If you're receiving a bonus this year, home renovation expert and HGTV personality Scott McGillivray suggests investing at least some of it into one of your most prized assets: your home.

According to real estate consulting firm Altus GroupOpens a new window in your browser, Canadians spent nearly $78 billion on home renovations in 2017. That's more than the value of new home builds. This supports the findings in CIBC's 2018 Home Renovations PollOpens a new window in your browser, which notes that the majority (71%) of Canadian homeowners aged 55 and up prefer renovating their current homes, rather than moving to new ones. Basic maintenance, landscaping and bathrooms lead the charge on most popular renovation targets.

Of course, Canadian winters aren't always the best time to undertake major home repairs, but according to McGillivray, there's still plenty you can do around the house to spend your hard-earned holiday bonus.

Lighting is an easy way to boost value and lifestyle

Lighting is not something that would normally top McGillivray's list of home repair to-dos, but given the tech and market advancements LED lighting has made in the past 5 years, it's an obvious win.

“You used to limit the amount of lighting you had in your house because you were running 60-watt, 100-watt bulbs. But in this day and age, there's really no excuse not to have your home well-lit. The average LED pot light is 5 watts. You could literally run 20 of them for every one you used to have,” says McGillivray. Replacing old pot lights — recessed ceiling lights — and installing new ones, plus replacing all the bulbs, fits nicely in the $15,000-or-less category for home renovations.

The cost and effort is well worth it. According to Natural Resources CanadaOpens a new window in your browser, an LED light bulb can last up to 15 times longer than an incandescent bulb. McGillivray's own home has 1,600 pot lights. “I've changed one light bulb in two years,” he says.

“If you are getting a year-end bonus, consider what kind of lighting could really highlight your home in the spring,” he says, “when the snow melts and your home comes into the sun.” “Everything from landscape lighting to outdoor pot lighting or up-lighting, to upgrade your lighting inside.”

Ditch the laminate for quartz countertops

Kitchens are the most important room in the house for many homeowners where they not only cook but also gather, and linger. If you have some extra funds, it makes sense to upgrade this space, and the countertops can be a logistically simple luxury add that can fit easily into a winter schedule.

Laminate and granite countertops used to be all the rage in kitchens, but no more. “Quartz is now the go-to luxury item for kitchens, and quartz has come a long way in the last 10 years,” says McGillivray.

It's a high-end, accessible renovation to undertake that, in most cases, will cost less than $15,000 to complete. It's an ideal one to do in the dead of winter, since most installations are likely to produce very little dust and can be done quickly. “Within hours, you can have your countertops replaced,” says the home renovation expert.

“Quartz can be heavy, but don't be put off by the weight compared to ultra-light laminate,” says McGillivray. “These countertops are built for standard cabinetry.”

Use the winter to plan for spring

According to CIBC's 2018 Home Renovations PollOpens a new window in your browser, the top renovation projects of 2018 are basic maintenance, landscaping and bathrooms.

“Overhauling a bathroom is disruptive to do in the middle of a cold, snowy winter,” says McGillivray, but the cold season can be a good time to plan for early spring renovations. McGillivray notes that such a project can run upwards of $50,000. You could put your bonus towards a contractor's deposit, new fixtures, or materials such as tiles or countertops.

Upgrading master en suite bathrooms and walk-in closets is also a good way to elevate the value of your home and your standard of living.

“These are things that, in the last few years, have evolved quite significantly. Storage space and closet space has just changed so much,” McGillivray explains. “If your house is 30 years or older, you probably have tiny closets.”

“Modern housing can have closets the size of large bedrooms,” he continues — 

“and often these aren't only for storage purposes.” Homeowners like to showcase their favourite possessions, even going so far as to put a storefront-type display in the hallway, on the exterior wall of the closet.

As for the en suite bathroom, McGillivray notes that his clientele is overwhelmingly opting against corner showers or shower-tub combos in favour of separate facilities. Walk-in showers are in particularly high demand.

“These are frameless glass walk-in showers with no threshold,” he says. “They're curbless, which takes a little more work obviously. You may need to do some re-supporting in your subfloor, but it's nice because it's very accessible, it's very spa-like. They've got rain heads, wall jets, steam generators — the whole nine yards.”

Start your home renovations with a conversation

After a high-performing fiscal year, you may be tempted to treat yourself with your hard-earned cash. Doing strategic renovations to your home, however, may be a better long-term investment. As Scott says, “you could use the winter to upgrade lighting, countertops and other low-disturbance features, or plan to go all out once the snow begins to melt away.” Whatever you choose, discuss your plans for spending your end-of-year bonus with your financial advisor to make sure you make the most of your money and investments.