Renovation 101

Renovating your home can be a satisfying endeavour when you know how to navigate the many decisions you’ll need to make along the way. Whether you’re investing in a fixer-upper for your family or have a home you plan to re-sell, these tips are helpful for fixers and flippers alike. Here’s how you can renovate your home successfully and save time and money along the way.

Set a realistic renovation plan

Of course, it would be fun to have an Olympic-size swimming pool or to magically transform your home into the “after” montage from a reality-show sequence. But the best renovations are a personal dream come true and a practical fit for your daily lifestyle. If you’re reselling your home, the renovation must align the potential buyer’s vision.

Begin with your key pieces and goals

  • Start with a list of what you’re planning to fix, concerns you have about the home, and any plans you’ve put together. 
  • Identify keywords that clarify your vision, like open space, privacy, modernization, minimalism, welcoming, or practical.
  • Get clear on your reasoning for the renovations. Ask yourself why at every step of the process. Are you improving your home for fundamental reasons like safety or maintenance, or are you looking to enhance your lifestyle to enhance recreation or home aesthetic? A great contractor will want to understand your reasoning for the renovation, and getting a good sense of this is essential to a successful change.

Discuss your vision with a contractor or renovation expert

Once you know what you’re looking for, let a trusted expert help you map out the plan regarding financial expectations, a realistic timeline, and practical planning. Because you’ve established what you want and why before this meeting, you can rely on an expert to help shape your plan. Be open to their expertise and carefully consider options. Perhaps you want a space where the kids can play, and you can’t hear them in the office. This provision could require creating an additional room, but it might also make sense to renovate the garage into a backhouse where you can enjoy a separate office. Ask your contractor if there might be a more affordable solution to make your vision and be clear on why you’re making these changes, and be open to solutions you may not have considered.

Expect surprises

Prepare for unexpected costs and longer timelines

  • Add wiggle room onto any plan you form. If you’re renovating the bathroom, can you pay for repairs if the team discovers black mould under the floorboards from prior flooding? 
  • If you have a historic home and are looking to make upgrades, are there additional costs for replacing old electrical systems or maintaining the integrity of an older home?
  • What will it look like for you if the repairs take double the time you’re expecting? Surprises in the renovation process can delay construction or completion. If you cannot live in the home or sell until the renovations are complete, consider the cost of living elsewhere or postponing a sale.

Choose your dream team

Thoughtfully consider the team you’re hiring, and avoid the temptation to go with a contractor just because they’re cheap. 


  • Word-of-mouth is always a great way to choose a renovation team. Look into reviews and ask friends if they’ve worked with specialists they had a good experience with. Working with someone who comes well-recommended will give you peace of mind and help minimize headaches. 
  • Consider the type of home you have and make sure your contractor understands the nuances of a historical home or your electrical system before committing to a contract. 
  • Look into the specifics of your renovation and consider what specialties might be helpful for the work you’re doing; renovations to a modern home, an industrial space, a historic building, or a home with young children may have a variety of different considerations. 
  • Think of who you want steering the ship if the waves get rocky. 
  • You can also ask contractors for references, and give them a call to ensure that you feel fully confident in the specialists you select.

Look into the future

How long do you plan to live in your home? If you intend to resell the property, what’s your anticipated timeline for putting it on the market? Having a clear timeline can help you establish whether your plan is realistic and makes sense for your future goals. Consider an EnerGuide assessment to improve your home’s energy performance and safety. Once you’ve performed this assessment, you’ll have a clear sense of how much energy your home consumes along with recommended upgrades and money-saving ideas.

Renovation for first-time homebuyers

Now that you’ve purchased your first home, you’re faced with the renovations and repairs that need to happen to fully benefit from all it has to offer. The home inspection you completed before closing is a great tool to use as a starting point for renovations. You may want to have a second inspection with a more in-depth look into any issues the inspector found or get a better sense of what it would take to remedy concerns.  Once you have a detailed inspection in front of you, you can use it to break down each item with costs and a timeline. 

Tips for first-time renovators

  • You don’t need to do it all at once. Start with the room or the most pressing item,  whether that’s a safety concern or a room that you use most regularly. You might renovate the kitchen before tackling your dream renovation for the master bathroom. After you’ve completed renovation on one room, you can use it as an inspiration for the feel, aesthetic, and functionality of the rest of your home.
  • Tackle structural or safety issues first. If you’re unsure where to begin with your list, start with the non-negotiable things. 

Try a temporary fix for aesthetic renovations. If you want to knock down a wall or renovate the basement but your budget doesn’t allow for it yet, explore the wealth of DIY ideas available online. A fresh coat of paint, installing mirrored dressers, or investing in great furniture can be an excellent way to bring new life to a room until you can make the changes you want to complete in the future.

How much will my renovation cost?

Renovations range from full tear-downs to subtle changes that enhance safety or quality of life. Getting a clear sense of your renovation costs is important because it allows you to balance the benefits against the cost you expect. When you renovate wisely, you’re investing in the value of your home and its resale value. Each room in your house has a different payback potential. These rooms and areas of focus have the highest typical payback or value when renovating: bathroom, kitchen, interior painting, exterior painting, roofing repairs, furnace or heating systems, basement renovations, recreation room, fireplace installation, and flooring. 


Although renovation costs vary, here’s a sense of the average renovation costs for each room in your home:

Consider a home improvement loan

Whether you’re financing an extensive home improvement project, renovating a small home, introducing more green energy solutions, consider home improvement loans to help bridge the financial gap between where you are and where you want to be. It’s ideal to pay for renovations in cash or use the money you already have. But, depending on the investments you’re already holding, it may make sense to borrow the money for your renovation.

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