When we dream about owning our own cottage we focus on the good times; the family and friends we invite, being on the water all day and lounging all evening by the campfire. Those are definitely the highs but there are challenges as well, particularly when we decide that renovating the cottage or cabin is necessary.
As difficult as it is to go through a renovation on our primary home it’s doubly difficult with a cottage. There are factors like proximity and availability that make it harder.
After renovating my own cottage recently (stay tuned for a post on that coming shortly) I have some valuable insight about how to survive your own cottage or cabin renovation.
TIPS FOR RENOVATING THE COTTAGE OR CABIN
1/ PLAN FOR THE FUTURE
I get it, life changes. To the best of your ability ask yourself how long you reasonably anticipate owning this space. Do you dream of passing it on to your kids someday? Do you have a job that could potentially end in a cross-country move resulting in a cottage sale? Or is this just a first cottage and you intend to renovate and sell to move up?
The answer to this question will help to decide whether to design it around your own preferences or the real estate market.
If it’s the real estate market your job is to understand the typical buyer so make friends with some local realtors first.
2/ YOUR GUEST LIST
Who will be using it? Is this for your family and friends? Will you be hosting work events? Will there be elderly people or young kids using it right now? What about in 10 years? Simple decisions involving stairs or safety and accessibility will become important if there are groups of people that require more consideration.
Look beyond this summer and see what the future holds so that you can anticipate those needs and avoid another renovation in a few years.
3/ AGE OF THE COTTAGE
If you’re dealing with a very old property there may be a lot of unwanted surprises waiting for you behind walls. If you think there are surprises in residential renovations, get ready for what’s to come at your cottage. Since these get updated much less frequently there could be a surplus of old wiring or damage done by pests living in there.
You should have a couple of quotes from qualified contractors. It’s a good practice to involve at least one contractor who is used to dealing with cottage renos. Be prepared to spend more money than anticipated if your cottage is older than 40 years.
4/ FREQUENCY OF USE
Do you use the cottage for four seasons or just for the summer months? How much use it gets should line up with how much you’re willing to spend on the project.
There will be considerations that need to be made for a four season cottage versus a summer retreat. For instance, the type of insulation, the type of heating system and the windows will become much higher priority since staying warm is a bigger priority.
I recommend that you consider the amount of use it will get before you decide on the budget.
5/ THE BUDGET
While you’re likely going to have some mechanical issues, the good news is that materials costs are often not as high in a cottage renovation. We don’t live here all year so we’re willing to compromise in some areas. This should help to neutralize the budget and keep it under control.
You need to approach your budgeting in the same way you do any other large project. Do your research, decide what you can’t compromise on and give yourself a buffer.
It can be more difficult to get financing for a renovation to a 2nd home so speak to your bank first. You don’t want to put in all the effort to find out you may not qualify.
6/ THINK OF THE OUTDOOR SPACES
We spend so much time outdoors at our cottage but when it comes to our renovation budget we often forget to allocate funds to that space..
Review your outdoor spaces and see if there are spaces you’d like to improve. Do you need a new deck, does the dock need to be replaced? If you don’t include it you may have to wait several years for that upgrade.
7/ KNOW THE AREA BYLAWS
Renovating in a remote area is different from your urban home renovation. Do your research and be sure you consult with your local officials. You want to find out if there are any building restrictions or regulations you need to consider. These could impact your design and if you’ve got your heart set on something that isn’t allowed It’s better to be aware of all of it upfront as opposed to finding out on inspection day.
8/ WHAT’S YOUR AVAILABILITY?
If you won’t be present during construction, consider the level of difficulty in getting there. What if there’s an emergency? What if a problem arises?
You’ll want to be visiting as often as possible to check on progress but if that’s not possible, make sure you have someone local that you trust on speed dial. When a situation arises a local friend will be invaluable.
9/ SOURCING MATERIALS
If your home is in an urban centre you may be accustomed to having all the options under the sun available. That won’t be the case in a smaller, more remote town.
Take a stroll around the local suppliers. Are there places that will satisfy your needs? If not and you need your contractor to make trips to the city, remember to budget for that.
10/ EXTERIOR UPDATES
This isn’t the same as your outdoor entertaining areas. The functionality of the home may spread outside of the structure. You need to consider septic systems and a well and figure out if they need budget allocation as well.
So after all this information if you can stomach the thought of renovating your cottage or cabin, you’re ready to go. You have the starting foundation for planning to turn your dream into reality.
Check back soon to see the photos of my own cottage renovation and the story of how we lived through and it survived!
If you need help designing your home or your away-from-home-home, contact me to discuss how I can help.
If you know your design style but you struggle with which paint to use, take a look at my Made-For-You paint palettes. They take the guesswork out and give you the confidence to get started.