Put some smart money on in­vis­i­ble renos

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - MIKE HOLMES

CHANCES are, un­less you bought di­rectly from the builder, your house may have had mul­ti­ple own­ers al­ready. And let’s face it — you are not go­ing to be its last owner. Your home is go­ing to out­last you — and you should do ev­ery­thing you can to make sure it does.

If you build or ren­o­vate keep­ing that idea in mind, you are go­ing to make bet­ter choices about ma­te­ri­als you use, and bet­ter de­ci­sions about what’s a pri­or­ity. Bet­ter ma­te­ri­als means it will last longer — and that’s less waste go­ing to a land­fill. Bet­ter pri­or­i­ties mean you’ll spend money on what lasts, in­stead of what’s a pass­ing trend.

In 100 years from now, you don’t want some fu­ture owner say­ing, ‘Way back in 2010 they up­graded the in­te­rior de­sign, but the wiring and plumb­ing is still from the 19th cen­tury.’ (That’s if it hasn’t burned to the ground be­cause of that old wiring.)

Think of it this way: Even though you own your home, you are re­ally just tak­ing care of it for the next 30 to 40 years, un­til the next ‘care­taker’ takes over. The idea is to pass the house in the same con­di­tion — or bet­ter — than when you signed the deed.

I like the term ‘care­taker’ be­cause that’s what a house re­ally needs so it will last for cen­turies — an owner who main­tains the house and who car­ries out long-term up­grades that add to the house’s over-all health.

Up­grades like on the main sys­tems in a home — the plumb­ing, the HVAC, the wiring, the in­su­la­tion. And by ‘longterm’ I mean longer than your cur­rent stay as ‘care­taker’.

Some peo­ple say, Why bother? Let the next owner deal with it. And they over­look these up­grades in favour of strictly cos­metic fixes. Let’s face it — the up­grades I rec­om­mend aren’t what seems to sell a home in the real es­tate mar­ket. A lot of buy­ers are still look­ing at the trendy sur­faces — a big mis­take that usu­ally ends up cost­ing a lot.

I’m all for keep­ing your home’s in­te­rior in cur­rent fashion, if that’s im­por­tant to you. But if you are go­ing to give an area of your home a facelift, this is ex­actly the best time to cost-ef­fec­tively get at all the old plumb­ing and wiring be­hind that area you plan on spruc­ing up. Up­dat­ing these old hid­den sys­tems be­fore there is a prob­lem is also called ‘Spend­ing Smart Money.’

Here’s an ex­am­ple of smart money in ac­tion — in a ren­o­va­tion of an up­per floor of a 1890s era town home. The lath and plas­ter walls and ceil­ing were cracked and af­ter 100 years of patch­ing and un­told lay­ers of paint, the ‘cur­rent care­taker’ has de­cided to tear it all out and re­place it with new dry­wall. The smart money, in this case, is to also up­grade the in­su­la­tion in the walls when they are open. The in­su­la­tion ma­te­rial of a cen­tury ago was just news­pa­per stuffed in the wall cav­i­ties — if that. Smart money takes the op­por­tu­nity and makes those long-last­ing im­prove­ments that are not im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous but add so much to the over­all con­di­tion of the struc­ture as well as other ben­e­fits, such as im­proved en­ergy ef­fi­ciency.

You have to an­tic­i­pate. If you know you have a 120-year-old house, think about what else could be over­due for an up­grade — be­yond im­prov­ing the sur­faces. Ded­i­cate 20 to 30 per cent of your al­lot­ted bud­get for an­tic­i­pated up­grades still to-be-de­ter­mined. I’ll bet the town­home in the above ex­am­ple might also still have some knob and tube wiring in the walls — there’d be no bet­ter time to re­move that po­ten­tial fire safety is­sue. The key is to have some bud­get set aside for these an­tic­i­pated up­grades. Then, if you are lucky and dis­cover a pre­vi­ous owner has al­ready up­dated the wiring, you have ex­tra bud­get for the in­te­rior de­sign part of the reno.

Let’s say you have a 1900s era home and you want to ren­o­vate the bath­room. It prob­a­bly has lead sewage pipes — which are typ­i­cal for the time pe­riod. Re­plac­ing these old pipes is money well spent. They may be still func­tion­ing to­day, but a cen­tury of cor­ro­sion means their time is al­most up. In fact, you’d be crazy not to — a bro­ken sewage pipe is not a pretty sight.

But it may be fair to as­sume this is the third or forth bath­room ren­o­va­tion on this house — since that’s one of the first rooms to be re­done in a house. The lead pipes might have been re­moved by a pre­vi­ous owner — that would be nice. But when you plan your ren­o­va­tion you should still an­tic­i­pate that pre­vi­ous own­ers were just concerned with mod­ern­iz­ing the fix­tures and tiles, and not the waste lines in their plumb­ing.

The trou­ble with spend­ing smart money is that you never re­ally know if it was worth it, in the end, be­cause it will out­last you. But if you don’t spend it, and that old pipe fails, then your newly ren­o­vated bath­room has to be torn out to ac­cess that cor­roded pipe. That’s when you be­gin to un­der­stand why it’s called ‘smart money.’

— Canwest News Ser­vice

Update your home’s wiring dur­ing a facelift ren­o­va­tion is spend­ing smart money.

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