Six Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Renovated My Home

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If you’re lucky enough to own a home, you know it can be both a blessing and a curse. Although the idea of customizing your home to suit your preferences is appealing, it can be difficult. Forget the before and after—it’s the in-between that counts. 

Before we moved to a ranch in midcentury last year, I was a master of renting renovations. I consider myself cheap and temporary, and close enough for government jobs. It worked. 

We were excited to start bigger and more permanent DIY projects when we moved in to our home last August. (As a disclaimer, I’m lucky—my partner is an independent contractor who has been fixing things around the house since his youth.)

We still ran into some snags. As plan A turned into plan B repeatedly, I realized that I didn’t know as much as I thought about home renovation. I asked several friends, colleagues and strangers about their home renovations. “wish I knews,”It was both a validating experience and an eye-opening one.

1. Get to Terms with Timelines

Because I was so familiar with temporary renovations, my idea of the time it should take to complete a new house project was terribly flawed. These unrealistic time frames were making me miserable. My stress levels dropped when I realized that I didn’t expect a project would be completed in days.

Although I was a little impatient at first, it turned out to be a very common problem. Dallin Hales was my contact. DIY blogger and current owner of a renovated 1880’s pioneer home, who said, “it’s a safe measure to plan three times more time to finish the project than initially expected. If you finish sooner, even better!”

Layla Acharya online education siteOwner and DIY-er had to learn a similar lesson. “I went for renovating myself, and it was a very hectic and time-consuming process. I was unable to focus on my work life because of it. If I would have hired an interior designer, things would have taken less time, and my house would get a completely different feel. I will surely go for that next time.”

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2. Prioritize Function Over Beauty

Jen Stark, founder and CEO of Happy DIY HomeAccording to, the greatest thing she wished she knew before beginning a DIY renovation is “that function beats beauty every day. For example, that refrigerator may look fabulous in your kitchen, but what good is it going to do if you can’t open the doors all the way? Think about how you’ll use the space and efficiency. Consider the ins and outs of the space before you commit to anything.”

Similar problems arose when choosing furniture and fixtures for our new home. The most visually attractive options seemed to be the least functional—though you wouldn’t think it at first glance. After double-checking measurements, wiring configurations and other specifications, I discovered that all that glitters in home decor is not gold.

You might be tempted to buy non-functional items to keep to a particular theme. But remember it’s your home, not an art gallery. Think about how you’ll feel every day living in this space. If it doesn’t improve the functionality of the area, then it might not be worth the splurge.

3. Don’t Forget About Red Tape

Homeowners are not exempt from bureaucratic red tape—in fact, they usually have to deal with a lot of it. The more complicated the renovation, the more paperwork there will be. “If the renovation involves adding to the footprint of the house, most towns require drainage mitigation for any addition over 400 square feet,”Vincent Colangelo explained. Strategic construction advisor.

“This will require an engineering report. A survey will also be required demonstrating that the new addition meets the setbacks, easements, floor area ratio, height, and green area regulations. If the house is on septic and well, an entire separate set of regulations enters the design considerations.”

Housing costs are also something to be aware of. Steve Elliot is a franchise owner. Restoration1, explained, “I am renovating a condo townhouse. In this area, the maximum price for a house of this style is about $300,000. Therefore, while I could spend $30,000 or more renovating, I wouldn’t be able to recoup those costs if I sold the house. Over-renovating will result in a home that costs you $350k that you’ll never be able to get more than $310k for in a sale.”

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4. DIY? Maybe Don’t

If there’s one thing being married to a contractor has taught me, it’s that major DIY jobs rarely go well. I’ve heard countless horror stories of him having to repair botched flooring, plumbing, wiring, and drywall jobs that cost his customers (and him) more time and resources in the long run.

Allison Weston, my coworker and hairdresser, gave me this tip. “[she] told me, ‘there’s a reason why you pay me to do your hair. It’s because it’s what I’m good at. There’s a reason painters make their living painting—because they’re good at it. Let people that are good at their job do it.”Weston stated that she took this advice and hired painters to paint her new home. “and it was worth every single penny.”

Generally speaking, it’s important to know your limits with home renovations. “[DIY] is a great way to save money, feel accomplished, and involve the whole family,”Kerry Sherrin was a consumer advocate. Owner. “But it can turn disastrous if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

“Identify what you can safely do and what you should leave to the pros,” Sherrin continued, “like a potentially load-bearing wall, asbestos, or lead paint. If you’re unsure, find a reliable contractor.”

5. Teamwork is the key to making your dream work

No matter if you hire a pro to help or do it on your own, don’t underestimate how important a helping hand is. This not only means actual hands on the project—but also consulting videos, books, and other resources as often as you need. The best carpenters, contractors, and engineers I know are always researching the most recent techniques and trade secrets.

Sherrin shared several online resources she found helpful, and said they are perfect for DIY-ers starting out. The DIY HuntressShe said that it is ideal for projects such as desks, headboards and even a simple stool. “Woodworking 101”At Anika’s DIY LifeShe said that it is great for tool recommendations and tutorials as well as tips.

And Toolbox DivasIt is possible to “veritable playground of practical and imaginative woodworking projects, like farmhouse shelves, desks, and covered garden beds, to all kinds of wood crafts like a serving tray, multi-tier hanging planter, and an easy-to-make wall clock from scrap wood and colored epoxy.”

RELATED:Three Tips from The Property Brothers to Easily Transform Your Kitchen without Spending Thousands of Dollars

6. Remember The Good, Fast, And Cheap Theory

Renovations to your home can be expensive and time-consuming. It’s best to prepare for the unexpected, maintain a healthy savings account for non-reno-related emergencies, and Be patient. No matter what project you are involved in, ProprietorDoug Greene concludes his DIY advice succinctly.

“The best advice I can convey is the concept of ‘good, fast, and cheap.’ The theory is that you can always only have two of them. For example, if you want really good results on refinishing your cabinets and you need it done ASAP, then you’re going to have to invest in a top-notch orbital sander. Doing it by hand might be cheaper, but it would take longer.”

“You can see the tradeoffs. If you’re truly taking on a home renovation yourself, then invest the money you are saving into high-quality power tools. It will make all the difference, and you can get scary good results by using the right tools. Be patient, and learn some new skills. You never lose them, and it’s very rewarding when the job is done.”

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