Home renovations are very big business. According to contractor review website HomeStars, 57% of Canadian homeowners undertook one or two major projects in the past year, with the majority spending between $2,000 and $20,0001. With many of us spending more time at home due to physical distancing measures, some homeowners may be looking to add value to their homes, while others just want a change of scenery. And many of us may be using this period to get a few things done around the house.

“Improving the value and function of your home doesn’t need to be expensive,” says Marco Tesolin, AVP of TD Appraisal Services & Secured Lending in Eastern Canada. “A fresh coat of paint, updating door handles or improving the landscaping of your yard can add thousands to the value of your home, but it can also just help you enjoy your home more and use your space more efficiently.”

Wondering which projects may be worth spending a few extra dollars on and which ones can get by with a bit of elbow grease? Here are some ideas on where to splurge and where to save on your summer projects.

Lighting: Splurge

Good lighting fixtures and design will do wonders for any space. It can create focal points, brighten the room, and can even be a conversation piece.

“A well-selected fixture can add a tonne of impact to a room,” says Jason Hartog, a home and architectural photographer who captures those magazine-perfect homes for décor and reno magazine spreads. “A fixture needs to be large enough to fit the space but not too large that it overpowers. Bulb choice is also important, so be sure the colour of your light is consistent throughout.”

Look at the function of the room and ensure there is lighting for the tasks performed within it. Is there a reading chair? A floor or table lamp should be nearby. Kitchen counter? Ensure there is under-cabinet lighting for meal prep. Think about using lighting to create drama, with unique central fixtures surrounded by understated recessed lighting.

Refinishing: Save

If your furniture, flooring or cabinetry is of a good quality, but the look needs to be updated, refinishing can be easy, inexpensive and an environmentally-conscious choice.

In a kitchen renovation, cabinets can be one of the biggest costs involved. Refacing the existing cabinets and adding updated hardware can be done for a fraction of the cost of buying new. For furniture, chalk paint is an easy way to change colour while avoiding the hard work of stripping and sanding. Consider recovering upholstered pieces if the structure is solid, and floors can breathe new life with sanding and staining.

Sod and grass: Splurge

If you’re spending your isolation time in your backyard, you may enjoy a nice lawn as well. Good sod is easier and much more appealing than trying to revive a weedy or patchy lawn. Some may even consider new artificial grass for a low-maintenance and weed-free yard. Artificial turf can look and feel a lot more realistic today than it did in the past. Done well, a new lawn may instantly improve curb-appeal and provide a finished look. New sod should have very few weeds, and be lush enough to crowd out any that are trying to emerge. Good quality sod should be at least one inch thick, have a uniform bright green colour, and should be slightly moist, indicating that it’s been watered regularly.

Floor tile: Save

If you are looking for porcelain or ceramic tile, prices can vary widely, and an untrained eye may not see the difference. You might consider a basic tile and think about a few accent tiles to add visual interest. Choices, colours, textures and sizes can seem endless when it comes to tile, so shop around some discontinued tiles could come in for pennies a square foot.

“Having lighter colours on the floors helps bounce natural light into a room making the space feel larger,” says Hartog. “Be wary of tile with a high-gloss finish as it tends to show footprints and scratches more easily than those with a matte finish.”

If you are hiring someone to install, this may not be the place to skimp. Badly installed tile can ruin a space.

Energy Efficiency: Splurge

Whether your renovation is for your forever home or a resale, energy efficiency is something to consider investing in. If you are due for a new furnace, appliances, lighting or windows, consider upgrading to the most energy-efficient model and then do the math, including the extra money you’ll spend, and how much you will save over the life of the item. To help offset the cost, look into whether your municipality or utility offers rebates. You may be able to save hundreds of dollars. Beyond the savings, it’s better for the environment. In the long run, your energy savings will pay for itself.

Toilets: Save

Toilets can range in price from $100 into the thousands. But they all serve the same purpose. A toilet in its basic form is a simple invention. Comfort, water pressure and efficiency are important when purchasing a new toilet. Unique flushing mechanisms and fancy features may only cost you time and money down the road if they need repairs, and if you are thinking of selling in the near future, you may not recoup that extra money you spent. Find a model that fits your style and budget, make sure it’s a comfortable height and a good flusher.

Kitchen countertops: Splurge

New countertops can transform a kitchen that looks dated and drab, into one that is picture perfect. There are many options to choose from. A good granite or quartz countertop can increase your home’s value. And while a full kitchen remodel can cost tens of thousands of dollars, splurging on a beautiful and durable countertop can make your kitchen look brand new and high-end for much less.

“Although quartz counter tops are pretty trendy due to their durability and consistency in colour and finish, I love the look of leathered granite or marble surfaces,” says Hartog. “A leathered surface is not shiny like the conventional polished surface so it doesn’t reflect everything. It has subtle texture that brings out the natural characteristics of the stone. It’s a very sophisticated look that is easy to maintain.”

Appliances: Save

Since appliances are something you use every day you want something you can count on. But when it comes to the quality of an appliance, price doesn’t always correspond. You might want to reconsider buying top-of-the-line models full of features you’ll never use and look to buy quality, well-reviewed appliances with good warranties. The stainless-steel option may cost more in any model, and that’s where it may be useful to spend the extra money. Stainless steel is easy-to-clean, looks high-end and versatile enough to fit in with different styles of kitchens.

DENISE O’CONNELL

MONEYTALK LIFE

ILLUSTRATION

DANESH MOHIUDDIN

  1. HomeStars. 2019 Reno Report. https://homestars.com/reno-report-2019/.  Accessed May 13, 2020