,000,” she explains, “especially if you’re buying high-end appliances or cabinets, which are by far the biggest expense in any renovation.”

So how much should you budget for your home renovation? Here are some pointers to help you figure it out:

Know where your money is going

Whether it’s cabinets, tiles or appliances, it helps to know how much each element of a renovation will likely set you back. Here are the top things you’ll be spending on, according to Peterson, including what the average Canadian spends on each during their renovation:

• New cabinets and countertops: $7,483.16
• Wood flooring: $6,392
• Stone countertops: $3,839
• Cabinets (refinishing): $3,819
• Ceramic flooring: $2,333

The 20% rule

Experts say to add between 20% and 25% on top of your budget to handle surprises and unexpected costs. Based on the average cost of a Canadian renovation, a healthy buffer would be $5,118 to $6,398 to cover anything that pops out of the woodwork (in our case, it was an old stove pipe lurking behind our kitchen wall — big bucks to get rid of that, and it put us off schedule to boot!).

 

You don’t have to splurge on everything

Depending on how you use your kitchen, there are some things you can do on the cheap and others where it might be worth spending more. In our case, we splurged on a high-end stove (we cook all the time), but we bought pre-made cabinets from Ikea. Peterson also recommends saving money by refinishing existing cabinets instead of replacing them. Flooring selection can also make a difference – ceramic is a lot cheaper than wood.

You’ll be eating out more

Remember, you are going to be without a kitchen for a month or longer. That means cooking will be limited – and you’ll probably be relying on prepared foods and restaurant meals more than you usually do. Be prepared to spend a bit more to feed yourself and your family while your space is shut down.

Source: MoneySense.ca – by  

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Move or improve? – Before embarking on an expensive move, consider renovating instead

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When my husband and I first bought our house in Guelph, Ont., 11 years ago, it was something Goldilocks surely would have approved of: not too big, not too small. Just right. Our first-born was still in diapers. Who needed a second bathroom? Then, seemingly overnight, the place felt cramped and entirely impractical. We’ve now got two kids, and our-nine-year-old has outgrown her teeny-tiny bedroom. Weekday mornings mean slapping together breakfasts in the cramped kitchen. And forget inviting more than one family over for dinner unless they don’t mind yelling over the din. (Basement play room? What basement play room?)

Not surprisingly, my husband and I have been discussing our options. Move to a larger, more suitable home in our neighbourhood or stay put and renovate what we have? Finish the basement or build an addition? And most importantly, what would each scenario cost?

I’m hardly the only Canadian faced with the choice between moving or improving to increase usable square footage. Back in 2012, Canada Post released numbers indicating that of the 850,000 people who changed addresses, 37% moved to upgrade their home for family reasons. More recently, Altus Group measured the boom in Canadian residential home renovation spending, valuing it at $68 billion in 2014, roughly $20 billion more than what was spent on new builds.

Families grow, possessions multiply, aging parents move in, or a new job means building a home-office space. Although everybody’s situation is different—and let’s face it, you can’t always buy a great neighbourhood but you can change your home—deciding to love it or list it usually comes down to finances. What will it cost to move versus renovate and stay?

It’s not the house, it’s you

Cut the clutter and uncover valuable unused square footage

First, let’s start with the biggest bang for the least bucks: creating more usable space by simply clearing out the junk and getting your house more organized. That’s been our own family project for the past few weeks. Snowshoes that have never seen powder? Gone. An ill-advised yogurt machine purchase? Ditto. Three boxes of baby shoes? Now that’s just embarrassing.

We decided to take on this Herculean project after chatting on the phone with Elinor Warkentin, a Vancouver-based professional organizer who runs goodbyeclutter.ca. She says some clients have hired her to stage their homes for selling, only to decide to stay put after uncovering unused square footage they never knew they had: “Sometimes people can’t see the forest through the trees. Decluttering and organizing give people a lot of clarity.”

