Go With your Gut!

HI folks, just wanted to cover a few aspects of renovation most people are not willing to discuss. A lot of the time our budgets are tight when it comes to renovating! I often come across bathrooms and kitchens in rough shape and the home owner wants to change only one thing but on some occasions it's not that simple. Building is not like other occupations. You have to work with what has been done prior to your arrival. This is often very unsatisfactory if the budget to fix these problems isn't there. I often advise people to wait and save a little more money until they are able to deal with the whole project properly.

  • Do not leave, do not cover it up!

When you cover up problems they only get worse. Wood rots, holes get bigger, and houses shift more. The problems we deal with in older buildings are due to the fact these things were not addressed years ago and has led to bigger problems. I can't tell you how many times I have had to pull out multiple layers of flooring in houses to get to the subfloor and start fresh; how many layers of shingles I have pulled off of rotting roofs. Kicking the can down the road for someone else to deal with is not the solution! If you are going to be a home owner; own your home. Know what's going on, and don't hire anyone that tells you to cover something up that is rotted or mouldy. They are not acting in your best interest.

  • Have a goal in mind, Have a plan.

Often in a renovation process you loose your mind in the details. This happens often in creative ventures and it takes discipline to focus. I often ask people, "what is your goal with this property"? Once you figure that out, you need to Get a plan worked out on paper. Have a professional make a drawing with the location of electrical, plumbing, cabinetry and any important elevation drawings. Having a plan lets you see the individual obstacles blocking you from meeting that goal/plan. Address the Goals in order from the outside of your house to the inside. For example, moving a window before drywalling and insulating. Building is a process and there is an order to that process for a reason.

  • Your obstacle demolition

Often On older properties there are issues/obstacles everywhere. The question is, which ones are causing you from meeting your goal? Let's say you want a bigger kitchen. Is there a wall in your way? Is the ductwork and plumbing in the wrong place? You would never know these were in the wrong place if you didn't have a plan worked out ahead of time. Good thing you did that! This is where the DON'T COVER IT UP principle comes in handy. If you can, gut everything down to structure to ensure there is no rot or mould. Often at this point people have to cover up these things because they can't afford to fix them and address the issues causing the mould. Aside from mould, asbestos and old electrical wiring should be addressed as well. Ensure that the people doing this work are not only licensed, but insured as well.

  • Build it right.

Building materials have come a long way in the past 15 years. Houses are now required to be more air tight than they ever were. This results in increased efficiency and a greater chance for mould and stale air. Often people think of renovating just a portion of their house and not think about how that will effect the rest of the house. Moisture can work its way into wall cavities from a older portion of the house into the newer air tight portion and cause condensation and mould. I do not use traditional 6 mil poly vapour barriers in older homes for this reason. In renovation situations I opt for CertainTeed’s MemBrain. It allows you house to breath and release moisture that might get trapped with other conventional vapour barriers. This I just one of many products available today that allows for better efficiency without the chance of the mould growth in your house. Make sure you the home owner understand what is being put in your house.

Here is a video of CertainTeed's MemBrain product.


  • The true cost of renovation

Often times people go into renovations believing it will be cheaper to renovate than to gut and build new. I giggle inside when I hear this. Renovations are often more expensive than building in a new home. This is because in new builds, nothing needs addressing and everything previously done was done right. In a renovation you need to gut, and often further than you think. You need to repair and update everything before closing it back in. Its literally almost twice the work! And after all that, your house is probably still out of level. So the truth is, be ready to spent 30% more on a renovation than on a new build. Things add up quick. Weigh your options, and get a detailed breakdown of the scope of the job. Get detailed quotes. What materials are being used? what is being pulled out? Will things be addressed properly? How is the cost being allocated? compare apples with apples.

  • Is it worth it.

Sometimes it's not worth renovating unless you can afford to go all the way. If you can't afford to replace a whole washroom, its probably not worth changing out the tub and toilet while leaving the rest. A lot of Realestate investors think of (return on investment) ROI as an end and justification in itself; meaning "If I can't get my money back out, its not worth the investment". Personally I'm not a fan of this mindset. I believe if you own something you should take care of it and leave this world a better place than you found it. Money should not always be the determining factor in weather something is worth fixing or not. Some other factors that are worth considering are, Your neighbours property value, your sense of comfort and pride in what you own, the property your family will inherit, growing family needs. All of these are justifiable reasons for getting into a renovation. so you decide if its worth it weighing all the factors.

Hopefully you found a few pointers in here to consider before renovating your house.

Most times renovating kitchens and baths, I come to the conclusion that a full gut job is necessary and gives the home owner the best bang for their buck. Have a plan drawn out, so all your sub trades are on the same page, literally. Use the right material for the job and know how they are suppose to be installed. Get detailed quotes and know you are comparing similar materials. Finally, assume the job will cost you more than you think in the end, 30% more. If it doesn't come to that, then you will be pleasantly surprised and happy you saved money instead of being upset you when over budget.

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