21 Home Renovation Tips To Help Your Project Go Smoothly


home renovation

If you've ever embarked on home improvements, then you know the headache of having work done on your house. Even if everything ends up exactly how you dreamed it would, the process is still exhausting and frustrating. There's nothing quite like having your home environment totally turned upside down while you're living in it.


But, the value of home renovations is often worth it. Maybe you're looking to replace those tiled counters with a chic new quartz or it's time to rip out those dated bathroom showers for something fresh and easy to clean.


Whether you're renovating for your own quality of life or looking to sell in the near future, there are some definite tips and tricks that we've learned as realtors and seasoned house flippers. It's helped our projects go a little smoother with much better results at the end.


1. Do Your Homework:


Before anyone comes in with a sledgehammer, there are a lot of steps that have to happen first. If you rush too soon into work, you'll end up feeling like you haven't prepared your budget, your home, and your choices. This can lead to a lot of confusion throughout the process and discontent with the final product.


That's why you want to do your homework before you request a quote. Here are some questions to ask yourself :

  • What areas in the home are the priority? If your budget doesn't go as far as you think, what items on the list are most important to you?

  • What specific things are pain points that you want to improve with renovation? If finishes that are easy to clean is important to you, this will help guide your choices later.

  • What styles and finishes do you want to use? Gather inspiration images here to help you out or this can be really overwhelming. You may even want to enlist the help of a designer to streamline the process.

  • What options are in your budget? Have a ballpark idea so you don't fall in love with something you simply cannot afford. We will talk more about budgeting in a minute.

  • How long do you plan to stay at this home? Resale value is a factor, but maybe not a priority.

  • Where can you set up a place in your home to compensate for areas under construction?

Now that you have a basic idea of what you want to renovate and what you would like instead, let's move on to the next step.


2. Meet With Contractors:


home renovation

It's time to start collecting quotes so you can get an estimate on how much these renovations are costing in your area. You can't really set a budget based on what you see online, because there are several factors that can influence the quotes, including: product shortages which drive up costs, typical income in your area (more expensive areas will get upcharged, it's just fact) and supply/demand (less contractors available = higher rates).


Here's a great example of how this can work out. A few years ago, we asked for several pool quotes. The amounts were around 40-50k for what we were asking. We decided to wait and work on the inside of the house first. Now, four years later, quotes were coming in for double. This was due to so many people wanting pools, so they drive up the prices. Plus, manufacturing shortages meant the cost of materials is also higher and that price gets passed on to you. When this happens, there's nothing you can do besides decide you want to pay it or wait in hopes that prices come back down.


When it comes to getting quotes, we usually recommend 3-5 quotes. You may want a contractor who manages all aspects of the renovation or to bring in experts for each area, such as one person for counters and one person for tile. Hiring a contractor will be easier since you'll have someone else managing each part of your renovation, but doing that yourself will likely save you money.


3. Check Their Work:


Try not to decide based on who you liked best as a person. Look at neighbor recommendations and people in your area who have hired them on sites like Nextdoor. Look at their reviews online and check that their licenses are clear.


Then, look for any other ways to check their work, such as asking to see pictures of past projects and even visiting a current job site.


There's a reason you want to go in person. We once hired a guy who showed us tons of pictures of "his" work, but it was actually all done by his father's company. He had never done a single project on his own and lied about it by using his father's pictures. This kind of thing happens all the time. Scammy companies will also create a new business name and get a new license after they start to get negative reviews, so they can have a clean slate. These tactics make it difficult to spot them, but if you check current projects in person and talk to actual people who have worked with them, you'll have a better chance of finding an honest, skilled contractor who won't let you down.


Of course, nothing is perfect. There will always be human error even with the best contractors, so leave a little room for that and hope you have picked someone who will stand by their work and fix it without issue.


4. Get Quotes and Set a Budget:


home renovation

Now that you've chosen who you'd like to work with, ask for detailed quotes and start to set your budget. We have found that projects almost always come in over what we originally estimated.


This is why you want to make a priority list on what you'll focus on for this round. Or, you can cut costs by choosing more affordable finishes. In some cases, it is much easier to just get everything done at once than ripping your house apart again in the future. Only you can decide what you can afford reasonably and what works for your family.


There are also finance options like construction loans and specific loans like a pool loan that can help you get the work finished, so you can pay it off while you enjoy it.


5. Choose a Contractor & Set a Timeline:


It's time to make a decision on who you'd like to work with and set a timeline that works for both of you. They'll let you know when they're available to get started and can help set up a basic timeline of how long it'll take.


In our experience, projects will take longer than they say. Anything can interrupt a project, from workers getting sick to unforeseen events like storms, fires, equipment issues and so on.


While it's important to be flexible and understand that these are real people, it's also fair to communicate regularly with your point of contact and ask how the the timeline will be adjusted accordingly.


6. Obtain Permits:


home renovation

If the work you're doing needs to be approved by the city or a HOA (or both), make sure this is accounted for.


We once started a pool project assuming the company had all necessary permits, since they did a ton of work in our area, when they actually had neglected to get approval from our HOA.


When asked about it, they said they had never had issues with our HOA and didn't request approval. Well, little did they know, our particular neighborhood had a person on the board who regularly walked the neighborhood looking for violations. Luckily, we were able to submit plans and get approval quickly, avoiding large fines, but had we not asked, the situation could have turned out very differently.


