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Where to start your renovation

Mar 17 2016 -
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I’ve had several emails from folks asking about how I managed our renovation (btw, thank you for the support everybody! Having you out there helps a lot!!) the main question that’s been popping up is around the lines of how to “start your renovation” so I felt it was time to give you the base I started from.  (Note: I’m going to assume you’re going into a house that needs a full gut like mine, however, much of this can be applied to smaller renovation projects as well, I’m going to try and hit on every note here though I could easily write a book on this and not cover every variable.)

How and where to start your renovation, have a plan, choose everything, stick to it and expect it all to take twice as long as you first thought!

First thing’s first, you need to determine exactly what needs to be done before you can start your renovation. I would totally encourage you to get some decent home designer software. This is my favorite: Home Designer Suite but it is pricey. However, I do so much home design etc. just for the fun of it that I’ve had a version of that software for nearly ten years. Go through your project and measure everything down to the last inch, then get it in your software program so you have your base house: every wall, every window, everything down to the last inch. If you’re not computer savvy it is always possible to do this with pencil, paper and a ruler, however, in that case I would urge you to get some drafting paper so you can draw it to scale. From here you can decide what walls need to be changed/moved/put up.

How and where to start your renovation, have a plan, choose everything, stick to it and expect it all to take twice as long as you first thought!

Note: It drives me nuts to watch those DIY shows and these people just standing there staring at their project trying to figure out where to put kitchen cabinets or what walls need to be taken down. Seriously, get it on paper or in a program! It took me over a year of staring at Grandma’s house in the program before I finally felt like I had exhausted all possibilities and had created the best plan possible. Of course, things change when you open up walls and start moving things around but there is no substitute for a good plan and there is no substitute to being able to look down at it, that perspective is absolutely priceless.

How and where to start your renovation, have a plan, choose everything, stick to it and expect it all to take twice as long as you first thought!

You need to determine if the plumbing is good, if the electric needs to be updated and if all of the doors/windows need to be replaced. Not to mention, what about insulation? This is when I would get all of my bids whether I was doing the work myself or not. Getting bids for everything was not something that I did on my own renovation that, in hind sight, I wish I had if for no other reason other then to be able to look over all of the money we saved with every single job we did ourselves.

How and where to start your renovation, have a plan, choose everything, stick to it and expect it all to take twice as long as you first thought!

(Again, I’m assuming this is an old house that needs a full gut so that means a new panel.) Before you can begin demolition and start your renovation I would strongly urge you to hire an electrician immediately and get the house’s power cut off and have him give you a couple of outlets somewhere to work from. From this point on you are now in the dark ages and will face the repercussions. In my house everything had already exploded from the furnace going out the winter before so I knew it was all going to get pulled out anyway so I couldn’t hurt anything. On top of that, because I am so far outside town I’m also on my own private well so I knew the moment my electric was off my well would no longer be working either. If you’re in town THAT IS NOT THE CASE, you need to either call the city or a plumber and have them come out and turn your water off or you need to figure out how to turn it off yourself.

How and where to start your renovation, have a plan, choose everything, stick to it and expect it all to take twice as long as you first thought!

If you’re in town, you still can’t begin demolition yet, or, at least, I wouldn’t. With the bids in hand you know all of the work that needs to be done so now head over to your court house and figure out all of the permits you’re going to need and get them. When I renovated that house in Oklahoma we were able to pull one permit that covered the entire renovation. If you start work in a city without the proper permits you can face serious fines and even stop work orders and then more fines. Get the proper permits.

How and where to start your renovation, have a plan, choose everything, stick to it and expect it all to take twice as long as you first thought!

So, it goes like this: Get the house gutted, walls taken out, walls added, all new windows/doors installed, then you get your plumbing done, then you get your electrical done, then you get your insulation done, then you get your drywall done then you get all of your finishes done (tile, floors, paint, trim etc.). If any of these tasks are being hired out you want the confirmation and you want that sub contractor paid and on his way before the next sub contractor is in his way. Double check everyone’s work, take a time line (when they think they’ll have it done) with a grain of salt, expect the work to always take longer then they think it will. And, remember, these guys are also doing other jobs, if they tell you they think they can do it August, it might not be until September when they can actually get into your house.

