Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lets Talk Upgrades Budget

Budget is a dirty dirty word, and money talk in general is quite uneasy for me. But I can't discuss our upgrades for the townhouse without bringing up the topic of budget. I mean, choosing is one thing, paying for what you've chosen is quite a different matter altogether.

We consider the townhouse to be our long term home. At this point, unless we win the lottery, this is where we're staying. Choosing a new build where we could actually make floor plan changes was deliberate and gave us the best balance between: (1) not renovating again and (2) getting the renovations/upgrades we wanted.

We all know that renovations are funded by out of pocket money and involve saving, budgeting, and giving up of non-reno related expenses. Upgrades in a new build are rolled into a mortgage. In terms of cash flow, upgrades are a much more reasonable expense. Yes, you get a higher mortgage, and yes you pay interest on your upgrades, but you are able to maintain a lifestyle where you have spare dollars to allocate to kid's activities and travel vs. hardwood floors and counters. Financially we found our previous renovation projects to be a complete and utter drainage of our bank account (isn't it for everyone?), not to mention an insane imposition on our home, free time and sanity (again, all common side effects). For us extensive upgrades seemed like a great opportunity to enjoy more of what we wanted sooner and with higher convenience (!!!).

Right upfront we made the decision to go with a smaller, less expensive property, further away from the city core, that even with tens of thousands of dollars in upgrades would still give us a small mortgage and financial room to play.

I also think that going through a renovation in the past has given us a pretty good idea of what things cost, materials and labour. This way we avoided the usual shock and "no" response to upgrade prices. Upgrades while not cheap by any means, from our experience did not seem too completely out there. Yes, they are expensive, but you get what you pay for and nice things cost money. It is an unfortunate reality of life and that is that.

Going into the upgrades appointments we had a budget in mind, but we also knew that it was something we would be able to stretch. Instead of fixating on the dollars we fixated on how we live, how we use the space and what would benefit us most in the long run. We (and here I mean "I"), considered what would be the right things to do for the house. And we did those things.

In the end, and after much discussion (to the point where I can't stand it any more), we have considered every upgrade, every choice and we are absolutely happy with what we got. I feel the things we passed up were not essential to how we live and the things we did get will improve usability of the home, our level of enjoyment of the home and give us the ability to begin enjoying the home right away.

(I'm still annoyed by our inability to get the builder to smooth the ceilings in the bedrooms, as we will not be doing this once we move in (one for hubby). But it is one of those things that is non essential to how we live and I had to let it go).

How do you feel about upgrades?? Or renovation budgets?? Have you gone over your budget and do you regret it?? What value do you place on convenience?? And what does convenience mean to you (shorter commute vs. nicer home, is MY trade off)?? I would love to hear what you think!

I always go back to THIS post on budgets and cannot agree with it more.

For a breakdown of our upgrades, here's a list. Some things might overlap from previous posts (HERE):

*hardwood throughout the entire house (hardwood on main floor was provided by the builder);
*upgraded all vents to hardwood vents on all floors;
*extended tile in foyer down the hallway to the family room;
*upgraded the underpad on the stairs and carpet on the stairs;
*did not upgrade tile or grout as we were lucky to find basic tile we loved and it worked beautifully with basic grout colour. We also did not stagger any of the floor tile as the tile design is busy enough as it is and did not call for additional interest.
*used the same floor tile throughout the entire home

*upgraded to painted birch cabinets
*upgraded to all self closing drawers and doors
*switched out three cabinets for banks of drawers
*adjusted cabinetry to accommodate an undercounter freezer
*upgraded for a deeper over the fridge cabinet and installed a fridge gable (panel)
*upgraded electrical to add two pendant lights over the island
*upgraded electrical to add a second power outlet on the island
*upgraded counters from builder granite to quartz
*brick pattern basic white subway tile

*basic subway tile was staggered
*quartz counters
*painted birch vanities
*self closing doors on vanities
*removed medicine cabinets
*removed all towel bars and toilet paper holders

*replaced the shower mold with tiled shower walls
*upgraded to frameless pivot shower doors

*removed powder room on the main floor (where the kitchen is)
*took optional powder room and walk in closet in the family room
*oak hardwood floors, 2 1/4 width, no stain
*oak railing and spindles, stained black
*added two extra pot lights in the narrow foyer
*additional shelf/clothing rod in kids' bedroom closets

If you would like pricing for any of this, I would be happy to talk numbers in the comments.


  1. How much was everything?


    I think you made some great choices to really customize the place. Some of my favourite ones are: moving the powder room, the stairs, tiling the master shower (none of that formed plastic crap), removing towel bars etc (because ugh theirs' probably sucks and then you'd be stuck filling the holes etc), and all of the kitchen upgrades. The kitchen upgrades will really make it look custom as opposed to builder basic. Awesome choices!

  2. Really interesting post and I like the measuring stick you've chosen to guide your decisions. Now that we are into year three of renovating (obviously we've been doing it slowly as time and money allows), I often wonder if we should have just built the money into our mortgage and made all the upgrades up front. That said, without this experience I'm sure I would've ended up regretting some of my choices. When this house is done, I'm quite sure we'll take the same approach to our next house as you are with this one - no more renos!


Tell me what you think. I'm all ears and smiles.