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Feb 5, 2021

7 min. read

Before you start saving and planning for a bathroom, kitchen or basement renovation, you’ll need a clear idea of what’s involved, what to avoid and what to put on your must-do list. Consider this helpful guide essential reading!

A white bathroom with a tub and shelves.

Expert tips to build a budget-friendly bathroom

You’d think renovating your bathroom wouldn’t be such a big deal. However, “the difficulty with bathrooms is they’re small spaces but they need the careful coordination of so many trades—demolition, possibly framing, plumbing, electrical, tiling, carpentry, painting, cabinetry, counters, and so on,” says Virginie Martocq, interior designer and DIY guru. Here’s what you need to know before starting.

1. It always takes longer than you think

For an average four-piece bathroom, allow about two to three months to get your supplies ordered and delivered and for the design to be completed, plus about a month for the work to be done, Martocq says. “Availability of material is another big one. You need all your fixtures picked out and ordered, and ideally your tiles and cabinet, ahead of time,” she adds. Changing your mind after work begins is a no-no, as it can lead to ripping things out and re-plumbing or re-wiring. And if your general contractor doesn’t have the trades lined up to work when they’re needed, expect delays.

2. Go for non-slip tile

Large, smooth tiles may be modern and easier to clean, but you can slip on them more easily. Instead, go for something honed or textured. “A small tile with a lot of grout lines will be more slip-resistant than a big tile. But remember: Grout can be tricky to keep clean and it should be sealed after installation,” Martocq says.

3. Consider bathroom vanities and storage in advance

Mirrors with recessed storage are clever tricks of the trade—manufacturers make shallow options that fit within the depth of a joist. “Nooks are great in showers too,” Martocq says, “and they can be designed with cool and interesting features—think contrasting tile, for example.”

4. Know what’s worth it

Budgets vary from low to extravagant, but there are some things everyone should invest in. “Don’t skimp on anything that goes in the wall behind a tile. A faulty diverter down the road is a nightmare,” Martocq cautions.

5. Research fixtures

Start with the type of fixture you want, then narrow down your aesthetic preferences. “Know what design you’re after and if there are certain functions you want. For example, a single-handle faucet is great in a kids’ bathroom so they don’t have to set the water temperature each time,” she says. Then put some thought into finishes. Antique bronze and matte black are trendy, but if you want longevity, you can’t go wrong with polished nickel or chrome.

6. Get creative with your accessories

The fixtures you choose will often come with coordinating accessories, but Martocq steers clear of coordinating mirrors and lights—they can make a bathroom devoid of personality. Instead, opt for a few pieces that really pop, like vintage towel hooks. Don’t worry if it doesn’t all match, as long as it works with the overall look.

A kitchen with white cabinets and white countertops.

What to know before renovating your kitchen

Now more than ever, you likely spend a ton of time in your kitchen—it’s pretty much your command centre. So when the heart of your home starts feeling outdated and inefficient, it makes sense to invest in a renovation project. No matter how big or small the job, here are some dos and don’ts that will help along the way.

DO: Plan lighting beforehand

You should decide your lighting scheme before the reno starts. If new wiring is needed for your lighting layout, it’s much easier to contract an electrician during the reno phase when the drywall is opened up, so backsplash switches and outlets can be added before the cabinet install and tiling.

DO: Buy appliances first

The size of your appliances will directly impact the measurements of your layout, so you should choose them before finalizing your design. Pay extra attention if you opt for custom cabinets: Some appliances may require customized panels to match cabinetry. And if you don’t buy them first, your fridge, stove or dishwasher could be discountinued or sold out after the pricey panels have been cut and installed.

DON’T: Be frugal when it comes to your faucet

Make it a focal point. With your entire reno budget considered, why skimp on spending an additional $100 or so? That small amount of extra money—in the grand scheme of things—can elevate the look of your entire space.

DO: Upgrade fixtures to maximize organization

Who likes messy, disorganized counters? Do yourself a favour and bump the budget up a bit to include things like hidden-away storage for small appliances that aren’t often used. (We’re looking at you, bread machine.)

DON’T: Get sucked into home-reno fads

It’s easy to fall head over heels for the latest tile and countertop trends. But over-investing in a trendy, big-ticket style could backfire when the look grows tired within 10 years. These items usually aren’t cheap to replace, so err on the conservative side if you know your tastes are likely to change. Instead, have fun with cabinet hardware and paint colours, which are easier (and more cost effective) to change.

DON’T: Toss your old kitchen to the curb

Avoid the urge to swing a sledgehammer. Take some care during the removal process and donate your cabinets to a charitable centre that will reuse them. You usually get a tax receipt and you’ll save stuff from ending up in a landfill.

A living room with white furniture and white walls.

What to expect when renovating the basement

Finishing or redoing your basement is never a small project. Here’s what to expect in terms of timing, cost and insurance when tackling different types of basement projects

What to expect if you’re finishing a basement

How much will it cost? $35 to $45 per square foot. Without a bathroom, it’s on the lower end; with a basic three-piece bathroom, it’s more expensive. And as soon as you start adding upgrades like bedrooms, office space, a kitchenette, bar or fireplace, the price will go up.

Estimated timeline Three to four weeks.

Are permits needed? Sometimes. If the renovation involves plumbing or structural work, you’ll need a permit.

Impact on home insurance. Your premiums could go up after the renovation is complete if the value of your home increases. Always speak to your insurance broker before starting a reno and be sure to use qualified contractors.

What you expect if you’re putting in a basement apartment

How much will it cost? A minimum of $55 per square foot up to $70 or even $80 on the high end. Legal basement apartments must meet many safety-specific building codes—which require a lot of extra materials not needed for personal-use basements. For example, legal basement apartments must be fire-separated and soundproofed from the rest of the residence. The overall cost of materials tends to be more expensive, and the same goes for the labour.

Estimated timeline Six weeks, plus time for inspections. Unlike personal-use basements, which are usually inspected once, basement apartments must be inspected at each stage of the process: framing, insulation, HVAC and plumbing.

Are permits needed? Yes. This type of reno requires a second-dwelling permit, and it must be stamped by an engineer.

Impact on home insurance Notify your insurance provider about your new tenants, as they may impact your premium.

What to expect if you’re waterproofing a basement

How much will it cost? $50 to $70 per linear foot if the contractor is waterproofing your basement from the inside; and 20 to 30 percent more if they’ll be digging around the perimeter of your home to waterproof from the outside.

Estimated timeline Two to four days for interior waterproofing and a week for exterior, depending on the weather.

Are permits needed? Maybe. If there are excavations or structural changes, a permit could be required.

Impact on home insurance Your premiums will stay the same for waterproofing, but they may decrease if you install a backwater valve or sump pump with a battery. Purchasing CAA Water Coverage is a good idea if you need insurance for potential flood losses. Learn more with the CAA water coverage checklist.

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