Although the act of breaking up with unwanted belongings is free, tackling chaos can be overwhelming without some help. Hiring a professional organizer can be one of the most cost-effective ways to gain much-needed space—with no jackhammer or moving van required.The least expensive option

In order to command her $85/hour fee, Warkentin spends 15 minutes on the phone with potential clients to suss out their junk issues, then does a two-hour walk-through consultation, giving specific advice based on what she sees. While she may recommend storage solutions—anything from new shelving beneath the stairs, to under-the-sink storage hacks for soap and rags—she also tackles behavioural issues. Toys littering the floor? Maybe it’s time to teach the kids to pitch in and clean up. And yes, like all those clutter consultants on TV, she helps clients separate items into piles: some go to the garbage heap, others will be given away and the last pile are keepers. She’s on-site with bins and garbage bags, picking through items one by one. (Warkentin once spent hours matching up single black and navy socks for a client.)

Between hiring a professional organizer’s services and installing new storage solutions in previously unused spaces, expect to spend $2,000 to $10,000, depending on where you live and whether your new shelves are cheaper prefabs or pricier customs. If that sounds unreasonable, consider that “for every box of clutter you remove from your home, you increase the equity by $500,” Warkentin says. But think hard before building new pricey storage solutions if you don’t like your neighbourhood or hope to move to a new school district someday. There’s no point spending the money if you’re just going to sell anyway.

Luckily, there are a number of options that range from cheap and cheerful to extreme and expensive that could get you a house that works for you. Here we’ll take a look at four scenarios, from least to potentially most costly, to see how each choice adds up.

Building a better house

Renovate the existing space make a house feel more spacious

Earlier this year, Scott Sheppard, an air traffic controller living in the Greater Toronto Area, decided it was time to give his mother, who lives in his basement, a room of her own. A bathroom, that is. “As she’s been getting older, we’ve realized that we needed to build something for her, rather than expect her to walk two flights of stairs to use the shower,” says Sheppard. In the end, it was a relatively easy fix: They simply converted their old attached garage into a laundry and mudroom, and moved the basement’s washer, dryer and deep freezer into it. This freed up space for Grandma’s corner shower, sink and toilet.

The second-priciest option David Kloss, co-owner of LoganSienna Design in Toronto, says that, for homeowners like Sheppard, it makes sense to maximize space with the footprint that you have—particularly if living in a semi-detached or row house with restrictive zoning bylaws. Moving a wall to, say, create two bedrooms out of one means you can stay in a home you love, while making it fit your lifestyle. And even if the house doesn’t become physically bigger through these renovations, a little ingenuity can go a long way toward making a house feel more spacious. For instance, at a recent reno job in Toronto’s High Park area, Kloss removed a hall linen closet and knocked down walls to create a bigger, more open washroom.

And don’t forget the attic. It’s a square footage gold mine, particularly in older homes with steeply pitched roofs. To determine if you can turn your attic into a usable loft, shine a flashlight up there. Got W-shaped trusses holding up the roof? The reno will likely be too costly to be worth it. But if you’re looking at a wide open space with ample headroom in the centre, it might be worth building stairs up through a closet, and adding insulation and heating ducts.

Not all spaces are appropriate for renovations, however. Even though adding a room in the basement typically saves you between 25% and 50% of the cost of adding a room to upper floors, some aren’t worth finishing. There are foundation cracks that result in leaks. The furnace is smack in the middle of the room. The ceiling is low. Digging down to gain a few extra feet would cost in the range of $60,000. And to fix everything else? An extra $75,000. That’s before all the fun décor decisions.

All rooms aren’t created equal when it comes to pricing either. Contractors tend to quote in the $90 to $225 per square foot range, but if you’re aiming to add a bathroom to the mix or make your kitchen bigger, expect higher outlays: Plumbing, granite, fixtures and new appliances drive costs way up, while simply drywalling a basement or attic is going to be much cheaper. There are a lot of ways to save money—or blow through cash—so plan carefully before giving any project the green light.

Building a bigger house

Add value and living space to your home with an addition

Michael Berton and Cathie Hurlburt have had 13 years to live with their decision to turn their once small two-bedroom bungalow in North Vancouver into a 2,000-square-foot home by adding a second storey. They couldn’t be happier.

