Check It Before You Wreck It

Property Brothers’ Drew and Jonathan Scott give us the lowdown on home renovating

Home prices are relentlessly pushing skyward, with more and more Canadians opting to stay put and invest their hard-earned dollars in their current residence as opposed to upgrading to a new home. The less expensive option to renovate has since percolated, sending homeowners to hardware stores to search for ways of improving their space and boosting the value of their homes. With the DIY category exploding, we turned to Drew and Jonathan Scott, TV’s Property Brothers, to find out what the biggest mistakes homeowners are making, and how they can turn disaster into success.

1. Inadequate preparation. The fix may not be quick — in fact, spending more time in advance can save time and money later. As we like to say, “Check before you wreck.” Do as much research as possible to determine exactly what you want and what it should cost. You can learn a lot about design and construction from magazines, websites and home renovation shows like ours. Consider your options beforehand and you’ll avoid costly changes later.

2. DIYing too much (or not enough). Being handy can save you money, but don’t overestimate what you can handle. For most people, it’s better to leave trickier tasks like plumbing, electrical and structural modifications to the experts. It can be a relief to leave everything to your contractor. However, doing some of the work yourself — demolition, say, or painting — can reduce costs and give you hands-on pride in the final result. As you can tell from our shows, we like clients to have some skin in the game!

3. Budget bloopers. Talk to several contractors, verify that they’re licensed and insured, and get estimates from at least three. Keep in mind that the best bid may not be the lowest. And make sure your budget includes a contingency of 10 per cent or more for unexpected problems and changes. The nasty surprises our clients encounter — structural flaws, foundation problems, mould or asbestos in the walls and so on — aren’t just for dramatic effect, they’re what really happens. Also, for everyone’s benefit, get everything in writing — costs, materials, design, schedule
and warranty.

4. Overimproving. Look at typical home prices and features in your area to gauge whether the changes you want to make will pay off when you sell your home. The biggest bang-for-the-buck areas are the kitchen and the bathroom. Yes, these can be big-ticket projects, but bear in mind that smaller changes can have a large impact — for example, giving the kitchen a new tile backsplash and energy-efficient appliances or the bathroom a double-sink vanity and glass shower enclosure. If market values (or your budget) won’t support your ultimate fantasy reno, focus on cost-effective upgrades such as fresh fixtures, lighting, counters, flooring or furniture design to create a more open plan. Of course, it’s worth splurging a bit to get what you want. If you’re planning to stay put for years to come, the home theatre or hot tub you crave will repay you in greater enjoyment.

5. Failing the stress test. When renovating, inconvenience and
anxiety are as common as sawdust. Everyone who lives under your roof should be prepared and know what to expect — for example, putting in new plumbing or wiring may mean shutting off water or power, requiring homeowners to stay somewhere else. Couples should talk through the pros and cons and share decision-making to ease tensions when the inevitable glitches occur. A good contractor will keep the site as neat as possible and manage workflow to minimize delays. To ensure harmony with your neighbours, inform them about the project. It’s better for them to address any complaints to you, not the local authorities. Avoid the usual reno pitfalls, and your results will be worth all the effort and expense.

Follow them @MrDrewScott and @MrSilverScott. Catch new episodes of Property Brothers starting September 29th on W Network.

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Amanda Storey

Amanda Storey