Maybe it's because I live in Charleston, a growing town filled with older homes that need major work when a new family dares to make a life in them, but in the past two weeks alone, I have had multiple inquiries from clients looking to renovate a home. With each one of these clients there has been a single common statement between them, "we have no idea where to start." Shows like Fixer Upper on HGTV have lighten a fire to home buyers looking to renovate and "flip" an old home. The first thing I tell these homeowners, it's not as easy as it looks on tv! The idea of renovating can seem exciting at first but most homeowners come to realize that it is also stressful, time consuming, and can go from smooth to bumpy in a split second. Don't get me wrong, I am a big advocate for renovating. I would much rather see an older home be given new life then cut down old oak trees and build new large houses on farms that have been in a family for over 50 years. I've just seen too many renovations go completely wrong because of uneducated and unprepared homeowners, and I don't want that to happen to you! So I've devised a plan that all homeowners looking to renovate should follow. With these eight essential steps your renovation will hopefully be relatively stress free!
Step 1: Make a Need & Want List
If you're working with a small budget, this first step is absolute KEY to staying on track with your numbers. Often times we NEED to renovate because we need a bigger kitchen, we need a new laundry room, we need extra closet space. Then somewhere, slowly but surely we add WANTS to our list. We want a new fridge, we want new furniture, we want different tile. Eventually our want list out weighs our need list and we've gone and completely blown the budget! If your budget can handle all your wants then great! But creating your need and want list will help you zero in on the necessities so you can make sure you spend your money on them first before you purchase all new furniture and now can't afford that roof you needed.
Step 2: Figure out your budget
It's the word we all hate, Budget. Especially dreamers like me. If I had a dollar for every idea and dream I've ever had I'd be rich. Unfortunately only some of those ideas are good ones and the only way I'll get to those dreams is by working hard and going after them, which can take some time. The same principal can be applied to your home renovations. Figure out how much you can afford to spend. If you don't want to take a loan out, decide how much you are willing to spend and start saving! If you have a large budget then you can very well do the whole project all at once. If not, then you may need to do it in phases, in which case you will need to figure out the cost of each particular phase. Sadly, you will probably go over your budget, most home renovators do. Only because those old houses can be tricky! You can very well rip out a wall only to find termites or mold, in which case you now need to pay to make sure that infestation isn't anywhere else. Things happen, and there is no way of knowing when or why so just be prepared!
Step 3: Organize your Ideas
This is what I like to call the "idea headache." A phrase I am all too familiar with. I constantly have ideas floating all around my brain that it often results in a slight headache because I can't seem to pin point them down. Organization is the advil to this headache. Printing your photos or organizing them onto various pinterest boards will help keep them organized by room and eventually make it much easier for you or your designer to filter the good from the bad.
Step 4: Hire a Professional
If you are design savvy you may not need to hire a Designer to help you pick finishes, etc. however I would highly recommend hiring an Interior Architect (like me!) to help you with the new floor plan of your space. Having a detailed floor plan and finish schedule will make your job and the contractors job MUCH easier when starting the renovation. You will know exactly what you want and what needs to happen. Therefore, the planning and implementing will go ten times smoother than handing your contractor the sketch you've done on a napkin.
Step 5: Pick your Selections
I recommend choosing your selections before you hire a contractor. This way when you do meet with your selected contractor he will have all the necessary information to get you an exact quote. I also recommend buying the materials yourself if you can. Some contractors will charge a 20% up charge on the goods so purchasing and supplying the tile yourself will help you stay in budget and not take on any hidden fees. Make sure though that you have an option A and B for all your selections! Often times things are out of stock when you need them or the price is just too high when you add on the construction fees and you need to go with a more budget friendly product. We offer a comprehensive list of vendors for just $30! It's our favorite places to shop for anything and everything, organized by category, so contact us to get your copy!
Step 6: Get a Quote...or Three!
Always, always, ALWAYS get more than one quote for a project. If you are doing the work yourself fine, consider asking a friend who knows or paying for a consultation fee with a contractor to have them look at your plans and estimate how much it will cost you. If you are hiring a contractor have at the minimum two separate companies come look at the space and give you a quote. Once they've come back to you, don't make your final decision based on cost. Joe may be cheaper than Billy but is Billy going to do better work? Also, consider sticking with a contractor who can do most of the work himself. Here in the southeast, most general contractors sub everyone out and I mean EVERYONE! This really rubs me the wrong way simply because a job that should take 3 months is now taking 6 because Danny the painter can't get you in for 2 months. Hiring a contractor that has a crew who can do all or nearly all the project themselves will save you money and time.
Step 7: Get a Realistic Timeline
Knowing when tile is in or when your house will be painted, etc. is very helpful for staying on track and on budget. Get with your contractor and devise a realistic timeline that you will both be following. That way if something gets pushed back then you know everything will be pushed back. This is also more incentive for your contractor to stay on target ;)
Step 8: Have a Back Up Plan
As in all things in life, stuff happens! So always have a plan b. Especially when doing a full home renovation. Sometimes, a job that size requires you vacate the space for a time, so be prepared. Have a family member or friend you can stay with or a place to rent month to month.