The Vancouver market was just heating up when the couple dragged their kids to open houses looking for a larger home—but eventually they decided to stay put. “We kept looking at houses that were three times more money than ours, were just as old and probably needed renovating anyway. It just didn’t make sense,” says Berton now. Instead, they hired a contractor, convinced the bank to help finance the $200,000 reno, moved into an apartment down the street for five months, and then waited for the plaster dust to settle.

Although hard to fathom today, the couple once worried about owning a half-million dollar home in Vancouver. But the gamble to increase the space paid off. Not only were they able to raise The third-most expensive option their three girls in a spacious home, but they made their house even more desirable to buyers. Their home—assessed at $320,000 before the reno—is now worth about $1.5 million. “But I don’t know if the math works like that everywhere, because I live in Lotusland where the house prices are nuts,” Berton cautions.

He’s right to question whether building an expensive addition is the best option everywhere. Most house prices don’t appreciate as quickly as they do in hot markets like Vancouver and Toronto. It can take decades before homeowners can recoup costs come selling time. An expensive renovation usually only makes sense if you plan on living in your home for the long haul, says Suzanne Ethier, a realtor in Kitchener, Ont. But for people who aren’t sure if they’ll need to move in five or 10 years? “Without fail, the numbers say sell the house and buy a new one,” she says.

The truth is that building onto a house is expensive. Location, size, finishes and labour costs will vary, says Brennan Waters, owner of Oakwaters Construction Ltd., based in Everton, Ont., but generally speaking, “$200 a square foot will give you options.” But expect to pay more if you’re digging down to expand the basement, or if you’re planning wholesale kitchen moves requiring all new plumbing and wiring.

What’s more, extensions can come with nasty and expensive surprises—from opening a wall to find old knob-and-tube wiring, to having run-ins with neighbours who are fed up with the construction noise and debris. Banks don’t finance the demolition work either, so that’s coming out of pocket, unless you get a construction loan. All of this isn’t to say building an addition can be the right choice, but just be sure you know what you’re getting into before the backhoe arrives.

Making the big move

Upgrade your living space by relocating to a new home

Sometimes you’ve just got to get out of Dodge and find a new place to live. That was Kate Kuok’s story when she moved from her suburban Toronto townhouse to Oakville, Ont., about four years ago with her husband Gabriel and their newborn.

Although their former property had three bedrooms and three bathrooms, soon the baby gear spilled out all over the living areas. Plus, they weren’t enamoured with their neighbourhood, what with drug deals going down on the street. “I always said to myself, ‘I’m going to see how we are with a kid in this place.’ I had my son in June and by August I was saying, ‘We’ve got to get out of here,’” Kuok explains, recalling all the factors that motivated their decision to find a new home.

The most expensive option So what does it cost to move? Put it this way: It ain’t cheap. Even if you clear a cool $100,000 after selling your old home, moving into a larger house will likely cost more than that. Take houses in Halifax’s hot South End neighbourhood. A three-bedroom, one-bathroom home is listed at $465,000. Move up to a similar four-bedroom, two-bathroom house and you’re likely spending about $200,000 more. Plus financing.

And don’t forget the extras. Realtor fees run around 5% to 6% of the final sale price, so count on at least $23,250, while lawyer fees cost $1,200 to $1,500. With the exception of Alberta and Saskatchewan, there are also land transfer taxes, which vary depending on where you live—for instance, you’ll pay $6,475 on a $500,000 home in Ottawa, while Torontonians can expect to pay $12,200 for that same-priced house. Plus, don’t forget moving costs that run additional thousands of dollars.

Despite the financial costs for Kuok’s family, it was a good idea to move. Although the couple spent a little more on the mortgage than they’d budgeted for, they ended up with something money can’t buy: a great low-traffic street with neighbours who look out for each other. You’ll find them on summer nights hanging out in the yard socializing over a beer while the kids whiz around on bikes and scooters. And in the grand scheme of things, that’s just as important as saving a buck.

