Sometimes planning your renovation can be a bigger job than the renovation itself. Renovations arenâ€™t an exact science, but that doesnâ€™t mean you can plan them on the fly and have everything work out perfectly.
If you donâ€™t plan and prepare, things can go wrong â€” and fast. I think at this point Iâ€™ve heard every possible story about a renovation gone wrong. Seriously, I should show you my emails sometime.
Here are some of the major ways a renovation can go wrong â€” avoid these mistakes, and youâ€™re on your way to making your project a success.
You donâ€™t have a written contract
The days of a handshake renovation are over. Clear communication is key to planning a smooth renovation. Youâ€™ll want a written contract that outlines everything: your expectations, start and completion dates, consequences of going over the timeline, and should also lay out a guarantee that your contractor will obtain all the necessary permits and insurance to protect them and their team â€” and you, too!
Iâ€™ve seen so many renovations fall apart mid-project because of poor communication between the homeowner and the contractor. Your contract is your lifeline if things start to go poorly. This is why you want to include everything in the contract, including payment schedules (which should always be tied to project milestones â€” not dates). A contract doesnâ€™t just protect you as the homeowner; it protects the contractor, too. Thatâ€™s why the best ones always insist on having one.
You donâ€™t look at your financing options
Look, in a perfect world weâ€™d all have unlimited budgets and the ability to pay for a renovation in full without needing to worry about financing, but thatâ€™s just not realistic. When youâ€™re planning a renovation, one of your first calls should be to your bank to talk about your financing options.
For small projects with few materials and low amounts of labour, you may be able to put it all on a credit card. Iâ€™m talking about projects like painting, or smaller landscape projects. Be careful though, you still want to pay that balance down quickly, considering how high the interest rates on some cards can be.
One option to think about is financing the renovation through your mortgage, resulting in an increased mortgage. Now, if you end up selling this home in the future before repayment, one of two things could happen with your mortgage. In some cases, when you sell your home to buy another, you can transfer the existing mortgage to a new property without incurring extra costs. However, in case you have to break the mortgage when you sell, you could wind up paying more in the long run when you sign a new mortgage.
Another option is to secure a home equity line of credit (HELOC) to finance the renovation, where the home is used as a guarantee that youâ€™ll pay back the money your borrow. HELOCs can be combined with your mortgage or be a stand-alone loan. Talk to your bank; they can help you figure out this process and what makes sense for you.
You donâ€™t have a contingency plan
Unforeseen issues often come up during renovations that homeowners didnâ€™t plan for. I see it all the time: youâ€™ve planned for an amazing open concept kitchen, but when your contractor opens up the walls they notice somethingâ€™s off on the electrical. One call to the electrician later, and you find out you need some rewiring done â€” but uh oh, that wasnâ€™t part of your budget. How can you plan for the unplanned?
When you make your renovation budget, allocate 10 to 20 per cent of it for unplanned work that could come up during construction. The last thing you want is a half-finished renovation because you didnâ€™t leave enough wiggle room in the budget. This also means you shouldnâ€™t have to renegotiate your finances, or apply for further funding.
Living through a renovation is stressful. If you stay at home, youâ€™re dealing with the noise, people coming in and out all day, and the dust! No matter how hard you try, youâ€™ll find construction dust everywhere. It can really test your relationships â€” I call it divorce dust for a reason. When my son renovated, he moved into an RV with his fiancĂ©e. While this isnâ€™t always possible, I highly recommend finding a temporary place to live while your renovation is underway. It could save your sanity AND your relationship.
Watch Mike Holmes in his series, Holmes Makes It Right, on HGTV. For more information, visit makeitright.ca.