HGTV’s Kenny Brain on how to renovate your home without breaking the bank

Ready to make some much-needed upgrades to your home but unsure how much it’ll cost you? Kenny Brain from HGTV Canada’s Making it Home with Kortney and Kenny has plenty of experience doing renos on a budget – especially during the newest season of the show, which premiered in October. Hoping to turn your house into an HGTV-ready home? Kenny has all the tips and advice you need.

What has gotten more expensive when it comes to home renos?

I think, really, the question is, what hasn’t gotten more expensive? Because that is honestly a non-existent list. With rising home appreciation and sales, that kind of trickles through the entire industry. There’s more renovations, there’s more demand for contractors, so that’s going to drive costs up. There’s higher costs for skilled labourers and retention, and between inflation and supply chain issues, materials are through the roof. So that virtually affects every aspect of renovation.

How can homeowners avoid high costs during renos without sacrificing quality?

There are lots of ways that you can get a quality, beautiful finish without breaking the bank. One of the big ones for me that I try to advise my homeowners on is to have an accurate kitchen remodel plan. This helps so you’re not exceeding your budget, you’re not leaving out features or upgrades and it gives you ample time to plan.

The kitchen is probably the highest return on investment for renovations, and you want to make sure your layout is working for you.  You don’t have to take down walls and put up a $20,000 beam and then potentially have to feather in flooring that isn’t even available anymore. Changing your plumbing, your electrical, all of that is really expensive. If the layout is there, if it works for you, then work with what you got.

That trickles down to what you have and if that works for you too. Can you refinish? Can you re-purpose what you have? You can get a custom look and finish without having to pay that price. For cabinets, for example, there are lots of companies now that can pretty much finish and replace existing cabinets, so you don’t have to actually swap them out. That will be a huge cost savings there, because the more custom you get, obviously higher the price.

Other than the kitchen, what other types of renovations will give you a high return on investment?

The bathroom is probably the secondary place that you’ll get the highest return on investment. Other than that, other spaces are very personal, so you can renovate to suit yourself, however, I don’t know if it would yield the biggest return on your investment.

Then there’s small things you can do – never underestimate a new coat of paint, or refinishing the outside of your home with a new front door.

Are people looking to secondhand furniture and materials more and more now?

Absolutely; there’s so many different platforms now, including Kijiji, Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. I personally peruse them regularly to see what pops up because you never know what you’ll find. So many people are doing renovations; what might not work for them might work for you.

What are some popular less expensive “dupes” for more luxury materials?

Corian as a countertop, it’s solid all the way through like granite – it’s a little less heat resistant than quartz, but it’s cheaper. So I think that’s a good middle ground and it looks really nice.

For things like cabinets, if you do have to completely take them out, you can get some great stuff from Ikea even, and then bring in a contractor or someone to put in the extra work to make it look custom. Bring it all the way up to your ceiling, put in your gable panels, put in some under-cabinet lighting to enhance it without paying that $60,000 price.

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