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Photo: James Bombales

After a long, cold winter, a spring renovation project is a great way to rejuvenate your home. While winter weather can cause delays in material shipments, expose interiors to strong blasts of cold air and is generally unpleasant to work in, spring brings much better working conditions and, in some cases, tax returns that can be used towards your renovation budget. And if you’re thinking about exterior projects, starting in the spring allows damaged grass, shrubs and gardens to recover and regrow once complete.

For advice on planning a home renovation this spring, we turned to craftsman and contractor Jordan Spear. Based in Durham, Ontario, Spear is an experienced home renovator and a featured speaker at the upcoming GTA Home & Reno Show.

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Photo: James Bombales

1. The best projects are not necessarily the sexiest

“Upgrades like electrical and plumbing can improve the safety and efficiency of a home, while incorporating storage space into a reno is always a great investment,” says Spear. “However, structural issues and waterproofing should always be at the top of the list before any other projects get started. There’s no sense in putting in a new bathroom on a crooked floor, or have your new room damaged by a leaking foundation or roof.”

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Homeowners with a limited lot size that make adding onto a home difficult might want to consider finishing their basement. “A large unfinished space is a great open canvas that can be upgraded into another bedroom, office or lounge.”

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Photo: James Bombales

2. Make the most of your outdoor projects by starting in early spring

Upgrades like building a deck or resurfacing an existing one are popular improvement projects in the spring. “Winter weather can be hard on a deck surface, so refinishing in the spring allows you to enjoy the deck all summer long,” says Spear.

You may also want to consider a landscaping project for your front or backyard. “Upgrading the exterior with hardscape materials like stone and interlocking brick creates an instant visual appeal,” says Spear. “Adding shrubs or trees also breaks up the linear lines of the exterior and creates visual interest with texture and color.”

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Photo: James Bombales

3. Get your contractor and materials booked well in advance

All home renovation projects involve multiple stages and lots of time so the earlier you start planning, the more prepared you’ll be.

“It takes time to secure a contractor or project manager, source materials and design spaces which means planning should start months prior,” says Spear. “If a project requires permits, they will have to be submitted and approved before building begins. Building inspectors will also be required to sign off on certain stages of a project before the next stage can begin — which all takes time.”

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Photo: James Bombales

4. Don’t become a home reno horror story

When you put your home into someone else’s hands, you want to make sure they’re reliable and qualified to do the job right. We’ve all heard the horror stories of bad contractors who go MIA, take shortcuts or charge double the original estimate.

“There are a lot of great contractors out there, but there are some that can overcharge you for substandard results,” says Spear. “Be sure to shop around for contractors, ask for references and do your research before signing anything or handing over any money.”

While you’re planning for your renovation project, don’t forget to establish a contingency fund to cover unexpected issues and costs. “Newer homes may have fewer issues but they are not exempt, and older homes are guaranteed to have issues that will set you back or change your course of action, so be prepared and don’t be shocked when they arise.”

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Photo: James Bombales, design by Lisa Canning

5. Consider your project’s return on investment both in monetary return and enjoyment

When talking home renovation, a key factor to keep in mind is its return on investment. Even if you’re not planning on selling your home in the near future, you’ll want to consider how a renovation project may affect your home’s value.

“Kitchen and bathroom renovations always top the list for popular home improvement projects that offer the best ROI,” says Spear. “Also, adding insulation to areas with limited or non-existent insulation is always a good investment since making your home as energy efficient as possible helps keeps more money in your pocket.”

You don’t just have to tear down walls or build an addition to yield big returns. Small upgrades in design and decor can make your home more functional, welcoming and comfortable. It adds to your enjoyment of the space and that’s valuable too.

“Updating plumbing fixtures, light fixtures and even door/cabinet hardware can drastically improve the look of a room,” suggests Spear. “Updating outdated or worn flooring can also have a great return on investment, as it too can drastically improve the look and feel of a room.”

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Photo: James Bombales

6. Limited budgets don’t always mean small-scale reno projects

There are plenty of home renovation projects you can start even if you’re working with a smaller budget. Consider tasks like applying a fresh coat of paint, installing new mouldings, changing a kitchen backsplash, refacing cabinets or upgrading doors, knobs and hardware.

“If you’re willing to tackle it yourself, money saved on hiring the project out can be used to buy nicer finishes and better-quality materials,” says Spear. “Just be sure you’ve done your research, know what you’re doing, and the project doesn’t require a licensed trade to perform.”

You can catch Jordan Spear at the GTA Home & Reno Show from February 15th to 18th at Toronto’s International Centre. For more information visit gtahomeandrenoshow.com.

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