kortney wilson

HGTV host Kortney Wilson’s five-step guide to a successful reno

A renovation guide for upgrades, budgets and timelines that has been tested more than 125 times

Having renovated over 125 houses, I thought I had the process of home renovation down. That is until I took on an extensive renovation project in my own home. When the project is very personal, there is more pressure. In fact, as I’ve recently started renovating houses for our latest TV show on HGTV Canada called Making It Home, I’ve felt a similar pressure in making decisions for other people. But whether I am flipping a house for a buyer who is yet to be determined, renovating a house for a specific family or taking on my own personal projects, the steps are the same.

Dreaming and naming

I name all of my projects. Not like, Pam or Elizabeth, more like, Colourful Queen Annie. It helps define the direction so that everything flows from room to room. Start an inspiration board and add pictures, fabric colours, paint swatches and furniture that you love. You will start to see common denominators, and you might be surprised at what you  like. For example, you may love white on white or neutral colours, but everything you post has a bright kitchen island or blue lower cabinets. Don’t limit yourself.

Due diligence

Budgeting can always bring down the party, but what you don’t know may kill the project later. Interview at least three contractors. Get prices, push back. If they are annoyed by the number of questions you have during this process, they may not be a good match. If you have spent time going through every detail of the project only to get back a budget that ignored those finer details, that could be a red flag. Use your instincts and check references. Your kid’s basketball coach’s brother may be amazing, but ask for references and check out the job site.


I hear horror stories all the time from people who have paid in full before the project is done. There are lots of great contractors and tradespeople out there, but there are a lot of shady people too. A great contractor will never require payment in full. They will likely want money in installments that should be laid out and connected to the work done in a contract before you start the project.

Setting goals

I always love to set very realistic goals. Did you hear me, y’all?  Realistic! I have yet to hit a project deadline on time without having to compromise something. It’s the nature of the beast, so go ahead and set a goal with the contractor and the trades. Then extend the timeline to see what it would look like for you. It may feel daunting to consider this, but by understanding the worst-case scenario, you are also preparing for it. Do this with the budget as well. Speak with your realtor to understand at which point you are overinvesting and where you can get a greater return. Knowing what potential buyers are willing to pay in your neighbourhood for the upgrades you are about to invest in will help you make decisions.

Live it up

So the house is done and now you don’t want anyone to touch anything. Set some rules about bringing clutter into the house, but in the end, the house is meant to be lived in. After all, the memories you make by making your house function better will erase any of the hiccups along the way.

Catch Kortney Wilson on her new HGTV Canada show Making It Home with Kortney & Dave on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m.

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