“I would do anything to stay in this house because we love the street. I would put an addition on it, refinish the basement and make more space for the kids,” Kuok says. “We could never buy neighbours like these again, ever.”

Source: MoneySense.ca – by 

 

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How to determine if a fixer upper is worth the work

should-you-buy-that-fixer-upper

“I love it, but it needs work!”

Don’t be discouraged if you find yourself saying that about a potential property. Even the best homes may require a few tweaks to get them move-in ready. For first-time homebuyers, fixer-uppers offer amazing value. Identify the great bones hiding behind dated wallpaper or lighting, and you can save money, while custom decorating your property to your liking. Here are 5 property flaws that are fairly easy to fix.

 

Flaw #1: Unstylish wallpaper or a unattractive paint colour

Fix: One of the cheapest and easiest ways to refresh a space is to paint it a clean, neutral colour. That’s why it’s so surprising when a home seller skips this step. Unflattering walls, from unappealing paint shades to outdated wallpaper, can elicit a visceral response in certain viewers: “Not. This. Home.” That gives savvy house-hunters an advantage: more homes to choose from, and possibly a bargaining chip when it comes to sales price.

Lacklustre walls are easy to fix. Repainting a room takes just hours, and even if you have to strip old wallpaper beforehand, it’s a straightforward weekend project.

TIP: If possible, tackle chores like painting before you move into your new home.

 

Flaw #2: Dark, gloomy rooms

Fix: Dingy rooms are often the result of bad lighting. Upping the wattage of light bulbs can make a big difference, but installing new light fixtures is the surest way to give a darker room a bright new outlook.

Well-lit rooms combine ambient lighting with task lighting. A solid lighting strategy pairs overhead illumination such as modern recessed lighting or a traditional chandelier with additional light sources like table lamps, floor lamps or desk lamps.

Lighting is an easy fix so don’t let this flaw deter you from making an offer on a fixer-upper. Basic lighting installation can be tackled by DIYers, while a pro can make short work of installing recessed lighting.

Flaw #3: Damaged hardwood or a musty carpet

Fix: Old carpets put off potential buyers, but don’t let that stained floor covering deter you. Ripping out wall-to-wall broadloom takes elbow grease, but isn’t difficult.

If you’re lucky, you may find well-preserved hardwood underneath. If not, don’t stress: stained or scratched-up hardwood can be refinished by sanding, re-staining, and varnishing. Ambitious DIYers can tackle this, otherwise, you can hire a pro to do it for less than it would cost to have new hardwood installed.

If the carpet was hiding linoleum, consider today’s next-generation engineered hardwood or budget-friendly laminate: it looks like hardwood, and features basic, glue-less, click-in installation.

Flaw #4: Out-of-date kitchen cabinetry

Fix: Nice kitchen, not-so-nice cabinetry? Not a problem: Wood cabinets are easy to update! Just give them a cheap-and-cheerful facelift via a couple coats of hardwearing enamel paint and new knobs or pulls.

Or, for a more radical makeover, have your cabinetry refaced by a kitchen specialist. New doors, drawer fronts and hardware provide a kitchen makeover, minus the hassle and waste of ripping out serviceable cabinetry.

Flaw #5: Zero curb appeal exterior paint palette

Fix: Curb appeal is huge. And when a house is seriously lacking, you may think twice about the investment. But take a few minutes to analyze a house’s exterior before you cut it from your list. Would a new exterior paint palette for the walls, porch, window shutters and front door transform the house from drab to delightful?

Source: Genworth.ca

 

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Mike Holmes: You’ll get renovation stress, but here’s how to mitigate it

Living through a renovation puts a lot of stress on relationships. I’ve seen couples argue, and sometimes it’s so bad it can really test your relationship. The best thing you can do to avoid that is plan, plan, plan. The time you put into planning your renovation will determine its success. You must discuss everything with your partner, as well as your contractor. Talk about design choices, materials, expectations, what you’re willing to compromise on and your must-haves. Once you and your partner are on the same page, then do your homework.

