Although I'm enormously pleased with how the renovation turned out, I certainly wouldn't say the project was free of mistakes. In fact, there are some small things I might do differently if I had to do it all again (you may spot a couple of those in the photos, in fact).
So how can you avoid renovation missteps before they happen? HGTV has put together a useful collection of the 25 Biggest Renovating Mistakes. It's quite a comprehensive list, but here's a sampling of some of the factors I could relate to:
It can be tempting to want to just tear everything out - including the walls - and start from scratch. But that is where the additional costs can come creeping in. My contractor wisely elected to take a look inside the wall we were going to take down before totally ripping it out. Once we found out that tearing the wall would add challenges and money to the job, we changed the plan and kept the wall.
"I see this time and time again where people just start, and they think they're going to pull a piece of wallpaper off, and by the time the process is over, they've completely gotten themselves into a deep, dark hole that's very difficult to get out of," says Mr. Eric Stromer, host of home reno show Over Your Head.
I measured once, twice, three times and then again before ordering cabinets. My contractor was also meticulous with his measurements, but I could see how things could go quickly off the rails if someone was sloppy or rushed.
When dealing with countertops, always choose a company that will come and do the measuring for you, preferably using a cardboard template. That way, the onus is on them to ensure it fits correctly. That also allows you to take a look at the template and make sure you're getting the shape you want. When you're talking about a slab of stone worth thousands of dollars, you don't want to take any chances.
"People often make the mistake of wanting to be too hip and trendy in their new home by picking the latest, hottest, coolest things," says Ms. Carmen De La Paz of HGTV show Hammer Heads. "What they don't take into consideration is that trendy means that it's short term."
Five years ago I had my heart set on aqua-coloured glass tile for my kitchen backsplash. Sure, it would have looked good for a couple of years, but take it from someone who really loved her royal blue and bright yellow kitchen when she painted it 11 years ago – your taste will change. Unless you've got the extra cash to redo your kitchen, the best thing to do is keep it classic and simple. I think our choices will stand the test of time, but you can be the judge of that.
Hammer Heads carpenter Ms. De La Paz put it this way: "Another mistake that homeowners will often make is not taking into consideration the lighting in their home. The lighting in your home can completely change the colors, the feeling, the ambiance."
In other words, ignore lighting at your peril. When I first planned our new kitchen, I completely forgot about lighting. Our old kitchen had one overhead lamp that cast a lot of shadows. Thanks to our contractor's suggestions, we've got a number of pot lights on a dimmer plus under-cabinet lighting, and the difference is vast.
Now that it's over, I can look back on our renovation experience and think, "It was a piece of cake." But around week three, our kitchen was an utter mess. For readers that wondered why my family and I spent $2,200 to rent a condo instead of sticking it out at home – that place was a dust pit. Moving out was essential for our sanity and our health - drywall dust is not good for anyone.
Your reno might go smooth as molasses, but just in case, it's a good idea to assume it will be dustier, messier and more annoyingly inconvenient than you ever could have imagined.
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Mar. 30, 2011: National Post "Experts best at brokering mortgage"
"The reason more people don't know about mortgage brokers is because the banks are so visible. It's easy to gravitate to them when you have your savings accounts, credit cards and investments there already. Going for the comfort factor could cost you however. 'A broker has access to different lenders including banks, and can shop rates and features. A half percent may not sound like much but that could make a difference of about $20,000 for a $250,000 mortgage amortized over 25 years.'" To read the full article from the National Post click on this link.
April 7, 2011: Globe and Mail "Beware sales pitch behind bank's advice"
"Whatever your bank recommends you buy or do, ask for hard numbers to document any advantage to you. Then, ask to have the same analysis applied to alternative approaches. When you're done talking, go home and do your own research. Be sure the rates your bank is offering for both savings and borrowing are competitive." Read the full article by following this link.
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