5 Things Nobody Tells You About Renovating (Or What I Wish I Knew Before Getting Started)

5 Things Nobody Tells You About Renovating (or What I Wish I Knew Before Getting Started)

Renovating is a huge undertaking. If you’ve never done a renovation before, you may not know what to expect. With that in mind, I’ve decided to share with you some hard-earned lessons from my recent renovation experience. Read it over to get a sense of what you need to know before getting started.

Renovating your home? Here’s what to keep in mind

1. The project timeline is just an estimate.

When I first started interviewing contractors for my renovation project back in May 2020, the most common timeline I heard was six to eight weeks. In reality, the project took almost six months to complete.

Since most people will not be renovating during a global pandemic, you shouldn’t have to worry about your renovation going months and months over schedule. However, it’s important to remember that project timelines are just an estimate. It’s a good idea to leave some extra time on either end in case you face unexpected delays.

The truth is that contractors have to balance several timelines. Not only are they usually working multiple jobs at one time, but they are also at the mercy of delivery schedules and the schedules of subcontractors like plumbers or electricians.

While your contractors should do their best to provide you with a realistic timeline, you’ll thank yourself in the long run if you leave some padding in your schedule.

2. Leave room in your budget for extra expenses.

Along the same lines, it’s also a good idea to leave some extra room in your budget for unexpected expenses. Again, your contractor will provide you with an invoice, which should break down all of the anticipated costs for your project. However, there’s a good chance that your renovating project may grow or change along the way, which can lead to additional costs.

In my case, it was refinishing the ceiling. I was originally planning to leave my ceiling in its current condition. However, my contractor convinced me that an old popcorn ceiling would stand out like a sore thumb when juxtaposed against all my new finishes. In the end, I’m glad I took his advice. I knew he was right, and I would have regretted my decision not to do it, even if it felt like an extra expense at the time.

While your added expense may not be refinishing a popcorn ceiling, rest assured that an extra expense will crop up in the renovation process. however, by budgeting for it ahead of time, you’ll be prepared when the time comes to foot the bill.

3. Get everything in writing (and refer back to it often).

As a rule of thumb, contractors are not the best at administrative tasks. It’s important to get everything in writing when you’re renovating — and keep it all for your records so that you can refer back to it later if there is ever a miscommunication.

I learned this lesson the hard way. I almost overpaid for my job. Put simply, my contractor gave me one figure on the invoice that he gave me when he started my job and then another figure when I asked how much I owed for installments. Trusting him, I paid my installments as requested, not even thinking to double-check them against the original invoice.

Fortunately, I thought to check it before I paid my final installment. I realized I only owed about 2% of the total job cost, as opposed to the 10% I thought I was supposed to be paying. Needless to say, I am glad I checked the invoice before I made my final payment.

4. Expect a few bumps in the road.

When you’re renovating, not everything is going to go smoothly. If watching HGTV has taught you anything, it should be that there will be unexpected problems that crop up in the process. While you may not be able to anticipate which problems will occur, mentally preparing yourself for them will make a big difference.

There were a few problems with my renovation. First, I accidentally ordered a washer and dryer that was too wide to fit through my bathroom door. While my contractors were ultimately able to squeeze it in, they thought they were going to have to rebuild my door frame from scratch. Then, my refrigerator door wouldn’t open without banging into the wall. to fix it, my contractors had to remove a piece of finish work and move the refrigerator over. While that may not sound like a big deal, it took a whole day to correct.

5. Create a punch list after the renovating is complete.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself for the idea that not everything will be perfect once your renovation is finished. Some small fixes, which are often referred to as a punch list, may need to be made.

In my renovation, an extra cabinet needed to be installed and the temperature controls on the shower were put on backward. Again, these may sound like small fixes, but they did impact the way that I could use my newly-renovated home, which was frustrating.

Everything will get fixed in the end, but it may just take a little bit longer than you expect.

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Tara Mastroeni

Tara Mastroeni is a real estate and personal finance writer. She has a BFA in Media Production from Emerson College. Her work has been published on websites such as Forbes, Business Insider, and The Motley Fool. She has also been featured as a subject matter expert on Innovators with Jane King and the American Trends podcast. Find her at TMRealEstateWriter.com or on Twitter at @TaraMastroeni.