Research and educate yourself on everything there is to know about the project — the trades you will need and when, all materials, the products you want, proper installation, warranties. Most people focus on the finishes — that’s the icing — but the bulk of your research should be on the right construction and materials that will support those finishes and make them last.

Some people will take all the right steps preparing for a renovation — they’ll discuss their budget, figure out if they need a construction loan, they’ll go over timelines, plus when they expect work to start and finish by. But once the reno starts, there are a lot of unexpected issues that can come up.

Before any work can start, everything must be cleared away from the area that will be renovated, plus the path leading to it. You must have a plan for storing all your furniture and appliances.

Where will you keep it all? Do you need movers? Do you need to rent a storage space? You should be discussing this with your contractor, too.

Also, where will you be living once construction starts? Some people think they can just stay home. I wouldn’t recommend it. Dust and noise will be a constant issue and mechanics, such as electricity, heating and water, typically get shut off — talk about an inconvenience! Plus, if the construction crew has to clean up at the end of every workday, because you’re living at home during construction, that adds extra labour costs.

Renovations aren’t a perfect science
and sometimes things happen

Let’s say you have a place to stay during construction. In most cases, it won’t be comfortable, which can put more stress on couples. When my son was renovating his house, he stayed in a Winnebago with his girlfriend. It was small, they didn’t have all their stuff and he was dragging in all kinds of dirt from the job site — it’s not an ideal situation.

And what do you do if construction goes longer than expected? Renovations aren’t a perfect science and sometimes things happen — like unexpected or emergency repairs that push your timeline, and budget, way beyond what you originally thought. Be prepared for the unexpected.

If you’re lucky enough to be staying at someone’s house, such as your in-laws, it can still be stressful. For one, it not only screws up your entire daily routine but also inconveniences other people. I remember one homeowner tearing up talking about staying at their in-laws during their renovation, and her daughter couldn’t play or dance for months because of boxes everywhere.

Even years after the job was done, the family was still recovering emotionally.

Changes to construction schedules and emergency repairs are another set of unexpected issues you could face. Anyone renovating their home should know that this can happen. You need a

Plan B in case it does. What things can you live without if you need to pull money for an unexpected repair? Are you willing to compromise on the finishes so you can stay within your budget, or will you go over it? If you do, what does that mean for you and your partner?

A successful renovation starts with plenty of planning, which takes time to do right — sometimes it can take months! But even all the planning in the world can’t prepare you for the unexpected. When that happens, communication is key, with your partner and your contractor.

Watch Mike Holmes and his son, Mike Jr., on Holmes and Holmes Thursdays at 10 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit makeitright.ca.

Source: Mike Holmes, Special to National Post | November 26, 2016 

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Mike Holmes: Asbestos is like a sleeping monster best left undisturbed lest danger ensues

Many building materials, including some drywall compounds, can contain asbestos, which is why it's important for all crews working on older homes to wear protective safety gear, including respirators.

Mike Holmes: Asbestos is like a sleeping monster best left undisturbed lest danger ensues | National Post

The National Day of Mourning is on April 28 — that’s a time to remember those people who have been affected by workplace injuries or death. It serves as a reminder for all of us to make sure we have the right processes and systems in our workplace to prevent illnesses, injuries and even deaths.

Some of the biggest threats on the job site are the ones you can’t see, such as asbestos.

What makes asbestos so dangerous is its fibres.

Asbestos is a generic term that refers to a number of different mineral fibres. Because of their strength, durability and resistance to fire, these fibres were used widely in building materials and added to residential construction products.

It wasn’t until the late 1970s when it became known that asbestos posed a serious health risk, and since then it has been banned from building materials. It was used in vermiculite insulation, insulation around pipes and water tanks, roofing compounds, shingles, sealants, caulking, adhesives, vinyl tiles, drywall compounds, even some electrical parts.

When asbestos fibres are disturbed, they are released into the air, and if they’re inhaled they can get trapped in the lungs and cause serious health issues, including cancer.

