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Renovating on a Budget: Part II — Get Down and Dirty

Part one of this series discussed options available for obtaining funding, as well as the need to prepare for any issues that may arise during the renovation process. The following tips focus more on scheduling and additional ways to save time and money while making the most of your renovation.


Scheduling Is Key

When planning your renovation, it is important to schedule the work to be completed at appropriate times. Any loud or extensive work should be completed during the day, so as to avoid disturbing sleeping neighbours. Be sure to notify them ahead of time as well so that they can prepare for the upcoming renovation and notify you of any issues that may arise from the project. For instance, if you are moving furniture on a specific day, it may conflict with an elderly neighbour’s ability to leave for an appointment if the elevator is blocked off.

That brings me to the second point. If you are living in a high-rise condo, access may be a major issue. You will need access from your vehicle (or the delivery truck) to the building and onward to the elevators, as well as from the elevators to your unit. You will need to schedule deliveries for a time that is convenient for you as well as your neighbours. Scheduling deliveries and removals for later hours (but not too late) will allow you to avoid crowded hallways and ensure access to the elevators without disturbing neighbours.



Get Down and Dirty with the Reno

A huge money- and time-saver is the option of doing most, if not all, of the work yourself. If you are handy, then you will find it much easier to complete the project yourself. However, almost anyone can complete the majority of the work themselves. Things that may not be feasible are plumbing and electrical renovations. If you are not skilled in these areas, then you will save yourself a huge hassle (and a lot of money that would likely be spent fixing mistakes) by contracting out the work. However, the rest of the work can typically be done yourself.

Pitch in with the demolition and help dispose of the debris. Help with recycling and general cleanup to prepare for incoming appliances, cabinets, etc. This alone can save approximately five per cent of your overall renovation costs. It will also save a great deal of time, as you will not need to wait for a cleanup crew to come in and get rid of it.

Your current appliances can be removed and either recycled or sold for funds to go toward the appliances you really want. Additionally, you can check with your local provider for any appliance rebate programs in your area. If they are not available and you are unable to sell them, then list them for free so as to eliminate removal costs.

If you are removing walls or you have a particularly bright space, then you can reduce costs by installing under-cabinet lighting where needed versus more expensive overhead fixtures. If you are creating an open-concept floorplan, then you will likely need to replace the flooring with a single floor covering. While custom floors are certainly appealing, buying in-stock flooring will save both time and money. Only opt for the custom floors if they are a major preference and are budget-friendly.

Additionally, any contractors and assistants should be hired with the knowledge of your property manage and condo board, as there may be strata rules, city bylaws, and limitations with structures such as common walls, supporting walls, and windows. While contractors are beneficial in delegating any work you cannot complete, doing the bulk of the work yourself is very rewarding in more ways than one. While it goes a long way to save time and money, an added bonus of doing the work as a couple (or family) is that it creates a strong bond as you work together to create the ideal home.


Renovating with Disabilities

While it can be extremely rewarding and cost-effective to do the majority of repairs and renovations yourself, it is not always feasible. If you are disabled, for instance, then you may be unable to complete most tasks, which means that you will have to contract out the work. However, this does not mean that you will be stuck paying much higher rates.

On the contrary, you may qualify for additional assistanceto help fund improvements necessary to make living with a disability easier so that you can continue to live independently. Some of these include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Fully accessible bathroom
    • Shower with built-in seat
    • Open-concept layout for wheelchair accessibility
  • Smart home technology:
    • Remote access to turn off all lights, appliances, and electronics
    • Thermostat controls installed within reach
    • Installation of necessary custom lighting
  • Accessible doorways and appliances
  • Accessible kitchens
    • Shallow-basined sinks with hose faucets
    • Insulated pipes below the sink
    • Installation of drawers for cleaning supplies near the sink
  • Disability-friendly flooring
  • Pet-friendly renovations for your therapy dog or other support animal
  • Rerouted plumbing if needed
    • Raise sinks for better access (so the wheelchair can fit underneath)
    • Higher toilet seats for maneuverability between toilet and wheelchair


Disability-oriented renovations are not only necessary for seniors and wheelchair-bound people either. For instance, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and a variety of chronic illnesses such as autoimmune diseases may all require specific improvements and upgrades that make daily life less of a struggle. If you struggle with a disability, discuss your options with your financial advisor and see if you qualify for additional assistance to help pay for medically necessary renovations.


Auberge on the Park-Tridel


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