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Homeowners can save on renovations with planning and research, say experts

TORONTO — Home renovations can be stressful, but some careful planning and research can at least ease some strain on the pocketbook.

Dennis O’Keeffe says he saves a lot of money by browsing Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, which sells new and used house items including furniture, lights, doors, flooring and kitchen cabinets.

“If it needs a little bit of work it needs a little bit of work, but you save yourself a heck of a lot of money,” he said during one of his recent scavenger hunts for his cottage north of Toronto.

Mixed among used tables, bathroom sinks and wooden wardrobes are brand new leather sofas and large exterior windows donated by corporate partners.

Habitat for Humanity has grown to more than 100 ReStore locations across the country, including 13 in the GTA.

Norm Danniels turned to the ReStore when he was renovating his house.

A crew removed 20 year-old kitchen cabinets, Thermador appliances, bathroom fixtures and vanities from his home that were then donated to the ReStore and he ended up with an $18,000 donation tax credit.

“The thing I liked about ReStore is that things get repurposed and reused so there’s no danger of them ending up in landfill, so they live on and have a second life, which is very appealing,” he said.

“It was great that what was still a perfectly functioning, very well-kept kitchen was going to live on and be in someone else’s home and for that homebuyer they would have got it at a fraction of the cost of what a new one of that calibre would be. So everybody wins.”

Although the stores have been around since the first one opened in Winnipeg in 1991, they’re “kind of a secret,” said Rob Lee, vice-president ReStore operations.

It’s trying to change that by listing some of the main items from each store on its website to ease the shopping experience.

“You don’t have to use all our items but you may be able to factor some of those items into your renovation,” Lee said.

The Habitat for Humanity stores aren’t the only game in town. Thrift shops, garage sales, websites like Kijiji, clearance sales and auctions can also be great sources for discounted new or used materials.

Those looking for unique, quality pieces can turn to salvage stores, says John Parcher, operations manager for BD Salvage and Reconstruction in Hamilton.

Savings can be had on good cast iron tubs, cast iron and porcelain sinks, flooring and doors. However, some pieces are quite expensive, especially unique statement items.

“You can go out and buy $125 hardcore door or a $125 solid wood door, but you’re going to have to put a little work into it,” said Parcher, whose store salvages architectural pieces from homes and offices that date back to the 1880s to 1920s.

“I think we have more of a green story to tell because you’re not creating a new footprint, the footprint was already created when the items were built.”

Parcher advises homeowners to take the time to understand what they’re looking for, shop around and then don’t be in a rush to make a purchase.

“It’s a treasure hunt when you’re doing it.”

According to a CIBC Home Renovations poll last year, only about one-third have a detailed budget and 39 per cent who completed recent renovations were over budget.

The bank said when the poll results were released that millennials budgeted the most, but also overspent the most. Fifty-seven per cent of respondents said they were willing to do the renovations themselves.

The Appraisal Institute of Canada said kitchens offer the highest rate of return, followed by bathrooms, painting, updated decor including lighting and flooring, and decluttering.

Homeowners can save some money by doing some of the work themselves, but Lee warns that people should know their limits to avoid costly mistakes.

And try not to fall in love with the first thing you see during a shopping trip. Lee recalls customers who spent $6,000 on a new bathtub and then saw the same thing at the ReStore for $1,500.

“So they were a little disappointed. They fell in love and they made the commitment instead of shopping around.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2020.

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press

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