Canada has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma, which is a type of cancer caused by asbestos.

Although asbestos isn’t currently used in construction materials, there are many older homes that still contain it. Any home built before 1980 should be professionally checked for asbestos, especially if a renovation or home improvement is planned. (Getting these materials properly removed by a professional company through remediation can drive up the cost of your reno.)

Canada has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma, which is a type of cancer caused by asbestos.

Professionals can take samples from suspect materials, such as walls, ceilings, vinyl floor tiles, siding, insulation and roofing materials. These samples are then sent to a laboratory for analysis. If the presence of asbestos is confirmed in any of the samples, don’t disturb the materials —­ whether by sanding, cutting, sawing or removing it; leave it to the professionals.

Some people might panic and start ripping out the material and products themselves, but that is not at all advisable. Disturbing asbestos and materials that contain asbestos is what makes it dangerous. That’s why contractors and their crews should always wear protective clothing and gear, especially during demolition. You never know what might be found, and what might be a hazard.

If a material that contains asbestos is in good condition, it might not need to be removed; however, it’s important to monitor it for signs of deterioration, because as soon as any fibres get loose, issues can start to arise.

There are some temporary fixes to prevent asbestos-containing materials from getting damaged and fibres getting loose, but they should only be done a professional contractor. Dealing with asbestos-containing material is never DIY.

Whenever hiring a pro to work on your home, always make sure they’re qualified to do the job right, which includes taking the proper safety precautions and knowing how to deal with potentially hazardous materials, like asbestos, the right way.

Ask what type of safety gear they normally use during demolitions, and the course of action they would take if they suspect any material contains asbestos. A contractor who doesn’t make the health and safety of their own crew a priority will likely not care about yours either, so do your homework. Ask if they have a professional asbestos abatement company that they normally work with. Who are they and what are their credentials? What’s their track record? Your contractor should be able to talk to you, not just about doing the job right but also about proper cleanup and safe disposal of materials.

Asbestos in homes and on the job site is a health risk. Too many contractors have years taken off their lives because they didn’t protect themselves with the right safety gear, such as gloves, safety glasses and of course respirators. Doing a job right means doing it safe. It protects homeowners and pros, too.

Source: National Post. Watch Mike Holmes in his series, Holmes Makes It Right, on HGTV. For more information, visit makeitright.ca.

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A DIY home renovation is rarely easy, fast or cheap

(Alessandro Rizzolli/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

“If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design,” Ralf Speth quipped recently.

The CEO of Jaguar Land Rover was talking cars, but even so, I wish I’d heard this before my renovation. We designed closets too shallow to fit my size-9 shoes, and shelves spaced so far apart you could sit on them. When the doors were installed, they opened against the light switches. All the radiators were hung in the wrong places, and we neglected to put one in the bathroom.

These are perhaps trivial annoyances in the grand scheme of things. But in the scheme of my mind, they take up far too much space. Besides which, righting the wrongs of the past isn’t cheap. My inability to spot these pitfalls ahead of time would have made me the ideal candidate for an interior designer. Seeing them in hindsight makes me the ideal candidate for an ulcer.

Thousands of homeowners plunge into renos without knowing the first thing about electrical currents, wood flooring or picking paint colours that won’t make them look jaundiced. We think we do: We watch Rehab Addict and buy Elle Decor. Then we splash out on an Italian sofa only to realize the fabric gives us a migraine. The property-porn industry has created a generation of cocksure DIY home decorators, and only an interior designer can properly smack some sense into them.

Whether it’s thanks to a real estate market that makes it prohibitively expensive to move, or the so-called “HGTV effect,” renovation spending is on the rise. The Home Improvement Research Institute says sales of home-improvement products are increasing more than five per cent year on year. The industry was worth a record $63.4-billion in 2013, or 3.7 per cent of total Canadian gross domestic product, according to real estate consultants Altus Group.

It’s never been so easy not to hire a pro before embarking on a reno.

