Budgeting, saving and investing for a brighter financial future

Five home renovation mistakes to avoid

By Deanne Gage,

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You’ve bookmarked your dream kitchen and bathroom online and saved enough money to turn your renovation plans into reality. Now how do you go about it while keeping your finances intact? Start by avoiding these classic renovation mistakes:

Five home renovation mistakes to avoidMistake 1: Not checking references

Your contractor provided you with a list of references, so he or she must be legit, right? Not necessarily, says Vladeta Jericevic, president and CEO of Modular Home Additions in Toronto. You need to actually call all the references and ask the homeowners about everything from price, to ability to finish on time and customer service, to the quality of the work. “You’re investing a huge amount of money for renovations and it’s not something you should go into lightly,” he says. Jericevic also recommends checking out the renovated houses in person so you can actually see the contractor’s work. The homeowner may not be receptive to an inside tour but you can at least drive by and view the exterior.

If everyone says all the right things and you still feel iffy about the contractor, go with your gut, says Jericevic. He says it’s important that you’re comfortable with and actually like the contractor.

Mistake 2: Not having a detailed contract

Your agreement with your contractor should go further than some figures scrawled on a piece of paper, Jericevic says. “Ideally, your contract will break down all the costs. You’ll know the price of electrical, plumbing, exterior work and so on.” It’s also important to understand what is not included.

Mistake 3: Not having all the permits

Most people know building permits are required for extensive renovations. But they are also required for garages, decks or taking down a wall in your house. As well, you should get your property surveyed if the existing survey isn’t up to date, says Carl Seier, a realtor with Simple Winnipeg Real Estate. He’s seen situations where a homeowner builds a garage without a building permit. When the homeowners go to sell their property and a new survey is done, they realize the garage is too close to the property line. This can cause real animosity with the neighbouring homeowner.

Mistake 4: Not getting insurance

If you’re adding an extension onto your house, you’ll need to up your insurance for two reasons. One, the value of your home will increase and two, if something happens during construction such as a fire, you’ll want to know you’re insured, says Seier. “The cost of the insurance is minimal, but you’ll have to inform your insurer and have builder’s risk insurance added to your home policy,” he adds. Also make sure your contractor has provincial workers’ compensation coverage to protect his or her own workers, says Jericevic. “Otherwise, you could be liable if a worker gets hurt on site.”

Mistake 5: Not budgeting for the little things

You’ve set aside money for the granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and custom cabinets. But have you thought about the cost of smaller items, such as cabinet hardware? That alone is likely more than you think, sometimes as much as $20 per handle or drawer pull. “With cabinet hardware, you could be buying as many as 40 of them,” notes Andrea Tomkins, an Ottawa-based writer who blogs at a peek inside the fishbowl. Tomkins writes about home renovation projects and recently added an extension onto her own house. “It’s easy to see a picture, fall in love with something and say that’s what I want in my kitchen, but you really need to investigate all the costs,” she says.

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