Tag Archives: remodeling checklist

What I Wish I Had Known Before My Home Renovation

I’ve been pretty quiet… ok, downright silent on the blogging front lately because I bought an 80 yr old house and have been completely overtaken by the renovation and the roller coaster of excitement and despair that comes with it.  Once I finish the renovation and have some “after” photos, I’ll post some before and afters.  But until then I’m finally in my house, and it’s moving each day a little bit closer to “done.”  Well, I don’t know about REALLY done, but I’ll settle for covers on all my outlets, doors and knobs on all my cabinets, and shutters to replace the sheets covering my windows.

The picture I used for this post is my kitchen backsplash on move-in day, and I thought it was a good representation of how I was feeling on that day – sprung and crazy!  Oh, and here’s some advice – don’t believe your electrician when he tells you that plug is safe… unless you want to get shocked – literally!


I’ve learned so so much in the renovation, some of which is pretty useless, and some of which I wish I’d known and want to tell anyone and everyone who is about to embark on a renovation.  I’ll try to keep the list focused on the latter.  If you want to know things like how to describe a shower curtain rod with a right angle in it, I can help with that too, but I’m guessing that’s not why you’re reading this post.

  • Cover floors completely with paper taped down (or ask them to do it) before any work starts.  This protects your floor from paint and all the construction debris that can get ground into it.
  • Get a key box if you’re not living in the house you’re renovating so workers can come and go as they please while you’re not there.  It won’t take too many times of running over to meet contractors to see the value in this.
  • Take pictures of every room in the house that will be renovated.  That way if a problem occurs, you can prove that before the construction crew arrived, the problem wasn’t there.
  • Label the items you want to keep.  If anything  that you want to keep will be coming down in demolition, clearly mark it or take it out of the house.  Otherwise things just get taken to the dump or given to workers because they assume they’re trash.
  • Check on the house every day.  This is a pain, but it will help you can catch your workers in the middle of something they may be doing wrong and save time and reduce headaches.
  • During your daily house checks, stand for a while in each room just looking around for things you’ll notice later.  Do not assume it crossed the mind of the workers to center or line up anything.  You will be amazed at what you find.
  • Request on the front end that the workers not smoke on the premises and not leave any trash in or around your house.
  • Have a trash can and trash bags in the house.  The workers will not likely take the trash out, but at least most of the trash will be in one place.
  • Leave bottled water and Gatorade in the refrigerator for your workers.
  • Hide your outdoor trash can if you don’t want the workers using it.  In my city you’re not supposed to put construction trash out on the curb, but the workers crammed everything they could into my garbage can.
  • Exchange info with new neighbors.  The workers left my hose running all weekend at my house.  Thankfully my neighbor noticed and texted me.  As to preventing the workers from leaving the hose running… well, I don’t know how to prevent this ridiculousness other than to give them my Dad’s catch-all advice – “Don’t do the next dumb thing you’re going to do.”
  • Write your name on anything you leave at the house.  If you have a closet or room that will not have any construction, keep all your stuff in there.
  • Paint sample paint colors on foam core poster boards, and place them against walls for picking colors.  That makes it easy to see colors on every wall.
  • Stay on top of your workers.  This is easier said than done.  They don’t have the same urgency you have for getting the project finished.
  • Make crazy detailed lists.  This will help keep you from going crazy.  Well, maybe it will just delay the point where you go crazy.  If I were a superhero my superpower would be my memory, and I still needed lots of lists.  There are just too many things to remember to keep them all in your head.
  • If you’re paying all your workers separately (rather than paying the contractor) keep records of what you pay them, because there are so many checks going so many different ways that it will be hard to know at the end what you spent.
  • Ask tons of questions.  i.e. What exactly will that trim look like?  It’s overwhelming because there are so many details that it’s tough to remember this.  Sometimes the projects take on a life of their own, and if you care about the details, you need to make sure everyone knows you care.
  • Ask what decisions you’ll need to make in the next week or so in order to be ready when your contractor calls you from the plumbing supply store to ask which toilet you want.
  • As boring as this seems, make sure you’re involved in the grout decisions.  There is now a grout additive that is not expensive and makes your grout stain resistant.  This is a must-have.
  • Pick the actual slab of granite/marble or look at the tiles in the box when they arrive before they get installed.  I ended up with marble in my tub surround (installed while I was out of town) that was admittedly very pretty but wasn’t at all what I thought I was ordering.  Also, we had to send back the first load of travertine because it wasn’t close to the color we ordered.
  • There will be some surprises once demolition has started if it’s an old house.  Listen hard to their proposed workarounds, and remember that the first option they give you is probably not the only one, so ask until there is one you like.  And ask what each one costs.  Don’t be afraid to have your own ideas about what might work.
  • Know that it is going to cost more than the estimate… way more, and budget accordingly.
  • Have your renovation funds in your checking account ready to pay your workers, because they’ll spring an invoice on you Thursday evening and want it paid Friday in time for payroll.
  • Remember that you’re in charge and that you have the final decision-making power.  It’s easy to get pushed around by designers and contractors.  Remember it’s you who will be living in the house.
  • Throw in all the “extras” you want done while you have workers in the house.  For example I had a faucet installed on the back of my house for watering plants.  Add-ons are much less expensive when the workers are already at your house working than they will be later.
  • Turn your air conditioner off while work is being done that stirs up lots of dust.  The dust clogs up your filters and gets into your AC system, and it will cost you in AC service calls.  At the very least buy a few filters and have them change them regularly.
  • Remember that it will actually end, though it sometimes seems as if it never will!
  • But most of all, have fun and be creative with it!

This has been therapeutic for me to get this all written out, and hopefully it will help you avoid some of the frustrations I encountered.

And stay tuned for some before and afters as well as some new recipe posts!

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