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Home Renovation Ideas: How to Create the House of Your Dreams

Whether you’ve purchased a fixer upper or a flip project, or you’re improving a home you’ve owned for years, executing a successful home renovation means planning. Taking the time to plot out each step, task by task, will keep your home renovation project on time and your budget in line. Not sure where to begin? Find our top five home renovation tips below.

January 4, 2021 in Life

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Home renovation tip #1: Take stock of your home

Figure out what exactly you want to do during your home renovation. This may differ depending on your situation. For example, if you are renovating a home for you and your family, you may want different things than if you are renovating a home to flip or keep as an income property. Ask yourself the following questions:


1. What space(s) do you want to change in your home and why? Do you want to use your home renovation to improve functionality, update dated aesthetics, increase light or add space?


2. How do you use the space now, and how will you want to use it post-renovation? For example, do you want to add accessibility features so you can stay in your home for longer rather than having to move when you get older?


3. Do you want to move walls, add a window or create doorways? Structural home renovation ideas may require an architectural engineer to determine load-bearing walls and other issues.


4. Do you need city permits to complete any part of your home renovation? Look into your city’s bylaws; depending on the rules, you may require special permission to make structural changes.


If you are doing a house renovation as a flip or to use as an income property, you need to think like a seller or landlord. Try not to make emotional decisions; think practically about your home renovation ideas and consider where to save and spend (see tip #5 for more detail).

Home renovation tip #2: Organize your home renovation ideas

Once you have your home renovation plan clear, decide how you want to stay organized. There will be a lot of correspondence from tradespeople and contractors to keep track of — not to mention permits, invoices, bills and design ideas.


If you prefer to print hard copies of everything, keep them in separate file folders. Put everything related to a particular room in its folder so you can see the scope all at once.


Online and social media platforms offer another way to save and group multiple home renovation ideas; use their built-in bookmarking tools to create collections for each space you’re renovating. This is especially helpful when it comes to the design stage.


There are also apps designed for home renovation projects that offer everything from DIY floor plans to virtual decorating to budget and task tracking from start to finish. One benefit of a digital approach is that you can easily share your ideas via links with anyone working on your home renovation.

Home renovation tip #3: Create a master list and workback calendar

Your master list should include everything that needs to be finished before your home renovation is complete. It should be deeply detailed; the more you include on it, the clearer your path to completion will be. Divide lists by room, with subsections for each task and who is responsible.


A workback calendar is a schedule that organizes and assigns deadlines for each task. (It’s called a “workback” calendar because when you make it, you work backwards from the date you want to finish your project.) Everyone involved in your home renovation project should have access to both the master list and the workback calendar, and you will most likely create the workback in tandem with a contractor.


A digital spreadsheet is easily divided into sections you can customize and update as your home renovation progresses. Begin a folder on your computer with subfolders for budget, design ideas, correspondence from tradespeople, invoices and bills. If you’re more analog, a notebook with divided sections and a folder for loose paper is ideal.

Home renovation tip #4: Create and track your budget

The budget will fluctuate; this is a given with any home renovation. When planning your budget, make sure you set aside a contingency fund. Typically, this is about 10 percent of the total reno cost, and it’s a safety net in case any unexpected costs arise.


Your home renovation budget should include all costs — everything from renting tools or machines to labour costs to paint and flooring. A spreadsheet or budget-tracking app is an effective method for keeping your project on track. (This is one place you do not want to rely on writing everything down on pieces of paper.)


Choosing a credit card with membership benefits can help with home renovation costs and even help you budget. For instance, the points you earn with an American Express® Membership Rewards® – eligible Card could be redeemed to pay for almost anything that you charge to your Card1 including travel purchases and merchandise found in our Membership Rewards catalogue2. Or you could choose a card with cash back rewards or no annual fees if that works better for you.


When it comes to creating your budget, be honest about your wants vs. your needs. If this is your dream home renovation, then splurge on what is important to you, whether that’s a luxurious freestanding tub or an extra-wide picture window. If you’re working with a contractor, they will provide you with a budget that you can – and should – discuss with them at length. Understand every line item and why it costs what it does.

Home renovation tip #5: Pick renovations that add to your home’s value

Some homeowners believe that you’ll get the best return on investment with bathroom and kitchen renos. And while that can be true in some cases, there are plenty of other ways to add to your home’s value.


Using certain materials may help boost your home’s resale value. You might consider choosing high-quality flooring (hardwood over laminate), fixtures (top-notch appliances and lighting over basics) and finishing details (stone countertops over laminate, and vinyl windows over plastic.) These upgraded finishes will not only appeal aesthetically to many buyers, they may last longer and perform better against wear and tear.


When it comes to exterior home renovation ideas, landscaping improvements as well as updated roofing and eavestroughs, including the fascia and soffits (the parts tucked just under the roof edge, where your eavestroughs attach), offer a good return. Curb appeal — or how pleasing your home looks from the outside — is important for resale. If you live in an older home with classic details, like stained glass or decorative moulding, keep them! These are the things that give a home character. When it comes to resale, buyers looking for an older home may like to see some of its original charm.


The most important step when starting a home renovation project is to take your time with the preliminaries and not rush into things before you’re ready. Organization and patience are required, so if these aren’t your strong suit, find someone who has them in abundance, whether that means hiring professional help or asking friends and family. The more time you spend settings things up, the smoother your home renovation will go. Finding ways to save money will keep you from spending your contingency fund – and after seeing your reno complete, holding on to that can be the best part.

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