What to consider before starting a home renovation

Wednesday August 21 2019

Final touches on a renovated house.  Courtesy

Final touches on a renovated house. Courtesy Photos  

By Carolyne B. Atangaza

Every day, we are subjected to suggestions and hints in the media or from friends and family that our homes could be better, look better than they are. It is important that we do not fall prey to this mindset but only make a decision to renovate our homes in response to a genuine need or make improvements that make a difference to you in the day to day living.

Christopher Bigambo, a contractor, reveals that there are different kinds of renovations, which are usually classified according to the amount of work involved.

“The first one is cosmetic renovation, which is the easiest and involves very light work such as repainting walls, re-tiling and doing the landscape.

“The second one is the medium renovation where some bigger issues need to be rectified such as a roof or windows may need to be replaced. The last one is where everything may need to be replaced or fixed,” Bigambo says.

Funding is key
Renovations are a big commitment in terms of time and money thus they should not be taken lightly cautions Wahab Mbabazi, a décor expert, who has done a great number of renovations.

“One of the biggest considerations, therefore before undertaking any form of renovation or repairs, is the budget. How much money is available to fund the project? Are you going to use your savings? Are you going to get a home improvement loan? It is important to know how much you need in relation to how much you have so you know whether to borrow or postpone the renovation until you have saved enough for the project,” Mbabazi tips.


If you intend to make use of money from your savings, it is a good idea to get an independent account where you will deposit the money for the project. To make a realistic budget, you need to do an exhaustive research on what needs to be renovated, labour involved, the cost of the contractor and the cost of the materials to be used.

To be on a safe side, Mbabazi advises that the budget should include extra money to cover unexpected expenses.

“Most renovations have horror stories coming from nasty surprises so expect to find some other hidden things that will need fixing. You might have planned to replace a bathtub only to discover the floor in the bathroom where water leaked through needs fixing too. This will most definitely add to the cost in terms of labour and materials,” he notes.

Get the right contractor
A good contractor will help you make a true assessment of what needs to be done and how much it will cost. Bigambo, a contractor, says getting a good contractor is crucial to the success of the project.

“Ask friends and relatives to recommend a reputable contractor. Ask to see other renovations they have done and if possible talk to their former clients to find out if they can truly deliver what they claim they can. Get a contract that clearly stipulates the amount of work the contractor will do and what it will cost,” Bigambo tips.

The contract should also spell out terms of payments. There is no limit on the amount of the initial deposit or progress payments a contractor may require, except as provided in the construction contract with the owner.

However, a pre-construction deposit or initial payment to the contractor should only cover the costs the contractor is likely to incur before the progress draw payments. In fact, the amount paid to the contractor should always bear a close relationship to the value or percentage of the work completed to the date of each payment.

Plan in detail
Remember the measure multiple times and cut once rule? This is the perfect situation where to apply it.

Before you start your renovations, go through the entire house or the particular area of interest with a fine tooth comb. Look out for everything that needs fixing and add it to the list.

Bigambo recollects several disagreements he has had with clients that stem from adding new jobs along the way and expecting them to be covered by the same payment.

“There are some things that look easily fixable to a lay man but are structurally a nightmare. People want doors, walls in the most impossible places and they remember all this later.

A house under renovation. Before embarking on a
A house under renovation. Before embarking on a renovation project, ensure you get the right contractor.

They want to change stairs without understanding that they impact the rest of the house. They contest sizes of things, colour and shapes earlier agreed upon,” he notes.

To avoid this inconvenience and unpleasantness Bigambo suggests writing everything down in detail and share the copies with your supplier and contractor.

Timing is key
If you are renovating a house, you are already occupying you will need to plan meticulous so as not to get in the way of the workers. You could probably schedule the renovations when the house is mostly empty, for instance when the children go to school and the adults are at work.

Also the season of the year should be a big consideration for instance the best period to renovate roofs is during the dry season to avoid rain and storms that might cause damage to the exposed house.

Manage you expectations
If you are the kind who believes in visualisation, you probably have pictures of your perfect home neatly pasted on a board, however expecting the actual results to look like your visions is expecting too much.

Mbabazi warns that once the work is finished, chances are you might feel a little bit underwhelmed but that should not depress you.

“The fact is perfection takes a little while, and you have the rest of your life to do just that.
Do not feel guilty if you later realise that your kitchen is better off without the new cabinetry or a wall to be a different colour or the furniture clashes with the new style. Give yourself some time to make these adjustments as you settle in. Things might much longer so just manage your expectations,” he advises.

Cost of renovations depends on a number of considerations such as the extent of the damage, the materials to be used, and the current cost of building materials.

As mentioned, there are a variety of reasons people choose to renovate their homes. For some, it is about cosmetic upgrades so they can make their home fit their style and taste.

For others, it is about major improvements that would help with the functionality of the home; maybe knocking down walls to create a more open space, or to help someone with disabilities access all points of the house easier.

A big draw of renovating your home is the impact on home value. Some renovations can improve the home’s value, while others can actually decrease the value.

For example, breaking down walls could be a good thing, but if you are breaking down walls and decreasing the number of bedrooms as a result, that could do more damage than good when it comes to resale.

Even if your home needs a facelift, there are certain projects you should consider first, as they could help increase the home’s value and improve the functionality of the home.

The four biggest improvements you could do is building an addition to the home, especially if it helps increase the number of rooms and still has a good flow from the rest of the house, kitchen remodelling, bathroom remodelling, and then more maintenance related upgrades like plumbing, electric, and energy conservation improvements that make the home more “green.”

Now, if you see yourself selling the home at some point in the future, there are certain improvements that could help with the marketability of the home.

Adapted from atlanticbay.com