“We didn’t hire a professional, but in hindsight we should have,” says Isabel Blunden, a London editor who spent nearly a year remodelling her home before the arrival of her first child. She would visit the site twice daily while the renos were in progress.

“It’s easy to feel like you’re capable of knowing what’s best for your space. But I now realize that having someone’s guidance could have actually saved us money, and certainly stress. Even a task as simple as choosing a wood floor was virtually impossible to get done.”

Blunden had an electrician install a five-amp circuit so she could control all her lights with one switch. Yet in the end, only one of the existing lights were compatible. Because she underestimated the amount of built-in storage she’d need, she now has freestanding units in most rooms.

“The builders turn to you and say, ‘We need to know where this is going – now,’” Blunden says. “I really believe having someone here would have helped.”

With an expensive renovation on the horizon, the idea of spending 10 to 15 per cent of your budget on hiring an employee might seem impractical, but factor in the cost of a mistake and it’s a wonder more people don’t use designers.

Ada Bonini, a principal at Vancouver design practice Bob’s Your Uncle, says she’s heard of DIYers spending thousands on sofas that were too big, or walnut floors that are scratched beyond recognition by their dogs.

“A good designer knows about spatial arrangement and proper scale, what materials are appropriate,” Bonini says.

“If you like walnut but can’t cope with walnut, there are options available.” She says she’s sourced area rugs that can be cleaned and designed storage at various heights that families can grow into over time, as well as wider doorways that can accommodate wheelchairs.

“It’s not just about the kids growing up,” she says, “it’s about aging in place.”

Then there’s the cost of not doing anything. “People say they don’t want to invest because they’re planning to move in five years,” Bonini says, “but the buyer is paying for those investments – so you’re actually investing for a lifetime.”

According to the Appraisal Institute of Canada, bathroom and kitchen renos provide a return on investment of about 75 to 100 per cent, while exterior or interior painting provides a return of 50 to 100 per cent. And that’s after you benefit from the renovation yourself.

Working with a designer can truly pay off when it comes to their industry discounts. “Typically our discount is 20 to 50 per cent,” Bonini says.

Even factoring in the 15-per-cent purchasing fee she charges for each buy, and her flat fee (which varies by the project), clients get a net saving.

Bonini says the biggest savings generally go to the biggest spenders, but there are cost-effective options at the lower end, too.

New Yorker Will Nathan launched design service Homepolish two years ago after discovering no professional would stoop to take on his $25,000 project.

He eventually found the natty designer Noa Santos, who whitewashed his apartment, added loads of lighting and eventually joined the partnership.

They now charge $100 to $130 an hour for interior design and $50 to $80 for a home consultation.

“We democratize design by making it simple without adding hidden costs,” says Homepolish’s L.A.-based creative director Orlando Soria, whose urbane, exuberant chic has come to epitomize the company’s MO.

“We’ve devised all sorts of efficiency systems on the back end that help our designers concentrate on design.”

When Soria joined Homepolish shortly after its launch, he was one of the only designers on staff. Today there are 200 working in cities across the United States. Canada is a logical next step for the company, but, Soria says,

“We’re incredibly selective with the designers we take, so finding them is a long process.”

The service makes it feasible even for renters to get a leg up, and Soria believes the cost is justified.

“It’s annoying to spend what it takes. But the upside is getting a new space. Your space is valuable and it’s logical to spend money perfecting it. This is your life.”

DIY decorating is plagued with costly endeavours disguised as savings. “I’m always surprised at how little people value their own time,” Bonini says.

“People take hours second-guessing, finding a contractor, learning building codes, shopping for tile. These things can take a homeowner 10 times longer than a designer,”

Here’s another place a neutral party can come in handy. “I’ve seen some marriages tested during the renovation process,” Bonini says.

“It helps having a ‘go to’ to assist in decision making. It takes the pressure off of your tasks.”

But, like they say, when you own a home there’s always something that needs doing. “[Having a designer] might have meant we could talk about something other than the house for 12 months,” Blunden says.