Don't assume these things will be done. Check and make sure that all permits and approvals are obtained.


7. Be a Good Boss:


Once work starts, remember to create an atmosphere where people want to come work and do their best. We all know how we feel when we are working in an environment that we do not feel comfortable.


Be honest, be kind and communicate regularly. If you're checking in and keeping an eye on it, you can catch mistakes before it's too late. Not everything can be ripped out or fixed without creating even more damage, so it's better to say something about those sinks being the wrong size before it's installed instead of after.


Also, if there is a conversation that needs to be had, approach the contractor the way you would want to be approached. It'll go a long way with them if you express appreciation for their hard work before launching in to what isn't right.


8. Be Available:


home renovation

On that note, make sure they know how to find you and reach you. Bonus points if you can be on site to answer any questions as soon as they arise. This isn't always comfortable or easy and it can certainly be loud and frustrating to work near a job site, but it'll pay off in the end and reduce mistakes.


We once had our cabinets refinished and both worked outside the home. We had no idea what had been done until we got home. One day, we came home, only to realize they had put the knobs and pulls in the wrong places. They had flipped them around and it was unfixable without leaving obvious marks and holes in the wood.


We lived with the mistake until we sold the home. But, had we been on site to supervise, that mistake could have been caught quickly and fixed, with only a couple cabinet doors being damaged.


9. Make a Plan:


Don't wait until your kitchen is ripped out to figure out how you're going to prepare all that food you just bought. Whether you set up an impromptu kitchen in another area with a single burner, a microwave and other essentials or you plan to budget to eat out for that period of time, it'll be a lot less stressful if you decide in advance.


Same goes for bathrooms. It's not smart to rip them all out on the same day unless you play to stay at a family member's home or a hotel.


Or, if they'll replacing a closet or kitchen counters, have a plan for emptying everything out and putting in a safe place where it won't get covered in dust and debris. The workers are not quoting you on also removing all your things and nobody will likely do so with the same care and consideration that you would.


These types of plans need to be made in advance, so your things are protected, your plans go smoothly and you don't go crazy.


10. Pack Valuables:


home renovation

Take some time to store valuables that you won't want damaged. From accidents to flying debris, you never know what can happen during a renovation. It's better to store your precious belongings before workers are in that space, just so you know that certain things will not be affected by your home remodel.


For large items that can't be moved elsewhere, cover in sheets or protective materials.


11. Plan for Pets & Kids:


Nope, a job site is not a safe place for pets and kids. From ingesting construction debris to potentially getting injured with tools or nails, you'll want to make a plan for where pets and kids can safely hang out during construction.


Pets are easier, but kids will need some encouragement and coaching for how to be safe on a job site. Watching the work being done is certainly going to provide some entertainment, but they'll want to keep their distance so they don't get hurt and workers aren't distracted. Also, put some special games and activities in a safe area to keep them occupied when you have to be at home and plan to get them out of the house more often to get their energy out.


12. Consider Resale Value:


We know this is not a priority for everyone, but it's something to consider. As realtors, we see what potential buyers say whenever they walk homes and we can't dispute the numbers of what people get their money back on and what they don't.


We wrote an entire post on home improvements that will increase the property value for you and then we wrote a companion post with the home improvements that will NOT raise your home value.


It is important to read through these and make decisions accordingly. Then, if you want to put in that brightly colored tile because you love looking at it, at least you can be prepared that if you sell your house someday, new owners may not share your enthusiasm, and that's okay, too.


13. Prepare for Clean-Up:


home renovation

Renovations are messy and not just in the way you think. They may do some of the clean-up, but we have never found it to be up to most people's living standards, so plan time to clean-up areas you have to use in the evenings when work has ceased.


From a great vacuum to some gloves and extra cleaning supplies, stock up on what you'll need to do a quick refresh at the end of the work day.


14. Watch the Weather:


Even if your project is all indoors, you'll see the weather and unforeseen events impact worker's schedules. For example, a large storm may mean that workers are unable to access nearby roads safely or too much snow could equal a snow day for everyone.


There was a huge series of fires near us recently and they caused large scale evacuations of areas where many of our workers lived. Since they were displaced and their kids were out of school, they were unable to come to work.


These types of things simply cannot be avoided and it's best to patient, kind and understanding. There's nothing wrong with checking in and asking how things are going, but be respectful of the big picture.


15. Take a Break:


home renovation

There is no doubt that construction is stressful and things do not go as expected. There will be mistakes and moments of frustration. You'll need to be accessible and involved to help catch things as they arise.


But, also, you are human, too, and you need to give yourself permission to take a break. Don't hesitate to go work at a coffee shop to have some quiet or schedule a nice lunch with a friend where there's no jackhammer sounds.


On non-workdays, relax as much as you can and if you can't relax in a home that's torn up, book time at a spa or go do something fun with the family.


Your mental health can really take a nosedive when your home is a mess, so plan ahead to give yourself breaks, too.


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Updating your space can be a very exciting time as you watch your dreams for your home unfold before your eyes, but it can also be a very stressful, expensive, challenging experience.


We hope these tips help you set realistic expectations and have a smoother home renovation project.


Thanks for reading!





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