If you’re like many homeowners, once the decision to start a home renovation has been made, you’re eager to begin as soon as possible. The months or even years of living in a space not well-suited to your lifestyle have taken a toll, and you want to make forward progress right away!
While we understand the desire to roll up one’s sleeves and jump in, slowing down and taking a little time to consider the following four tips allows homeowners to start their renovation with a foundation as solid as the one their home is built on and to move through the project with confidence and grace. In fact, three of the four tips are for before construction even begins! This highlights how important it is that homeowners take their time preparing and planning for what will undoubtedly be a large investment of both time and resources.
1. Make it personal – Start with a solid plan personalized for your lifestyle.
Reflect on what made you even want to do a renovation in the first place. If it helps to clarify things, write down your goals for the final renovated space. Think about functional needs before you think about aesthetics. What really needs fixing? Do you need more pantry space? Is your kitchen too dark? Does the soaking tub in your bathroom take up too much valuable real estate? Consider the needs of your family and make sure you can communicate clearly the problems you’re trying to solve with any partners you’re working with.
After you have a solid grasp of functional needs, it’s time to think about aesthetics. Consider what overall look and feel you’d like your home to have. Do you have your heart set on creating a modern and minimalist space, or does the architecture of your home lend itself to a more classic but cozy feel? Think about colors you love, any specific materials you’re interested in, and where in your home it feels reasonable to splurge vs. save.
A top priority for a family with young kids and pets might be a durable tile kitchen floor while a recent retiree might finally install the blond wide plank wood floors they’ve been dreaming of for years. Now is the time to gather your Instagram or Pinterest inspiration and use it as a tool to communicate your functional and aesthetic needs to the designers and/or contractors you’ll be partnering with.
2. Work with the right people – Form a solid team you can trust.
Speaking of partners, engaging the right people to help with your project is key! If the thought of being able to define your overall project makes you sweat, engage the help of a design professional to walk you through. A qualified design professional will have an established process. They will get to know you by visiting you at your home and asking lots of questions about your needs, lifestyle, and budget. They’ll listen carefully and will use this input to design for your practical needs and visual preferences. They will also produce design deliverables useful to contractors.
Additionally, make sure you work with trusted contractors. Ask friends and family who they have worked with and what their experiences were like. Interview potential contractors to get a sense of their personalities and to ask questions about how they approach their work. Look at their portfolios online or ask them to send you photos. You can also ask for references.
An alternate option is to work with a design-build firm that will work with you on the design process and then manage the construction from start to finish. Working with a design-build firm means you’ll have a partner all the way through the project.
3. Be prepared – Start preparing well before the demo crew shows up.
Once you’ve designed for the end goals of your project and have engaged the right team to help you get it done, being prepared includes both taking the practical steps you’d expect to prep your space, as well as adjusting your mindset to help you manage the inevitable ups and downs that will present themselves along the way.
First, decide where you’ll set up a temporary kitchen and construction-free zone where your family can relax, prepare simple meals if your kitchen will be out of commission, and eat. Gather everything you’ll need for this area – this might include a microwave, electric kettle, and other small appliances. Also, decide where you’ll put your refrigerator in the short term.
After items needed for your temporary kitchen are set aside, plan to pack up furniture and personal items in your space. Move out everything you can and store your things in another part of the house. This prevents your items from getting dirty or damaged, and it makes contractors more efficient as they aren’t working around obstacles, moving them about the space, or needing to spend time taking extra precautions required to protect your things.
Aside from these pragmatic steps, managing your own expectations can also be a help. Despite all your preparations, things will not go according to plan. Expect to be flexible and to pivot as needed as work gets underway. Be prudent and structure your project with flexibility built into your timeline. Also, set aside additional funds to address unexpected costs that arise.
Even the most thorough planning won’t help you predict hidden complexities. Finding old wiring that must be brought into code compliance, insufficient insulation, or mechanicals in locations that don’t work for your new plan are all common problems. Unexpected material delays are another. Expecting challenges to arise will allow you to respond in a more confident and timely manner when they inevitably do.
4. Communicate effectively with your team – Be a good client.
As you can tell, we value planning and preparation when it comes to home renovation projects! Tip number four is the first one that applies once the project is under construction (and to be honest, this tip also applies to any design professionals you engage early in the process).
As the homeowner, communicate effectively with the tradespeople working on your home. Make sure the contractors involved understand your vision. Even the most competent of contractors can’t read minds! If you expect something to be done a specific way, make certain that’s understood upfront. Give tradespeople plenty of space to do their best work, but also stay available and engaged. You and your contractors have the same end-goal. Think of them as on your team, rely on them for their expertise, and express appreciation for work well done.