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The Dollars and Cents of Your Next Home Renovation

Homeowners across the country have started to plan renovations to their homes and property. Whether you’re adding minor finishing touches or doing a complete overhaul, renovations require detailed planning and budgeting, and can be expensive. In fact, according to a study by the Altus Group, Canadians spent a record $63.5 billion on home renovations in 2013 - a 2.7 per cent jump in spending from 2012.

Despite the significant investment, a 2014 study by insurance broker, Western Financial Group (Western), found that only 4 in 10 homeowners planning renovations would get advice from their insurance provider before getting to work. Insurance coverage should be included in your planning to help protect you from unexpected, and potentially very high, additional costs.

As with any significant change to your home, talking to your insurance broker is the best way to ensure you’re protected. 

Here are some key questions to ask yourself as you plan a renovation:

Do I have adequate coverage? Most home insurance policies should provide proper coverage for a renovation, but there are always subtle nuances to keep in mind, and this is a good time to revisit your policy. Many people avoid this step because reading through a policy can feel time consuming and overwhelming. Double-checking your coverage will help you to avoid unforeseen costs.

Kyle and Julie Seidel of Calgary recently experienced a renovation mishap while completing updates to their second-storey bathroom. First, the Seidels removed tile and countertops and unhooked plumbing so contractors could take measurements. The wait time between measurements and renovations was a month, and as the Seidels planned to stay in their home, they reconnected the plumbing and tested it successfully, with no visible leaks.

The next morning, however, the Seidels noticed a water stain on the kitchen ceiling. They were fortunate to catch the leak early, and because they immediately shut off the water and consulted with a plumber, they were able to avoid major damage.

“We were lucky to catch the leak and locate its origin so quickly,” says Julie Seidel. “If it had been in another room, it could have dripped for a month unnoticed and caused substantial damage.”

Unfortunately, in many cases, renovators in similar situations aren’t as lucky. Costs to repair this kind of damage can come in up to the thousands for homeowners who don’t have adequate coverage.

Am I protected against personal injury? Between heavy machinery, use of tools and precarious workspaces, renovations can pose a number of risks both to property and people in your home. Even the most cautious renovator should take into account the possibility of injury to themselves or workers while completing work on their home. Before you begin, ensure your policy includes adequate personal injury liability coverage.

What type of coverage does my contractor have? If your renovation requires working with a contractor, make sure to request a certificate of insurance from them. Most contractors carry extensive liability policies, but checking beforehand will help you rest assured that you won’t be held liable for mishaps. From destruction of your property to damage to a neighbor’s property, anything can happen during a large-scale renovation.

Has the value of my contents changed? Home renovations are often a great time to replace or upgrade new appliances, furniture or home accessories. These new purchases can increase the overall value of your possessions. Keep track of these big purchases through your renovation, and when your home is near completion, connect with your broker to make sure your coverage limits are still adequate for your new belongings.

By getting the answers to these questions before you get to work, you will have peace of mind both during and after your renovation.

Blake is the senior vice president of sales for the Prairies at Western Financial Group and oversees the sales for all of Western’s branches in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Western Financial Group is a diversified insurance services company that provides personal and business insurance services to more than 800,000 customers at more than 160 branches across Western Canada. For more information, visit


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