5 things you need to know before tackling a home reno

  1. Set a budget. Then add 20-30% contingency fund on top of your “ideal budget”. That additional contingency fund will definitely be tapped. Because along the way of your reno there will be many more hidden costs, unexpected repairs/upgrades that need to be addressed. Once your contractor starts ripping up walls, floors etc. you’ll be amazed at how long you’ve lived with these hidden problems. In our case an addition to our kitchen  (that the previous owners had done) was never insulated properly, which accounted for that room being a lot colder than the rest of the house in the winter so we had to address that issue.
  2. Find a reliable contractor. Do your research, your due diligence. Interview as many contractors as you can fit into your schedule and time frame. Tap into your social network. Use twitter, IG, Facebook to get feedback or recos. Ask your neighbors, your friends, your in-laws, co-workers if they have worked with the contractor you want to use. I’ve watched too many HGTV renovation disasters and refuse to be a statistic. No matter how well thought out your renovation is in your head, if your contractor is unreliable, un-trustworthy and just your ‘run of the mill’ con artist, no one will suffer the consequences except you and your family. So choose wisely.
  3. Be flexible. This seems like a no-brainer but its wise to set realistic expectations. My dream kitchen was one that included gorgeous, rich, luxurious carrera marble countertops but every stone retailer, even Home Depot and Lowe’s strongly advised against using marble for kitchen countertops. Althouhg I already knew that marble is a porous material not ideal for kitchens, I thought if I took careful measures to ensure that my countertops are impervious to damage I can keep my marble countertop pristine. Truth is, it’s not a practical material to use especially with 3 growing boys. So I had to let go of that image of my dream kitchen and come up with another option. Be flexible, be practical and think of long term. Kitchens and bathrooms are the most expensive renos in a house so chances are, unless you reek of money and you can afford to upgrade and renovate every 3-5 years, realistically you’ll be living with your reno for a good 10 years at least.
  4. Go classic. Choose classic designs that will stand the test of time. This point speaks to tip #3. Since you’ll be living with your reno for a good 10 years or so, choose colors that are not too trendy (in other words, resist the temptation to paint your walls purple, celadon, chartreuse or mustard just because it’s the color of the season or there’s a paint sale at your local paint store). This is also a good tip for re-sale value. If you choose tile, cabinet and countertop colors/materials that are too taste-specific or too theme-y/trendy, know that you are limiting your chances of appealing to a wider pool of potential buyers. Remember, bathrooms and kitchens sell a house!
  5. Research, research, research. Once you’ve set your budget go to a local home improvement company. Get the measurements of the room you’re renovating, take them to the home improvement company’s design specialist and he/she can draw up a computerized lay-out of your kitchen design based on your dimensions. It’s a free service that all home improvement companies offer. After I got the computerized lay-out and a quote for custom cabinets I realized I couldn’t afford to have custom cabinets installed. But at least I now had a printout of my ideal kithcen which made it easier for me to communicate with my contractor. Because I couldn’t afford custom cabinetry I decided to go with the very inexpensive pre-fab cabinets at Home Depot. But going pre-fab doesn’t always mean cheap or inferior quality. Some pre-fab cabinets can even be “customized” by replacing the cabinet face with glass inserts. You can still have a high-end look by choosing classic hardware/ cabinet pulls, a custom sink, a superior quality faucet and use your $$’s to invest in high end appliances instead. When you’re ready to sell your home, your potential buyers will be critical of your appliances  and know that appliances are big ticket investments.  And there you have it. Kitchen renos can cost upwards of $25K for an average sized 10×10 area. But if you use these tips you can easily cut the cost in half. You can do it, because I did! That’s a Mom’s In Charge guarantee!

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