Most articles about home improvement focus on the surface, on things you can see. But what you can’t see, could end up costing you big time. While new kitchen cabinets and flooring will make your home look better, if you don’t address problems like old plumbing and electrical, you may be in for a nasty, and costly surprise. Before you take on your next home improvement project, consider these five “behind the scenes” improvements.
1. Replace an Old Roof with a Hail Resistant Roofing
Your roof is the least appreciated part of your home but also one of the most important. Damage to your roof can result in significant water damage in your home costing you thousands and since most homeowners don’t regularly check in their attic, roof leaks typically aren’t discovered until they have already caused damage.
Progressive Insurance writes that most insurers rank coverage on a roof based on replacement cost and likelihood of having a claim. Using this ranking, they suggest that a metal roof is the most appealing option to your insurance company. If you decide on asphalt shingles, choose a shingle rated to for impact resistance. Calgary has bad hailstorms, and they are only going to get worse in the future.
2. Energy Efficiency Quick Wins
Energy efficiency is a slippery slope. The more energy efficient you try to be, the lower your return on investment, and some projects simply aren’t worth the cost. If you are planning on a complete exterior renovation consider improving the energy efficiency of your building envelope, but if not, then tackle these two tasks to make your home more comfortable:
- Top up your attic insulation and make sure the attic ventilation is performing correctly – this has a significant impact on heat loss, reduces your risk of attic moisture problems, and extends the life of your roof. Oh, and it also lowers your heating bills!
- Seal the air leaks around your home – Energy experts have an ongoing argument about which has the most impact on heat loss in your home: insulation or air movement. You should address both, but insulation is often more expensive so try closing in the gaps first including around receptacles and light fixtures, weatherstripping on doors and windows, gaps through the exterior walls of your home, etc.
3. “Low Maintenance” That S#!t!
Ok, so maybe this is not exactly a specific improvement, but it does relate to almost every improvement you can make. The fact is, we are all busy these days and high maintenance just isn’t a part of our vocabulary. So why build it into our homes? With so many choices in finishings both for interior and exterior renovations, you can always find a lower maintenance alternative. And even if it costs slightly more, you will be thankful for all the time and money saved on upkeep. For example, here are some common materials and their low-maintenance alternatives:
|Exterior Wood Trim||Hardboard or Stone|
|Granite Countertops||Quartz Countertops|
|Hardwood Flooring||Wood-look Ceramic or Porcelain Tile|
|Marble Tile||Marble Look Porcelain|
4. Fix the Background
When you are thinking about making your kitchen awesome, also consider the stuff behind it. Once the new backsplash goes in you will be really upset if a problem happens in the wall and you have to rip it out again. It may make your renovation a little more expensive, but you will be happier, and safer in the long run.
Address any structural or building envelope issues you find during demolition. Inspect the plumbing and electrical installation and upgrade where any components are damaged or worn even if they haven’t failed yet. If you are planning on selling your home soon, upgrading the stuff your buyers can’t see will help them feel better about the work they can see. Make sure to take pictures of the roughed in sections before drywall goes up so you have a record of the work done and the locations of components.
5. Make It Maintainable
There’s nothing more frustrating to a service professional than a space too tight to work in. They don’t like having to tell homeowners that a wall has to come down to replace a water heater or that the lovely tile around the jetted tub needs to be removed for access to the pump. No matter what improvements you make to your home, make sure that repairs and upgrades do not require tearing out the finished surfaces. Plan for access panels or choose systems that allow for access and ensure there is enough space to perform maintenance. Some items that need to be accessible and removable are:
|Furnace||Electrical Panel||Valves and Valve Handles|
|Water Heater||Main Supply Lines for Water, Gas, Electrical||Pumps and other mechanical equipment|
|Electrical Junction Boxes||Plumbing Drain Cleanouts, Traps, backwater valves||Shower Diverter Valves|