Thinking About Doing Some Home Renovations? Start Here.

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Before Demo Day, my husband and I had already been preparing for our renovation, for at least a year. We are still in the thick of our home renovation, hopefully more like the tail end, but with construction……sometimes you just don’t know how long things are going to take.  First, it was figuring out the scope of our project combined with making our budget, then it was: how do we get our objectives done? Do we need an engineer? City permits? Tile? Flooring? Bathrooms? Plumbing? Hiring a contractor? This is just the tip of the iceberg! Although we are still undergoing our home renovation, and have alot to learn, I do have a few tips for those of you who are looking to start the process at some point.

1. Make sure your relationship is on point! You heard me. If you are doing the renovation by yourself, then this will make the decision-making process infinitely easier since you don’t need another adult full of opinions to agree with you on a slew of major decisions. If you are married, or dating, be sure that you and your partner have a strong, solid foundation going into the renovation, because the process can be straining on your relationship, more so if you have children. Major decisions need to be made where you are both on the same page: budget, style, scope of project, colors……soooooooooooo many decisions! There have been many days that have gone by where my husband and I felt like ships passing in the night: I would be watching the kids all day, or at work, and he would either be at work, or at his second full-time job: our house. Granted, everyone’s situation will look different, and I’m sure there are some renovation unicorns out there, but I’ve never met anyone that said “redoing our home was a skip in the park.” I would highly advise against doing a renovation if you and your partner are having a difficult time, as it will make things much more difficult.

2. What is your budget? Plain and simple. While you are planning your budget, I would also be sure to include a category called: “unforeseen expenses” and put a lot of money in there. My husband is excellent with details, and planning, and we still had many things come up that we didn’t budget for, because we have never done this before. We used the same app that we use for our monthly budgeting: “YNAB” it stands for YOU NEED A BUDGET.  We simply created a new budget for our home renovation, put the total amount we were willing to spend at the top of the budget, and split everything up into the appropriate categories.

3. What is the scope of the project? One bathroom? The kitchen? The floors? If you read a few posts back, our project didn’t start out being as big as it turned out to be. What we decided in the end was how many projects can we get done, knowing that we will already be inconvenienced without a kitchen. For many people, it may be one room at a time, and doing the project without a contractor, a la “DIY” home improvement!  We knew that we couldn’t do this because our goal was to be efficient of our time and money. With 2 little kids, and both of us working, it was worth it to pay a contractor to manage the project, and have it done in a few months, instead of prolonging it over many years and doing it ourselves. This was our mental process: Let’s do the kitchen, well if we do the kitchen, we need to open up those walls and make the dining room, living room, and kitchen, one big room. Well since it’s all one big room now, we should redo the floors to make them all the same. Let’s do the upstairs floor also since we want to get rid of the carpet. We absolutely have to do the stairs, since both the kids can fit through the current railing and it’s not up to code……and on and on. As our renovation is nearing an end; I am very happy to say that I am glad we did so much, because I don’t want to do it again anytime soon.

4. Who do you need on your team? Do you need to hire a general contractor? Are you making major structural changes and need to hire an architect and/or engineer? Do you need a designer? Are you going to need to pull permits? Before you hire anyone, I would have the 3 above questions answered. I would also decide if you will be hiring an interior designer first. My husband and I had decided that we weren’t going to, because we had a good idea of how we wanted to change our house, and where we wanted things to go, and because we had no room in the budget for an interior designer. Even with our design ideas, we still ended up changing things around once we hired our architect because things had to follow codes, and he presented different ideas to us that we liked. Pinterest, and Instagram, can be great resources for those of you that decide that you won’t be hiring a designer.

In my opinion, the biggest decision that will effect your renovation process is hiring the general contractor. I would interview them, visit homes they have finished, talk to those families whose homes they have completed, and do that for a few of their projects. I would interview at LEAST 3 different contractors, until you have found “the one.” I have heard horror stories of contractors not showing up, not completing projects even though they have collected payments, etc. Make sure that above all else, that contractor is comfortable having completely OPEN communication with you, especially when it comes to big decisions. We had a few instances where decisions that we thought were important, were made without us. We cleared that issue up after some discussion, but overall, we have had a good experience with ours.

5. What are the supplies you will need? For us this list included: Porcelain tile for downstairs, engineered hardwood for upstairs, appliances for our kitchen, accordion door and window, 9 new windows, a front door (that was so generously gifted to us), sinks, shower heads, faucets, tile for all the bathrooms and showers, kitchen backsplash, mirrors for all our bathrooms, sconces for the bathrooms, pulls for the bathroom vanities and pulls for the kitchen cabinets. I’m sure I’m missing at least 20 other things. My husband also did many behind the scenes things like soundproof/fireproof the upstairs floor when our house was down to the studs. Renovations usually require many supplies, and I still don’t have all the ones we will be needing. Backsplash and stools are still in the mail. Furnishing this house will be a whole other thing that we will save up for in our second wave of finishing the house. If you aren’t hiring a designer, then more then likely, you will be purchasing most of your supplies, especially if you have special preferences towards anything I listed above. I figured, I’m only going to do this once in my life, so I’d like to pick all these details together with my husband. It’s fun, and time consuming, and can be expensive. We had no idea how much to budget for things like cabinet pulls, and vanity mirrors, and sconces.

6. Will you be living through it? Let that permeate the air a bit. On one hand: if you live through it, construction takes longer, you and your family are inconvenienced longer (which may not be a big deal if you are only doing one room), and you save money. If you don’t live through it, total construction time will be shorter, your family will be inconvenienced less time, BUT you have to figure out where will you live? With family? Renting a place? Splitting time? Trailer in your driveway? What to do? My suggestion is, if you have kids, move out. If you don’t, stick it out.

There are many more things I can talk about regarding construction, but these are a few questions to answer when you are thinking about starting the process. Have any specific questions? Had a totally different experience, or perspective? Shoot me an email, or leave it in the comments below!

Thanks for stopping by,

Lauren

2 comments on “Thinking About Doing Some Home Renovations? Start Here.

  1. Hello,

    Thanks for this post, it’s very helpful! I do have one additional question. Did you and your husband save up the entire amount for the renovation, or did you have to finance a portion of it? If so, were there any pros and cons of that?

    1. Hi, Great question! We actually didn’t finance any of it. We thought about it for a long time, and thought that we would rather not have to pay all the interest if we financed it, so we found a way to pay all cash. I do have to say, that I never thought it would be as expensive as it was, and we would never have been able to do such a large-scale renovation had we not paid off our first home (the one before this one). We worked super hard for a few years before our first child was born, did the dave ramsey baby steps, paid off our old condo, sold it, bought this current home and put almost all of the proceedings of our condo towards the principal, and set aside a chunk of money for renovations. Hope that helps 😉

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