How to Spend Less Money on Renovations: Spend More Time

How to Cap Reno Costs

Vancouver Sun by Patrick Langston

Bitten by the spring home renovation bug? A quick coat of paint won’t break the bank, but bigger renovations can get out of hand, leaving you with a glittering new kitchen but a scary pile of bills as well. Here’s how the pro’s advise keeping renos affordable.

“I never do a job where the client says, ‘Just go ahead and fix it'” says Paul Denys owner of Ottawa’s Denys Builds Designs. “I want the client engaged from the start”. That means you should be researching, planning and budgeting at least some of the project yourself. Want a new bathroom? Spend a day checking out developer’s model homes: Builder’s know exactly how to get the most bang for the buck, and you’ll have a better idea of what could work in your home than by just leafing through home decor magazines.

Shopping for kitchen fixtures? Visit big-box stores but also higher-end plumbing centres and specialty kitchen and bath suppliers. You might discover that $ 69.99 faucet set isn’t really a bargain when you measure price against longetivity, ease of use and simple good looks.

Free on-line renovation guides are available from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

One way to keep renovation costs in line is to dress up a room with accessories instead of splurging on a whole new wardrobe. Flooring, plumbing and cabinetry can be very expensive, so work with what you’ve already got. Deny has given tired kitchens a fresh look by adding an island, a new countertop and other goodies but not touching the cabinets or floor for example.

He adds that a cost-conscious renovator knows tricks such as stealing strips of hardwood from a closet to patch damaged floor elsewhere in the room; less expensive wood can be laid in the closet where it will not be noticed.

Homeowners overspend on renos in two ways, says Ottawa’s Ren Molnar, a former contractor and co-host of the popular national radio talk show Renovations Cross Canada.

Novice do-it-yourselfers typically dream too big, he says. They’ll start off just finishing the basement but soon find themselves awash in a sea of work and debt because they add a bathroom, a granite countertop for the bar and other frills.

When it comes to hiring a contractor, says Molnar, people often fail to put exactly what they want in a contract, or change their mind mid-project – then they’re shocked at the size of the bill “they’ll say, ‘Oh, while you’re here…’ Well hey folks, this truck and my equipment and my time didn’t come as a Christmas present.”

Deny says if you’re renovating an older home, you should expect the unexpected. Not only have building codes changed which may mean parts of your home are no longer up to snuff, but the house may already have endured sloppy renovations. Undoing other’s work can be time-consuming and costly, as can discovering rot and the other depredations of age.

For these and other reasons, the experts suggest allowing for a 10 -15 percent cost overrun on any renovation. And don’t forget the taxman. While your municipal property tax assessment won’t increase if you’re simply upgrading windows or redoing a bathroom, tacking on an addition will likely spike your home’s assessed value and your tax.

Adding insult to injury is the 12 percent HST. Because the HST shifts part of the tax burden from contractor to client, homeowner’s will pay up to 5% more tax on renovation projects under this new HST scheme. That’s up to $ 500.00 more on a $10,000 renovation.