House Renovation Tips

Where do I start when renovating a house?

First off, congratulations! If you’re planning to renovate a house! But where to start??

You’re undoubtedly about to take on one of the most transformational projects in your lifetime. Renovation planning is up there with planning a wedding, or starting a family. It doesn’t come without its stresses, but you’ll never regret it, and you’ll build memories (and a home) for a lifetime. 

We know because we did it! 

Well, not the wedding part (we’re one of those couples who has been engaged for 5+ years!) No, we bought a disgusting, dated 1930s fixer-upper and renovated it to be our perfect, Modern Country inspired home. 

…we know all about the dust, sweat, and tears involved in a home renovation. Believe us.

Planning for a new look for your house? Look no further! Hitch Property Constructions is here to help in your home renovations.

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHERE TO START YOUR HOME RENOVATION?

Home Renovation Tips

DETERMINE WHAT YOU CAN REMODEL YOURSELF – AND WHAT YOU CAN REMODEL YOURSELF

Most people struggle to afford to remodel their entire house all at once. They also want to save as much money as possible. If this sounds like you, first decide which parts of the remodel you can do yourself and which you need a contractor to do.

Amateurs can do tasks like painting, baseboard installation, small-scale demolition (like a counter or set of cabinets) or even installing flooring. But door or window installation and large demolition projects may be more difficult.

And if you don’t know if it is something you might want to tackle, hop on YouTube and just watch a couple of videos of people doing what you are thinking of doing. You might be surprised how much courage that can give you. 

START WITH THE BASICS AND MAKE A LIST!

I know it starts obvious but going back to basics is the best way to get to grips with everything that needs doing.

If you’ve bought a house in need of renovation, you will probably have had a survey carried out. We have mixed feelings about surveys (mainly because we feel they’re a lot of blah-text and don’t go into enough detail) but they are a good way to get a rough overview of the jobs that will need tackling. Don’t just rely on the survey though as they don’t cover everything!

The more you know – the more prepared you’ll be. So take a good look around. Climb into the loft, lift carpets, knock on your walls to see if the plaster is loose (it’ll sound hollow), check your windows, look at your brickwork and pointing. Are there any cracks that seem worrying? Have you found a woodworm? Is your paint flaking?

Even if you’ve bought a house that you think is in good condition you’ll probably end up finding more than just a few things you’d like (or have) to update or change. You really want to be as thorough as you possibly can and make a note of everything that catches your eye. You may not know what to do or how to tackle any problems at this point, but that doesn’t matter. Knowing that you may have a problem that needs solving is the first step.

One of the main things that came up on the survey of our Edwardian house before we bought it was ‘may contain lead paint’. It came up again and again. As with all surveys, I’m sure that the surveyor was covering himself to a certain degree, but hearing about all things that could be wrong with your home is a bit disconcerting, to say the least. Knowing facts and making informed decisions is a really important part of buying a home. At Hitch Property Constructions, we offer a wide range of home renovations.

SORT THE LIST.

Once you’ve made notes and have the possibly longest list, you’ve ever seen it’s time to start sorting everything and grouping the problems and potential jobs that need doing into categories.

Open up an Excel sheet (we love to use Google Sheets) and add columns and rows for each type of project that will need doing.

We like to break down the list and sort it into categories based on the type of job (i.e. plumbing, electrics, plastering, painting & decorating, etc.) but there’s no right or wrong way. It’s all about finding a method that works for you.

Compare what you have with what you want.

Where your issues related to the use of space, start by preparing an inventory of the rooms you have now and how they’re used. Next, itemize the spaces you’d like to have and the uses you need to accommodate. Imagine you’re writing the brief for your ideal home.

Comparing both these lists should identify any “gaps” that need to be filled. The challenge then is to see whether your existing home can be rethought to meet these needs.

For example, can the extra living room you desire be accommodated in a first-floor room? Or in a loft? Can the guest bedroom double as a home office? Be broad in your thinking to achieve the best use of your resources, both spatial and financial.

