What To Know Before Starting a Home Renovation

Thinking about a home renovation?  Not sure where to begin?

Whenever you embark on a big project, it is a good idea to know exactly what you are getting into. While home renovations usually involve a lot of surprises and unexpected detours, here are some things you should know before starting a major home renovation.

Whether you want to DIY or hire a contractor, here’s what to know before starting a home renovation.

Everything You Need To Know Before Starting a Home Renovation


It’s going to take longer than you want, no matter how realistic your expectations are.  Contractor quotes take time to acquire.  Appliances orders take time to deliver.  DIYs – well, no one knows more than we do just how long a “nights-and-weekends” DIY can take!!  Before starting a home renovation, understand that it will probably take longer than you want it to.



Renovations can get messy, no matter how neat the workers are.  Dust and dirt get kicked up – especially if you’re gutting down to the studs.  Do your best to seal off the room – as in, if you can tape the door shut, do so.  Keeping the rest of your house clean during a renovation will be challenging because all it takes is a bit of foot traffic to carry the dirt from one room to another.  Keep a spray bottle of water around to just spray the air and help the dust settle down.


You’ll Have To Empty the Room

Whatever room you decide to renovate, it will be best to empty it completely.  This isn’t too big a deal if it’s a new house and you haven’t moved in yet, but if you’re living in the house, you’ll need to think about where you will put the stuff.  All the stuff.  The rug, the picture frames, the bookshelf, the dining set – you’ll need somewhere to store it all before demo day arrives.


Where To Start With a  Home Renovation


In what order do you even do this?  Prioritize safety!  If there is an issue with electricity or plumbing to the point where your home’s safety is jeopardized, you need to fix that first.


After that, it’s systems.  Think hot water heaters, boilers, and bathroom plumbing.

For example, if you’ve only got $1k left in your budget and you need to decide between a reliable kitchen faucet and drain vs. a stylish set of drawer pulls, please go with the kitchen faucet and drain.  You can always upgrade the drawer pulls later.  You will be very upset if your drain stops working.  Or, if you’re looking at the choice between a new boiler and a new paint job, go with the boiler.  Heat in the winter trumps the latest sage accent wall.

Check out How To Prioritize Home Projects for more on this topic.


Make a budget.  I know – it’s way more fun to dream about shaker cabinets and color palettes, but keeping a budget for your renovation will always pay off.

3 Quick Tips:

  1. Cash is king.  No, seriously, we have contractors in our lives offering a ten percent discount for paying in cash.
  2. Don’t divulge your full budget. Never let your contractor know how big your budget is because if you let them know how much you have available, they’ll subconsciously find a way to spend it all.
  3. Keep a contingency. At least 10% on top of your bottom line, or 15-20% if you have a property in rough shape.

Be Prepared for Surprises

There might be surprises.

The older the house, the more surprises you might find!  Sometimes surprises are fun, like when you pull out a cabinet and find a winning lottery ticket (we found $2, unfortunately, expired) or the vintage 7-up sign we found in our basement ceiling.

Other times, surprises are very un-fun, like that first time we turned the heat on and our basement had a rain shower.  Or that time, we ripped a wall back to the studs to discover dry rot within our home’s exterior.
You just never know what’s behind your walls, so brace yourself for unknown hiccups.


Check With Your Municipality About Permits.

It’s always better to have your butt covered than to get into trouble with the building department.  Your town or city probably has a website or number to call to inquire about obtaining permits.

Even if you hire a contractor, they might need the homeowner to fill out some of the paperwork.  Do your due diligence now to avoid problems later.


You Might Need To Take a “Vacation.”

By this, I mean you might better serve yourself and your family by simply leaving your house for a few days.  Even sending the kids to grandma’s for a weekend can provide the opportunity for a big push to finish a renovation.


You Will Learn!

Learning about houses via the process of home renovation is extremely rewarding.  Don’t be afraid to ask a contractor any questions you have or look up building codes yourself.

Gaining an understanding of how things work in your house will empower you for life.  And you might even find a hidden talent for things like tiling or taping.


Your Children Will Learn.

If you have children, they’ll witness your hard work and learn as a result.  They may even be able to help you in the case of a DIY.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of working side by side with my dad and Granddad, who sweetly handed me a piece of sandpaper and put me to work.  As I got older, sandpaper turned into joint compound.  Now, I’m not afraid of my own home and am happy to roll up my sleeves to work on it.


Rooms With Plumbing Are the Trickiest.

If you’re going to remodel a room with plumbing, you should plan, plan, plan!

I personally think that the kitchen is the trickiest room to renovate.  Many homes have at least a second half-bathroom, making renovating one or the other easier.  But most homes only boast one full kitchen, and ripping it apart can cause quite a disturbance.

Either way, if you’re remodeling something with plumbing, you need to plan very carefully.  Think about how you’ll cook without a stove or shower without a bathroom.


Home Renovations Are Ridiculous Amounts of Fun!

The fun outweighs the stress if you choose to look at it.  A home renovation can be a boatload of fun, especially when DIYing it!  Crank up the tunes, invite friends over to demo, and bond with your spouse as you sheetrock a ceiling.

Home remodeling is very hard work but immensely enjoyable, employing body, mind, and spirit all at once.  Creating something new with your hands is incomparably satisfying.


We hope this has been a helpful sneak peek into your upcoming home renovation!  Planning everything from timelines to budgets before you dive in will help you save in the long run.

Happy remodeling!