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Renovating your home? Before you even buy your first tile, do these 8 things

Don MacAlister aka HandyMac and Home Improver magazine editor Vivian Warby give some advice to those starting out on a home renovation.

There can be nothing more satisfying than living in a home that you have renovated, that has your stamp on it and is garnished with all the extra bits and pieces you knew would make it beautiful.

However, the process of getting to the end result can be full of challenges. So, before jumping into a home improvement project, it is wise to ask yourself these questions:

1. What are my costs?

How much will this cost, and how much value will this add to my home?

For those answers, you will need to talk to a contractor regarding costs, and an estate agent to find out if it is worthwhile forking out a huge sum of money to upgrade your home if you won’t get it back on resale.

Estate agents will often warn homeowners not to overcapitalise on certain home improvements as they will not recover the money on sale.


Much has to do with the going prices of homes in the area and also whether the renovation is a universal one that enhances a property. For instance a renovated bathroom and kitchen is generally seen as adding value to a property.

In today’s world of Work From Home, an enhanced study may be a better seller than a spare bedroom, and any change that makes your home tech-enabled will be a win. Solar – although expensive – is something more buyers are looking for (even a built-in gas stove will be more enticing than an electric one in these load shedding times)

2. Should I stay or should I go?

During a renovation you will be inconvenienced. There is no way around this.

A renovation is painful during the process of breaking down and building up. You’ll have strangers traipsing around your home, there will be awful dust, the smell of fresh paint and contractors who may not meet deadlines, there will be shouting … and there you are having to live among this.

Consider how you will manage without the facilities in the room being renovated, the time of year and how uncomfortable you may be during construction.

Don’t fret though, as many families – with children and pets – have done this successfully. A mobile gas stove, buckets and bowls for water to wash dishes are some ways to get organised. Grit your teeth and find ways of looking at the situation as taking a vacation in a foreign land (a dusty, treacherous one) and keep your eye on the prize … a beautiful home.

Of course you can always consider moving out during the renovation if you can. If not, plan ahead to ensure the discomfort is minimal.

If you are moving out and renting a spot – be warned however deadlines often shift and your three month away stay may end up a bit longer.

3. Which contractor should I choose?

During the planning, interview many contractors and ask for costs. Check out their communication style. Does it work well with your communication style, or will you find yourself getting irritated by it? If so, maybe this contractor is not for you.

Also ask about insurance (things can and do go wrong) and get as many references as you can. Also find out about guarantees on the job. Most importantly: Ensure all contractors are accredited.

One of the closest relationships you will have during the renovation period is with your contractor, who is likely to throw you a few curve balls. It is a love / hate relationship, be warned.

4. Has my home got original plans?

If you have your home’s original plans, plus plans that include home improvements and additions over the years, offer them to the contractor. This can really simplify the job.

5. And the legal stuff?

Before starting any work that will impact your finances, ensure you have a contract in place.

6. What about billing?

Ask for itemised billing as opposed to a lump sum fee. This way you can keep a handle on how your money is being spent. Expect some curve balls here too.

7. Should I pay upfront?

Never pay in full or upfront. Any contractor who requires this is probably scamming you.

8 What if I want to DIY?

Be realistic about how much you can do yourself and when you need to call in professionals. Many a DIY job has required extra money to sort out what you further broke.

Not in the mood to renovate? Find your dream home here