As featured in the April 1st issue of Maclean’s
Text by Bryan Baeumler
Edited by Chris Daniels
Home renovating has become a national pastime for many Canadians. Everywhere you look, someone is talking about renovations to their home, whether at the local hardware store, at dinner parties or on TV.
Even our government is hip to the reno craze with a variety of rebates and incentives to get the masses dancing to the home improvements theme.
In 2011, the federal government reported more than three million Canadians took advantage of the temporary home renovation tax credit in 2009. And in 2011, an estimated 1.7 million homeowner households in 10 major urban centres – or 37% of the households – undertook renovations, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Renovation and Home Purchase Survey. Collectively they spent $20.9 billion on home renos. And when asked about their renovation planned for 2012, 38% indicated that they plan to spend $1,000 or more by year end.
While it’s true that anything is possible, it all comes at a cost. However, if you learn to manage your priorities and your budget as well as your needs and wants – you’ll succeed in creating the renovated space you had always hoped for.
Setting Up the Essentials
A home renovation is a financial commitment that homeowners expect will pay off in terms of their lifestyle and in the resale value of their home. Whether completing a custom home build in an affluent neighbourhood or a small kitchen renovation, budget should be discussed up front.
I often ask clients whether they’ve adequately budgeted for their construction needs. A contingency budget can range anywhere from 7% to 10% for commercial builds, and 15% to 30% for homeowners. Why the discrepancy? Most people cannot visualize the house or room from renderings. Once homeowners physically enter a space, inevitably changes are made that add to the budget.
More often than not, homeowners have allocated their construction budget to home renovation trends that can change as quickly as the seasons.
Advancements in building materials should be prioritized ahead of design trends in paint and lighting fixtures, as an example. New insulation techniques like spray polyurethane foam have an initial financial cost larger than conventional insulation, but can save upwards of 50% on heating and cooling costs each year. Because spray foam combats heat loss and air infiltration, it also eliminates potentially toxic environments in which mold spores and bacteria can grow.
Two of my clients, Emma and Scott Loudon, own a 91-year-old home in Toronto, preserved almost perfectly in its original glory. In my experience, the less structural work and major modifications that have been made to a home of this age, the better. In older homes where bathrooms, basements and additions have been upgraded approximately 30-plus years in the past, we sometimes see structural damage and building techniques that no longer meet current building codes.
Considering Emma and Scott’s youth, financial situation, future plans and the current trend for entertainment-friendly home design, it made most sense to renovate their kitchen which was dark and dated.
For a mid-range kitchen reno, I recommend a budget of about $50,000 to $70,000 and on the higher end between $100,000 and $125,000. If completed properly, kitchen investments ca bring upwards of a 100% return upon the sale of the home. The budget must be properly allocated to all areas of construction including structural, electrical and plumbing requirements.
Emma & Scott’s kitchen
For the average kitchen renovation, the majority of the work should be cosmetic which can relieve some of the financial burden or architectural drawings and permits. As mandated by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, any structural alterations to wall placements or plumbing and electrical upgrades require homeowners to obtain a building permit. This includes new additions, moving or removing walls, new window and door openings as well as fireplace installation. Electrical and plumbing permits may also need to be obtained separately through the municipal building and planning department, as they release the homeowner from some liability arising from the renovation. Also it’s advisable to check with an insurance representative to ensure continuous and adequate coverage, for both during and after the renovation.
Once you have a budget, you need to have a detailed design plan. These plans can be created through programs like AutoCAD. When it comes to planning, a professional designer merits that added expense. Trying to pick off kitchen products without a clear design plan is a recipe for disaster. The rest of the budget can be allocated to things like flooring, cabinets, countertops, hardware and appliances. In the instance of a kitchen, flooring and custom cabinetry should make up the bulk of the overall budget. As a custom home builder, I am a firm believer in spending the most money on the more permanent items as everything above the subfloor and outside the drywall is cosmetic – countertops, hardware and appliances are easily replaced in the future.
Photo courtesy of Sub-Zero Appliances
Spice Up the Space
In 2013, the cohesive blending of traditional and modern elements within the same space remains a hot trend. We are seeing a mix of various finishes and textures that allow for traditional elements to be showcased against modern frameworks.
Still going strong at the forefront of design is the open floor plan with the concept of the “social kitchen,” an ideal layout for home entertaining. At the same time, homeowners are also looking for functionality and convenience, wanting plentiful cabinet storage and built-in appliances.
Roughly 40% to 60% of the total budget should be allocated to cabinetry. In cabinetry design, shelf cabinets are more than adequate for the average home – if trimmed properly with the right doors and hardware they will give the appearance of a custom look for a stock price. Give them expense, I encourage clients to invest ion neutral colours for added longevity. White kitchens are always a favourite choice, and grey cabinetry, a look that became popular in 2012, also continues to be a trendy pick.
Marble – one of the costliest countertop materials at $125 to $250 per square foot – gives a truly luxurious look to a kitchen. Quartz, concrete and stainless steel countertops have grown in popularity – and at $75 to $150 per square foot are a less expensive option compared to their traditional marble and granite counterparts. I prefer to see colour trends used in the decorative cosmetic layer that can easily be replaced at the end of a season.
Appliances remain a subjective splurge for homeowners dependent on lifestyle and family needs. The current trend – dare I say it – is bright and bold coloured appliances. Seen for years in European collections such as the cast-iron range cooker from Swedish company Aga, they are now more readily available in North America. Make an initial financial outlay for trusted and well-respected brands like Wolf and Sub-Zero. If you’re willing to invest $50,000 on appliances then you want to make sure they fit within your long-term vision for the home. One of my favourite appliances on the market right now is the chef-worthy 60” Wolf Gas Range. With rangetop options and a French top, this far convention oven offers a professional-grade experience for the cooking and entertaining enthusiast.
The trend towards vibrant colours in the home does not stop at appliances. From a soft white hue to multi-coloured patchwork effects, homeowners are opening their minds to the possibilities of unconventional hardwood flooring. Other flooring trends such as tiling could also be an interesting addition to the industrial look that is still strong in 2013. An emerging trend I am particularly fold of is wine barrel flooring. Turning old wine barrels into usable pieces of flooring can add warmth and style to a room that is second to none. Dealers of this flooring are rare, however, as wine barrel flooring is considered the ultimate in luxury.
A kitchen should ultimately valance both form and function. As a general rule, I ask clients to choose three items or trends from their wish list that we can incorporate in the design and budget. Finding a balance between their wants and their needs is crucial to renovation success.
Get even more of Bryan’s helpful reno tips.