BUDGET

When determining a budget, there’s so much to consider: contractors, paint, flooring/carpet, cabinets, countertops, and much more – along with tools and equipment to install each of these items.

You’ll also have to consider the time that each task will take. This is why choosing a professional, efficient contractor is so important. The same task could take one contractor half the time of another contractor, potentially saving you thousands of dollars.

SET YOUR PRIORITIES.

When you’ve sorted your list, add additional columns where you can make a note of how important the job is and give it a priority rating based on how urgent the work is. In addition to making a note of the priorities, we also like to mark a whole row in a bright red if something is particularly urgent.

Inevitably there will be projects that you have to carry out sooner rather than later. If you have any big problems, you’ll have to sort them before you can do anything else.

It’s also a good idea to consider the order that projects will have to be carried out in.

You can’t do any painting and decoration before your room has been plastered, but you can’t do any plastering before you’ve sorted your electrics and plumbing.

Try to sort the projects in the order they have to be carried out in. As a very rough guide, it should be something like this (but it, of course, depends on exactly what work has to be done in your home and how serious any problems are).

  • Major building work like knocking down walls or building new walls, changing room layouts, fixing any problems like worn pointing or dampness
  • Windows
  • Electrics & plumbing (1st fix)
  • Plastering
  • Tiling
  • Painting & decorating
  • Electrics & plumbing (2nd fix)
  • Floors

One of the most annoying parts of renovating a home is that a lot of projects affect others. If you want to knock down a wall, for example, there will likely be cables and/or pipes that will also need sorting.

To a certain degree, the order of your priorities will be dictated by the results of the survey, but it’s just as important to decide what’s important for you. What project would you like to finish first? What would improve your quality of living most? In what areas can you afford to spend money most? Which project is most urgent?

It can seem totally overwhelming, but if you take the survey (or if you don’t have one your list) to pieces bit by bit and break everything down into individual steps, it can make it seem more manageable and less daunting.

ASK FOR HELP.

If you made notes of things, you’re worried about in the first step, now’s the time to ask for help. Friends and family are always a good source, but if it’s something you think could be a bigger problem, ask a professional.

Now is also the time to get quotes and find out what will be involved in fixing any issues you may have. Even if you’re the best DIYer the world has ever seen, there are projects that you won’t be able or allowed to do yourself. There are certificates and compliance paperwork that you’ll not only need if you ever want to sell your house again, but you should also have for your own peace of mind.

If you’re uncertain of anything or your abilities, always ask/use a professional! Hitch Property Constructions has the best range of renovations services to help you create your dream house.

DETAILED PLANNING.

As detailed as the list, you now have, we still go into even more detail when planning a specific project. You can think of the steps we’re sharing here as the first part of the planning process.

When you have an overview of everything that needs doing, you can really start to plan your individual home improvement projects in more detail.

We wrote a post about how to plan a home improvement project where we go into a lot of detail on exactly how we plan a single project from gathering inspiration right through to costings and scheduling the work.

I’m not going to lie. Renovating a whole house (or even just tackling a single home improvement project) can still be difficult. It’ll be daunting, and it’ll probably cause you a few sleepless nights. Is it worth it? Yes! For us, it’s one of the best things we ever did.

Plan a methodical makeover. 

When major work isn’t required, but the whole house needs a face-lift, work systematically through each room to establish the extent of the work and outlay required. Start in the hall — it typically needs more thought than you might imagine — and work logically from there.

Think methodically about each room in terms of floor, walls, ceiling, lighting and furnishings. Prepare a list of items to be purchased and building or decorative work to be done. You’re aiming to create a priced inventory of all the material needed for a successful project.

You may find it useful to create a shopping list with relevant dimensions on your phone or in a dedicated notebook for handy reference on the go.

Maximize your existing space. 

If you feel you need more space, first check that the rooms you already have are working sufficiently hard before deciding whether to extend.

