5 Things You MUST Know Before Starting Your Home Renovation

Even if you've renovated in the past, each project brings unique twists. After two previous home renovations, I felt I had a decent handle on what to expect with our current renovation of a 20-year-old recently purchased home. I'm discovering there is still much to learn about the home-reno game. Here are some things I wish I knew or had done before we got started.  

1. Invest in a Key Lockbox

This applies if you're renovating before you move into your home. Our renovations began two weeks before our move, when we still lived an hour away. For a couple of large projects we couldn't do, we hired contractors. They start early, so I drove in morning rush hour traffic more than once to let workers inside. A key lockbox would have saved countless hours and gallons of fuel, not to mention, those painful early-a.m. wake-up calls.

2. Spend Time in the Space

Obvious as it seems, it is important to hold off on some decisions until you spend time in the space you're renovating. For us, this applied to paint colors, carpet and light fixtures. We wanted to replace dated upstairs carpet. The choices were overwhelming. Dense or loose fibers? Striated or no pattern? What exact shade of gray? Our answers depended on other aspects of the renovation, like paint colors. Our palette was selected before the renovation started, then changed as we spent time in the house. That led to changing the carpet choice -- four times! We needed to see paint colors on the walls before making a carpet decision. Freshly painted walls and new carpet revealed that some light fixtures we thought would work didn't. If we spent more time in the space up front considering how everything would work together, we could have saved ourselves several back-to-the-drawing-board moments.

3. Be Realistic About Your Timeline

It will take longer than expected, so be prepared and make accommodations to avoid frustration. When we decided to remove the whirlpool tub and outdated double vanity from our bathroom, we thought the replacement would be quick. Removal of the old fixtures took three hours, but locating a new vanity we loved took two weeks. It was another two weeks before it arrived. Our expected week of using the hall bath turned into six. Had we been more realistic about the process and time line, we would have selected a vanity before having the old one removed.

4. Expect the Unexpected

All homes hold secrets -- in the walls, under the floors, everywhere. A renovation can bring those to light. Ours showed itself when a flooring expert measured our downstairs for hardwood. There was unevenness in the floor, and we were told to have the structure beneath checked. A foundation expert informed us a center floor joist had shifted, causing the floor issue. The home inspector missed it, but it needed repair before new flooring went down. Fortunately, the inspection company handled the cost of repairs, but it was something else to deal with during the renovation we had not anticipated.

5. Interview Multiple Contractors

We did this and it paid off! We had the hot water heater removed from an upstairs closet and a new one installed in our garage. Plumber No. 1 would charge $6,000 and would reroute hot water lines, cutting into our living room tray ceiling to do so. The second plumber said it was too much work. Plumber No. 3, the one we hired, did the job in a day and charged $3,285 with no water line rerouting needed. It pays to do your homework and talk to several "experts" before making a final decision.

Does your powder room need a perk-up? See how these homeowners gave their small bathroom a major face-lift for under $800.


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