As you all may have noticed, our renovations have been taking…FORever and we are still in the planning stage. Longest awaited “coming soon” teaser of all time. I know. There have been multiple times now where I’ve thought – This is it. This is the plan – and more times than I can count that I’ve gone back to the drawing board to try another what if scenario.
I’ve talked to other people who have had similar experiences when renovating whether the plans dragged out on their end or they couldn’t find the right match for an architect or contractor. Knowing other people go through this too I thought some of what I’ve learned in our process so far could help other people avoid it.
A little bit of background on our renovation story…we bought our house a year ago and planned on renovating from day 1. With only one bathroom in the house and the laundry outside these were at the top of our list. And yes, I am just as surprised as you are that I’ve survived a full year in a house with a laundry machine outside.
We started off really ambitious. We wanted to be out of the house a few months after moving in and back in our newly renovated house by now…or you know 6 months ago. It makes me laugh at how easy we thought this would be. Before we even moved in we met with a family friend and architect to do some rough floor plans and started to work on the projects we could do ourselves. Our first few months in the house were a blur.
We removed radiators…
See Before & After
tiled our screened-in porch…
See Before & After
replaced the faux wood floors in the basement
See Before & After
and repainted our front door.
We did house projects every weekend finishing projects at night after our day jobs and somehow managed to pull together our home’s progress for our Design Sponge feature. Styled and all, because no way our house looks like this on the regular.
See the feature on Design Sponge
Somewhere around Christmas things started to stall. First off, we were exhausted! After non-stop weekends of home renovation projects, an ambitious travel schedule and never ending “to do” lists at home (and the office) we needed a break.
When we picked back up, we started working on revising the floor plans with some pretty aggressive renovations– update the kitchen, add a bathroom to the main floor, add a laundry room inside the house, and add a master bath.
Having never renovated before we weren’t really sure what we could do for our money and would scenario plan to see how bids came back, which I learned was exhausting for everyone involved.
We finally got to a place with our plans to start and a contractor who we really liked (and who was in our budget). We had taken the drawings from the architect and reworked some of the spaces to save money and we were ready to move out and get started…But the ‘what if’ scenarios continued…something wasn’t sitting well with the plan and we went back to the drawing board with the architect this time.
Working with the architect for about 2 weeks we have been able to get closer to a final plan that we truly love than we did in a year and we’ve learned quite a bit along the way. Here’s what we’ve learned so far in the planning process.
Set A Budget Upfront
This may sound obvious, but do this before you even start talking to an architect. Understanding your budget upfront will help you talk about pay structure with architect and help them keep what they design within what you can afford.
Some general rules of thumb if you don’t already have a set amount you want to spend and need a place to start. Think about the amount you could put into the house and still get back out when you sell it. Looking at similar houses in your neighborhood is a good guide so you don’t over or under build the neighborhood. Other things to keep in mind is typically going outside of your home’s footprint (existing walls) is more expensive than staying inside. We also heard a lot that when you get a contract back from a builder to build yourself a 20% cushion for overages.
Put Your Renovation Wish List In Priority Order
It’s important going in for you to know what the priority order is for your renovation so you can make decisions. You’ll have to make choices along the way as you work with the architect on layouts, contractor on the build and designer (if you decide to get one). Knowing where this stands for you and for anyone you’re renovating with will save you time on architectural costs and down the road when you start building. Knowing that say the kitchen is more important on your list than the new bathroom will also help you when you make design choices on appliances and fixtures.
Find An Architect That Fits Your Needs
Finding the right people to work on your project is a common pain point I’ve heard across a lot of different people renovating. If you haven’t renovated before it’s hard to know where to start. Referrals from friends and family is where we started. When evaluating them for your project style from previous projects is important to understand if their design style is a fit but also talk about scale of projects. If you’re architect generally builds very grand new homes going to them for budget-friendly ideas for your renovation probably isn’t a good fit. Many architects are happy to talk about the scope of the project before coming on in an informational interview.
Be Strategic About Finding Design Inspiration
One of the things our wedding planner said during our wedding was to look at Pinterest once to make your decisions on style and then don’t look back. This is such good advice that I think applies to home renovations. If you keep looking at Pinterest throughout your project you’ll continue to see something new that you want and can get too caught up in the latest trends. I’ve heard that changing your mind on something when you’ve started the project is where costs can really add up.
Now while I wish a much more speedy experience for all of you thinking about undergoing a renovation…in all of this, I can honestly say I’m glad with how this has played out. I am glad that CT and I have had this year in this old home we fell in love with during our home search. We’ve gained a year’s worth of intel into how we live as newlyweds and what we want this home to be. What’s important to us, what’s not. We’ve thought of every floor plan you could ever think of and I’ve got the rolls of trace paper to prove it to get to the right plan. We’ve been able to see how the housing market changed in the past year and get a better feel for our neighborhood. All of that process really does feel invaluable regardless of the stressed out conversations and effort that has gone into the last year.