6 things I wish I had known before renovating my house


If you are lucky enough to own a home, you know it can be both a blessing and a curse. The idea of ​​adapting your home to your tastes is appealing, but getting there can be less than glamorous. Forget the before and the after, it’s the in-between that counts.

Before I moved into a mid-century ranch last year with my husband, I thought I was a master of rental renovation: cheap, temporary, and, as I like to call it, close enough for government work. . I decorated spaces within the limits of my lease, and it worked.

But when we moved into our home last August, we were eager to embark on bigger, more permanent DIY projects. (As a warning, I’m in luck – my partner is an independent contractor who has been fixing things around the house since he was young.)

Still, we encountered our fair share of problems. And as plan A repeatedly turned into plan B, I realized that I didn’t know as much about home improvement as I thought I did. I’ve spoken to several co-workers, friends, and even strangers about their “I’d like to know” home renovations, and it was both a rewarding and eye-opening experience.

1. Accept deadlines

Because I was so used to doing temporary renovations, I had a horrible idea how long a project in our new house would last. I was getting frustrated with these unrealistic deadlines. Once I stopped expecting a project to be done in a few days, my stress level finally went down.

I thought I was impatient, but turns out it’s a common problem. I spoke to Dallin Hales, a DIY blogger and current owner of a renovated 1880s pioneer house, who said, “It is a safe measure to allow three times longer to complete the project than originally planned. If you finish earlier, even better!

Layla Acharya, online education site owner and handyman, had an equally difficult lesson to learn. “I went to renovate myself, and it was a very hectic and time-consuming process. I was unable to focus on my professional life because of this. If I had hired an interior designer, things would have taken less time and my house would have looked completely different. I will surely go for that next time.

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2. Prioritize functionality over beauty

Jen Stark, founder of Good DIY house, said the most important thing she would like to know before starting a DIY home improvement project is “that function beats beauty every day. For example, this fridge might look fabulous in your kitchen, but what good is it if you can’t open the doors all the way? Think about how you will use space and efficiency. Consider the ins and outs of the space before committing to anything.

I ran into similar issues when choosing furniture and fixtures for our new home. The most visually appealing options seemed to be the least functional, even if you wouldn’t think so at first glance. But after double-checking measurements, wiring configurations, and other product specs, I realized that all that glitters in the home decor world isn’t gold.

It can be tempting to commit to non-functional pieces to stick to a theme. But remember this is your home, not an art gallery. Take the time to think about how you will feel living in this space on a daily basis. If it doesn’t improve the functionality of the area, it might not be worth splurging on.

3. Don’t forget the paperwork

Landlords are not exempt from bureaucratic paperwork – in fact, they usually have to deal with a lot of it. The bigger the renovation, the more tape there is. “If the renovation involves adding to the footprint of the home, most cities require drainage attenuation for any addition over 400 square feet,” explained Vincent Colangelo, strategic advisor in construction.

“This will require an engineering report. An investigation will also be required to demonstrate that the new addition meets setbacks, easements, floor area ratio, height and green space regulations. If the house is equipped with a septic tank and a well, a whole set of separate regulations enter into the design considerations. »

There are also housing costs to consider. Like Steve Elliot, owner of a franchise of Restoration1, explained: “I am renovating a condominium house. In this sector, the maximum price for a house of this style is approximately $300,000. So while I could spend $30,000 or more to renovate, I couldn’t recoup those costs if I sold the house. Excessive renovation will result in a home that will cost you $350,000 that you can never get over $310,000 for in a sale.

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4. DIY? Maybe not

If there’s one thing being married to a contractor has taught me, it’s that big DIY jobs rarely go well. I’ve heard countless horror stories about him having to fix botched flooring, plumbing, wiring, and drywall jobs that were costing his clients (and him) more time and resources to long term.

My colleague Allison Weston offered this advice from her hairstylist:[she]said to me, ‘there’s a reason you’re paying me to do your hair. It’s because that’s what I do well. There’s a reason painters make their living painting, because they’re good at it. Let the people who do their job well do it. Weston said she hired painters at her new home on that tip, “and it was worth every penny.”

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

“Identify what you can do safely and what you should leave to the pros,” Sherrin continued, “like a potentially load-bearing wall, asbestos, or lead paint. If you’re not sure, find a reliable contractor.

5. Teamwork makes the dream work

Whether you decide to hire a professional or do it yourself, never underestimate the power of a helping hand. This means not only actually getting to grips with the project, but also consulting videos, books and other resources as often as needed. The most talented contractors, carpenters and engineers I know are constantly on the lookout for the latest information, techniques and trade secrets.

Sherrin offered several helpful online resources, which she says are ideal for beginner DIYers. The DIY Hunter is great for projects like desks, headboards and even a simple stepladder, she said, and “Woodworking 101” at Anika’s DIY Life is great for tool recommendations, tutorials, and tips, she said.

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

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6. Remember the theory of good, fast and cheap

Home renovations can be a major undertaking, requiring a lot of time, money, energy and know-how. It’s best to be prepared for the unexpected, maintain a healthy savings account for non-renovation emergencies, and be patient. No matter what project you are embarking on, owner Doug Greene succinctly sums up his DIY tips.

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

“You can see the compromises. If you’re really taking on a home improvement yourself, invest the money you save in some high-quality power tools. It will make all the difference, and you can get scary good results using the right tools. Be patient and learn new skills. You never lose them, and it’s very rewarding when the job is done.

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