Top 5 Tips for Renovating an Old House

July 22, 2016

Despite what the big box stores will say, home renovation is something that should really be left to those who are familiar with the risks of construction.  You probably shouldn’t be installing electrical devices if you don’t understand the difference between a white wire and a green wire.  Home Styling on the other hand is a different story.  It’s amazing what two days and some paint can do.  In either case, a new homebuyer often needs a place to start when contemplating major changes to a home.  Here are a few of our standard rules of practice when it comes to home renovations.

1- Don't do any work immediately unless you have to.

We understand your old home may need a new roof or a heating system or something else really important.  However too many homeowners take down walls or rip out kitchens well before they should have.  You really should live in the home for 6 months before doing anything major.  Experience how the sun moves through your home.  Figure out where the cold leaks in or where you may need to change doors.  This kind of exercise will not only save you money in the long run, but allow you to make more informed decisions about what changes are necessary.  Below are two pictures of the same kitchen.  Originally the homeowner wanted to remove walls and change everything around but after a few months in the house they found the layout worked quite well if an island was added.
 

BEFORE

 

AFTER

 

BEFORE

AFTER


BEFORE


AFTER

 

2- Don't start work without a REAL budget.

Most homeowners have no idea how much things really cost.  The internet is full of bad information on how to 'do it yourself' and save thousands. We once had a client who spent over $1000 on tile that he installed himself and wondered why the tiles were all popping off of the floor.  Products like tile have associated components (underlayments, grouts, sealers) that go well beyond the cost of just the tile itself.  He ended up having to rip all the tile out and start over.  There is also no substitute for qualified labor, which is not cheap.  It’s always a good idea to get bids from a qualified contractor for anything you want to tackle.  Even if you don't use them, it's good to get a reality check before starting any project.  You can also hire an Architect to give you some ideas and estimates based on their recent projects.

3- Use the internet as a tool, not as a school.

Websites like Pinterest and Youtube give people lots of inspiration and advice on how to create the home of their dreams.  There is nothing wrong with creating inspiration boards full of ideas you can take and make your own.  Be careful though when it comes to implementing those ideas.  Just as colors look different on different screens, you must be familiar with the existing conditions and the nuances of different environments.   People who have installed wood floors in humid climates often find that the floors don't stay down for long.  Professionals understand these things and videos are no substitute for hands on experience.

4- Understand your goals.

Are you renovating a starter home that you plan to sell in five years?  Do you plan on never moving and raising a family here?  Make a list of the top priorities you have for the renovation and then determine if those make sense with your goals.  It may be cool to turn your garage into a great home theater but your future buyers may not think so. 

5- Be honest with yourself as to how much you can do. 

There is nothing more frustrating than living in a renovation that never ends.  It places a great strain on a relationship as well as makes it difficult to move on with your life.  If you have a realistic budget in place, plan to get some help with the tougher stuff that might take you alot of time.  You might be able to lay a wood floor in a weekend, but tiling a bathroom could possibly take you a month of weekends or more.  If you follow steps 1-4, this one should be pretty easy to figure out.

In closing, remember that your home is your castle.  Fixing it up may be alot of work, but the rewards can also be great.  If you take your time and do it right, you are more likely to protect your investment as opposed to becoming a cautionary tale. Good Luck!