“Now we talk about how we’re going to redo it for the baby.”

How to hire the right designer

Start by flipping through your favourite design magazines for projects that stand out. Visit stores where you might source some of your furnishings – whether it’s IKEA, Restoration Hardware or Ralph Lauren – and ask for a recommendation.

The website Houzz.com is an excellent resource for finding designers. Just plug your city into its search engine and you’ll get an extensive list you can filter by specific need. You’ll also find images to go along with each entry.

Hiring a designer will pay off most if you’re tackling a full home reno, an addition or a new home interior. That way you’ll benefit from your designer’s discounts across all your floors, surfaces and furnishings. Volume, volume, volume.

If you want a designer who is accessible and can move fast, choose a business with resources. You’ll want a team of more than one or two, so you’ll get the attention you’re looking for.

Interview several designers, asking for their portfolio and references. They should be comfortable talking money and time right away.

Speaking of which: Ask up front what you’re paying for. Agree on the payment structure, the schedule of meetings and discounts. Be clear if you want to see invoices for every purchase and specify this in a written agreement.

A designer should listen to your concerns, your vision and your taste and shouldn’t condescend. But don’t be put off by a bit of direction. A designer should rein you in, protect you from poor decision making and manage expectations.

Make sure your designer will work through the end of the project – you’ll want to follow up with a snag list of outstanding tasks and questions about maintenance.

Source: ELLEN HIMELFARB Special to The Globe and Mail Published Wednesday, Feb. 04, 2015

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Renovation stress builds a range of emotions, from happiness to the desire to divorce: survey

As many have said, renovations can be a lot like giving birth: They’re painful, they make you want to scream, and cause you to ask yourself why you’re bearing the brunt of all the work. And yet, you love the result and often end up repeating the whole thing.

Houzz.com’s Remodeling & Relationships Survey of Canadian users, conducted online this past December and January, found a number of issues that caused pain, including the fact that:

  • 18% made a significant design decision without telling their partner
  • 8% snuck away to catch a break
  • 9% neglected to mention the price of something.

Those are the little white lies of the fixer-upper set, but in a number of cases, things got even worse:

  • 5% admitted to secretly throwing out something of their partner’s. That little bit of nastiness might happen when you refuse to compromise on your own tastes, as was the case with 17% of respondents.
  • While 63% said they did compromise, 6% threw up their hands and let their partner’s will prevail. That’s an unfortunate way to spend the following long years, staring at a design feature you abhor.

That failure to stand up for themselves might have been a result of poor communication (31%) throughout the project. This may have resulted in the stats that show

  • 33% could not agree on products or finishes specifically
  • or 30% on style and design generally
  • 32% of respondents felt they took on more work than their partner — already a source of tension in real life, let alone in reno life.

So, your partner buys something and doesn’t tell you (or lies about its price); says they really, really have to go to the office on Sunday; “accidentally” breaks that stained-glass window you wanted installed; and hates your choice of backsplash. It’s no wonder the survey showed

  • 40% found the time remodelling with their partner frustrating
  • 25% found it difficult,
  • 9% found it painful.

All those design decisions, looming deadlines and financial stress do take their toll. During the process, the worst experiences caused

  • 9% of respondents to think they needed couples counselling
  • 6% to ask “How did I end up with this person?” and
  • 3% to consider a breakup or divorce.

However, 63% thought they made a great couple on the job, and once the labour pains were over, 97% said it was all worth it. The results included:

  • 70% reported feeling more comfortable in their home thanks to the project
  • 66% felt happier
  • 60% felt more organized
  • 50% relax at home more often
  • 45% entertain more frequently
  • 36% do more cooking and dining at home
  • 28% spend more time together at home.

What did they learn from it? It goes back to communication and compromise.

  • 46% said compromise is the key to both the relationship and the remodel
  • 34% said it was agreeing on what you both want before you start the project
  • 30% said it was making a realistic budget (and of course sticking to it; note that secret purchase in the first point, above).

Source: National Post – Shari Kulha | February 5, 2016

 

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