Text by Nancy Johnston

We’ve all the heard stories about renovation projects that soared out of control and ended up either costing triple the amount of the original estimate or the whole thing stalled mid project when the homeowner ran out of funds for materials. The good news is it doesn’t have to happen to you. Protect your renovation project from turning into a financial nightmare by becoming a knowledgeable customer.

Keeping project costs from going ‘through the roof’ can be as easy as making a realistic budget and then doing your part to make sure costs stay within that limit. Depending on how complex the job is you might need to hire an architect to be in charge of the project. Less expensive alternatives might be a one time consultation or hiring a contractor with an in-house design service. Not hiring an architect can save you up to 10% of your renovation budget.

Unless you have a simple project you’ll need a general contractor to oversee the project. Find one that works with qualified, licensed trade’s people. Hire someone only after thoroughly checking him or her out by calling work and peer references, such as independent contractors or building material suppliers. View past work they’ve completed if possible and check consumer protection agencies like the Better Business Bureau. Make sure you have a meeting of the minds with the people you hire as this will save you time and money in the long run when you have the job done right the first time.

In addition get every detail of the job and things agreed upon in initial discussions in writing. If the contractor provides a warranty, make sure to find out what kind, for how long and what it covers. Get project start and completion dates in writing and negotiate a payment schedule that progresses as work is completed so you can ensure deadlines are being met.

As well, any small concessions you can make can add up to substantial savings. Some examples of this are avoiding recessed lighting and using wall or ceiling mounted lights or refacing existing kitchen cabinets instead of buying new ones. Visit hardware and appliance stores so you know in advance what you want and what it will cost. Stick with the choices you make after making sure you can live with them. The fewer changes that need to be made midstream the better as they cause delays and lost time.

Accommodate the workers by allowing them unencumbered access to do the work and making sure not to impede their progress. This means sticking meeting with the agreed upon payment schedule and making sure you have the funds available to pay for things when needed. To avoid running short of money mid project, add a 25% cushion to the agreed upon estimate to cover any surprises that might crop up.

Renovating can only add beauty and value to your home so do your part and then relax and let the professionals transform your vision into reality. Go ahead. You really can renovate without reservation!

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Canadian Home Trends magazine gives you a personal tour of the most stunning homes and condos across Canada. You'll be inspired by a selection of accessible home décor products, trend reports, simple yet stylish DIY projects, and much more. In each issue, you are given the tools to recreate designer spaces you've always dreamt of having at home, in-depth renovation and design advice, colour palette and furniture pairings, and Canada's best places to shop.

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