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For the past month, an eavestrough company truck has been slowly making its way down my street. The crew stop at a house for a few days, install shiny new eavestroughs, and then move to the next house, leaving a tantalizing business sign on the boulevard for the rest of us to admire.

Seeing that truck and sign got me thinking about my own leaky eavestroughs and what it would cost to replace them, and it seems I'm not the only one. Either my neighbours are all plagued with bad eavestroughs, or many of us are trying to keep up appearances.

According to a new BMO survey, the properties of friends and neighbours are the main influencer for Canadians' home renovation decisions. It makes sense. If a neighbour gets a spanking new driveway with no cracks in it, it makes our own driveway look scruffy in comparison.

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Canadians will spend $46-billion on renos in 2011, up slightly from $45.3-billion last year, according to the survey. The most common renovations planned were kitchens (48 per cent), bathrooms (46 per cent), basements (38 per cent), landscaping (36 per cent) and exterior repairs (36 per cent).

I'm the first to admit to reno envy. Ever since we moved into our house, I've been desperate to replace our shabby kitchen with something chic, or at least not so outdated. But as much as I hate my kitchen, I hate debt even more. I'll wait until I can pay for my reno in cash.

The BMO survey suggests most Canadians feel the same way. In terms of financing their renos, 57 per cent of those surveyed said they would use savings, 19 per cent said they'd use a line of credit and 6 per cent would use a home equity loan. Only 5 per cent planned to use a credit card.

Katie Archdekin, head of mortgage products at Bank of Montreal, says, "It's crucial that homeowners consider the financial implications involved and take a 'measure twice, cut once' approach to double-checking their project budget before getting started."

Here are a few of Ms. Archdekin's tips for keeping renovations within your means:

1. Understand how a renovation will affect the value of your home by researching which renovations create increased value and are popular selling features.

2. Think long term when making financial decisions. Whether you are using savings or borrowing to renovate, take the time to meet with a financial expert to ensure your renovation meets your long-term financial objectives.

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3. Expect the unexpected. Be financially prepared for a leaky roof, broken pipe or other expenses that may occur during the project.

4. Get renovation quotes in writing and understand what guarantees they provide. For example, if the plumbing work in your renovation takes longer than expected, will the quote go up?

I'd like to add my own tip: Be honest about why you're doing the reno. If need is driving your reno decision and you can afford the project, go for it. Just don't let reno envy turn your home into a money pit.

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