How and where to start your renovation, have a plan, choose everything, stick to it and expect it all to take twice as long as you first thought!

CHANGE NOTHING. Seriously, if you’re hiring anything out you had better have your plan done and happy unless you want to pay double for your sub contractor to do something and then redo it. Have a working knowledge of your base materials so you know exactly what they’re going to the store to buy for you and install in your house. Yes, you can save money driving to the store and getting the materials yourself but you’re only going to get so far doing that and, if you miss something, you run the risk of slowing your sub contractors down and pissing them off (which means they’ll happily charge more and you will be paying them to do nothing). They want to get the work done as quickly as possible – not wait for you to go get the right window because you got the wrong one the first time because you don’t know what you’re doing. This is where doing the work yourself is a wonderful thing, then its your own time you’re wasting and not a sub contractor’s time: whose charging you by the hour.

How and where to start your renovation, have a plan, choose everything, stick to it and expect it all to take twice as long as you first thought!

Because I’ve mentioned materials a couple of times I’m going to stress it again here. Nothing is going to slow down a renovation faster then you not able to make up your mind on what tile you want in your bathroom, or what flooring you want throughout the house, or what kind of back splash you want etc. Seriously, get your butt out there and get some ideas LONG LONG before you start. Ever heard of Pinterest? I’m going to assume this is your forever home and I know (believe me, I KNOW) how stressful this is because, when it comes to your forever home, this is your one shot to get it perfect, to get it right so get on Pinterest and find the flooring that, not only do you want it, you LOVE it. Go out there and fall in love and don’t you dare install anything unless you love it.

How and where to start your renovation, have a plan, choose everything, stick to it and expect it all to take twice as long as you first thought!

Good luck on your renovation! Don’t freak out! Everything is probably going to take twice as long as you think it’s going to and, no, its not the end of the world when they don’t have the PERFECT tile in stock, sometimes compromises can be a good thing.

Note: the above photo of the plan and the final finished product of our master bedroom is rather cool for me. That’s literally the plan photo I uploaded to the website that followed our renovation over two years ago and our master bedroom as it is today. Pretty darned close! The only real change is the two dressers/bedside tables got swapped lol The 3d plan of the bedroom was done in the program I mentioned earlier. Home Designer Suite.

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5 Comments

  1. July 14, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    I think that you are totally right when you say that you should have your plan done before starting renovations. However, I don’t think it has to be a complete plan, just the pan for what walls to keep and get rid of etc. Gutting a house and moving walls takes time and I think it is easier to decide what to do when you can see the space with your own eyes. Something that I would recommend is to do as much of the gutting of the house as you can. It will take some time, but it also gives you time to really decide what you want to change as you trek from the dumpster to the house.

  2. August 22, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    This is some great information, and I appreciate your suggestion to have your renovation materials figured out long in advance. My husband and I have decided to renovate our kitchen next spring, so we have quite a bit of time to figure everything out. We’ll definitely make sure to have a solid plan for what materials we want where so we know exactly what we’ll need. Thanks for the great post!

    • August 22, 2016 at 6:44 pm

      Thanks Lillian! Honestly, even with a whole year to work on my plan I still wish I had had even more time lol Every minute planning counts and really helps! And the more time you have too the better chance you have on spotting the materials you want on sale for a better price 🙂

  3. March 24, 2017 at 6:55 am

    Hi Tarah,
    I just recently got my house rebuilt and trust me I was never sure whether it would ever me completed or not..lol
    But my husband hired a great demolition company that made the starting part so easy that it made me confident to go through the rest of the process. The company also offered us the clean out services which again reduced a lot of hassle. 🙂

    Regards,
    Sella

    • March 24, 2017 at 2:41 pm

      Thanks awesome Sella, I know exactly how it feels like it will never be done! Just gotta focus on baby steps, one thing at a time!

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