Five Costly Reno Mistakes To Avoid

I recently wrote about my kitchen renovation for Home Cents, detailing how I managed to keep my budget under $25,000 while still ending up with a functional and beautiful room. There were a lot of comments (thanks for those, by the way) - some people thought I'd paid too much, some thought I'd paid too little. But there did seem to be a consensus that the post demanded some photographic evidence. So, due to popular demand, here are the before and after photos of my kitchen renovation. And please note: I took them myself, so excuse my not-quite-awesome camera skills.


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:

Gutting Everything

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.

Inaccurate Measurements

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.

Going Too Trendy

"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.

Ignoring Lighting

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.

Failure to Anticipate Chaos

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.


Shelley White - Globe and Mail


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Bank On Brokers

In an ever competitive market place where Banks are struggling to maintain and grow their profit margins several articles have been written in the past few weeks in newspapers about mortgage brokers. These articles help to explain the differences, focus on the "expert advice" of mortgage brokers and reinforce why the consumer should "Bank on Brokers."


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.


25 Year Historical Rate Summary

SEPTEMBER 8, 2010: While the Bank of Canada announced another 25 basis point increase to put the key rate to 1% this morning (see www.bankofcanada.ca), Canadians are still enjoying some of the best rates when it comes to mortgage financing. Check out the 25 year historical summary of fixed and variable rates - compliments of one of the lenders we work with - and then call Your Mortgage Store to get an expert opinion on what is the right option for you.

Our Mortgage Agents Have ESP - Exceptional Service Program!

Since the beginning, Donna Mullen & Associates Inc. has been committed to the client's right to 'be educated.' Our Exceptional Service Program (ESP) has proved invaluable in helping homeowners with their real estate financing and earning repeat business and referrals from our broad client base that spans virtually every age group and employment status, including self-employed persons, retirees and new graduates.


"While your credit rating, loan-to-value and debt ratios highly influence the type of mortgage financing and rate you will qualify for, current economic conditions must also be considered. Taking time to assess what each client needs and understand what they want to achieve through home ownership is where Your Mortgage Store excels," says Donna Mullen, local long-term Mortgage Broker and owner of Your Mortgage Store.


Whether you are looking to renew your mortgage, consolidate debt, buy your first home, finance a post-secondary education, build your dream home, renovate your current home or simply want to see how you could benefit from today's historically low interest rates, Your Mortgage Store will help you make an informed decision when it comes to your mortgage financing.


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