Perhaps you even have an unused room. Could it be reinvented and put to work in a different way? Is it actually a problem room — with issues of light, warmth or arrangement that need to be solved before it can be put to any use?

Could the dividing walls between the rooms at the back of your house be removed to create that coveted kitchen/dining/family room?

If you do decide to extend, make sure that the existing house flows into the extension and that, between both areas, your needs in terms of space and storage are fully met.

Boost natural light. 

If the light is your main concern, a light-filled extension might seem a tempting vision. But bear in mind that such an extension may reduce light in your existing spaces.

Large windows to even the tiniest of external spaces can transform the light levels in any room. So, too, can light tubes, always a powerful source of light.

Where space and planning controls permit, a garden room, such as the one in this photo, can expand your space without impinging on the quality of light in the main house. Depending on the orientation of your home, the garden room may even enjoy better sunlight than the main rooms.

Manage your storage. 

Your aim throughout the house should be to achieve storage that’s both convenient and appropriate to what’s being stored.

You may think your existing storage is woefully inadequate, but before ripping it out and starting again, ask yourself: Could it work harder?

In the kitchen, for example, rearranging the contents of existing drawers and adding cabinet shelves can free up valuable space. This thinking can be applied to closets, linen cabinets and all other special storage areas around the house. Your main outlay here will be time, not money.

DECIDE ON THE DESIGN AND STYLE OF YOUR HOME.

If you are renovating your whole house, you’ll probably want each room to match in style and design – at least in the main gathering spaces like the kitchen, family room, and basement. You may feel the ability to be more creative or express different individuals’ preferences in smaller rooms like bedrooms and bathrooms.

START WITH ISSUES, NOT SOLUTIONS.

If significant alterations or even an extension are envisaged, take time at the outset to reflect on what’s propelling you to undertake the work in the first place.

Think specifically of what your issues are in terms of space, light and storage. Exploiting each of these elements to its fullest is key to creating a home that fits your needs like a glove. Whatever your space and budget, there’s an optimal solution for each part of this home-design trinity.

Also bear in mind the present and future life stages of members of the household — from toddlers to schoolchildren to young adults – and how your home will need to respond to each.

ACQUIRE THE APPROPRIATE PERMITS

Some home remodelling projects require a permit. Structural changes, footprint changes, new windows, and plumbing or electrical modifications are the most common home improvements that require a permit. Smaller projects like replacing flooring and painting do not require any permit. 

An easy place to start is just to call your local city offices and tell them what you are doing and ask them what permits you will need from them. They may advise you to check with the county or state for permits as well. 

RESEARCH BUILDER’S RISK INSURANCE

For large construction projects, you may want to consider the builder’s risk insurance, primarily to cover property loss due to natural disasters, theft, and vandalism. And check your homeowner’s policy first to see what they will cover and then decide if you need any additional coverage.

But if you are doing a small-scale remodel or remodelling the interior of your home.

CREATE A TIMELINE AND STICK TO IT

The best way to reduce your stress during the remodelling project is to create a timeline. Without one home, remodelling could take years.

You may run out of time yourself and just never get the chance to finish up the project. Or you might be waiting on a contractor to follow up with you for several weeks, which keeps the remodel from moving forward.

Creating a timeline can help you move this process forward. Any plan you’ve set forth can be proposed to your contractor too – if it’s not realistic, you can work out a new one with them. If it is, they will do their best to stick to your time frame.

Following your timeline doesn’t mean that the first timeline you make will be the only one you follow. If you encounter setbacks, modify it as necessary.

But no matter what, keep a timeline updated. This way, even with several setbacks, you’ll still have a plan to finish your house remodel.

Every job should have a signed contract specifying what you’ve agreed to. It helps avoid misunderstandings, disappointments, and unrealistic expectations.

Don’t wait until you are halfway through your renovation to discover that you should have painted the walls before laying the solid timber floors or that the wiring should have been finished before the new ceiling went in. Follow the tips above in your renovation project for less stress and mess.

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