The Century Home Renovation Project

When we bought our home almost four years ago we were lucky enough to move right in and not have to change much at the time. It has good bones, beautiful characteristics and important updates like new plumbing and electrical. But we knew there were two rooms in the that would eventually need updating — the main bathroom and family room addition. The spaces are small. They aren’t very functional and are disjointed from the rest of the house aesthetically. The earliest records we had been able to find for our house dated it back to 1914. So we started thinking, with the house being 100 years old, what better time to renovate?

A couple weeks ago I discovered our house on a City of Hamilton map dated 1898! And now I'm even more excited. I love having a century home. It's our little piece of history in Hamilton. Sadly there are no interior photos prior to the listing when we bought the home, so we don't know what it looked like before. But we do know that some of the most beautiful features are original, like the stained glass windows and bay windows. As we've started thinking about renovations to our home, it's been quite a reality check. I should keep count of how many times I've thought, "It costs how much?!" It's natural to get caught up in the fixtures and finishes. I definitely do this myself! But here are three important considerations that I think are helpful when starting a home renovation.


To help decide what you want your new space to look like, start collecting photos or create an inspiration board. Visit design shows or creep the open houses in your neighbourhood (yep we totally do this!) The inspiration for our addition came out of the Design Brooklyn book. I was intrigued by the glass pavillion addition on this 1874 Fort Greene rowhouse. I quickly realized it was a bit ambitious, (note the price tag!) The inspiration for our bathroom came from a Victorian home for sale two blocks up from us. We loved the look and layout and took photos while we were perusing the home. With this in mind, I created boards on Pinterest, one for each space. You can see them here and here. Adam can pin to these boards too, which makes it more fun. As you gather photos, you will find commonalities in style, layout, fixtures and finishes that you are drawn to. You'll also need to think about layout and your functional needs. When it comes time to meet with potential contractors, you'll have your wishlist ready to help inform your budget, your drawings and estimates.


Before you commit to your renovation project, meet with a financial planner to assess your situation. Everyone's financial plan will be different. The property values in Hamilton, and especially in our neighbourhood have increased significantly. Thank you Torontonians who are moving here! After having our property appraised we learned we have a considerable amount of equity in our home. Our mortgage is also up for renewal, so we can take equity out of the home, refinance our mortgage and lock in at a rate below 3%. We're also maintaining paying off our home according to our original timeline. I'm far from an expert, so I encourage you to explore your options and choose a plan that suits you! The second item I would stress, is to do your research and set a realistic budget for your project. Meet with contractors and get a number of estimates. Give yourself an allowance of 20-30% for the unexpected things you might encounter once work begins. Surprises will happen. The project will likely take longer than planned. It's so important to plan for this!  And finally, come to terms with the fact that your renovation you decide to do may or may not add to your home’s resale value. This is what we trying to determine right now.


It’s important to understand that quality contractors generally aren't available to start work right away. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of your renovation, only to feel disappointment when the contractor you choose can't start the work for six months. Before you get started on your renovations, draw up a timeline with your contractor so you’ll know what to expect. And appreciate the amount of work that goes into your renovation before you actually start construction. Discuss their process and the phases of work that take place before construction begins. 

We are still in the process of interviewing contractors and gathering estimates. If you have worked with an amazing contractor let me know in the comments below! I'll be sharing our reno journey as we go. In the meantime, here is some design inspiration for our bathroom renovation.