Finally buying your own property is one of the most exciting life milestones. But renovating it to make it entirely your own is even more special.
Your Instagram feed might be filled with before and after pictures that appear to have been taken only a week apart. But renovating even a small room can be a big project. And you’re going to need to do a lot of preparation beforehand.
So, to make sure you turn your home into your own perfect paradise, here is the ultimate guide for first time renovators.
Making a Schedule for Renovation Work
Making a schedule is one of the most important things to do before you start on a project. Finding pictures you love on Pinterest and Instagram are fun. But it’s important to know what is realistically achievable.
One of the best ways to make your plans a reality is to make a schedule. It’s so important to do as much research as possible. And know exactly how long certain projects will take.
Renovating a whole house can be overwhelming. But so can renovating just one room. Breaking the project down into small steps can make it much more manageable.
Making a schedule will also help you with creating a budget. Making a budget isn’t always the most exciting aspect of renovating a house. Especially if you’re trying to keep costs down. But it is the most important
How to Make a Schedule
Every building will require its own specifically tailored schedule. The greatest variations will depend on how much of the building will be renovated. And the condition the building is in.
Bear in Mind the Budget
If a building is getting a revamp that is primarily superficial or for the sake of aesthetics, then the schedule can start off with knocking down walls or planning out the space.
If a building has structural issues or needs a lot of exterior work, then this needs to be tackled first. This also needs to be factored into the budget. You don’t want to be spending time and money on choosing new doors when the roof needs replacing.
So, once you have a realistic budget, it’s time to get started on making a schedule. Speak to professionals if you are new to renovating. And make sure you have done a lot of research. But remember that a schedule can be flexible. In fact, it needs to be. Things can go wrong or be delayed. And you will need space to work around this. Otherwise, you will become stuck. And the renovation won’t be able to progress.
Split the schedule into sections. Outside and inside should be kept separate. Create a one large master schedule. And then separate it into smaller steps and to-do lists for individual rooms. Make sure to bear the budget in mind at all times. It’s a good idea to incorporate your budget into the schedule. Once you have written down one task, write the estimated cost alongside it.
Organization is Key
If you are particularly well organized, it’s a good idea to create a folder on your computer. Or have a physically filling system. This will allow you to keep track of where exactly you are on the schedule. You will be able to mark projects as complete. And also be reminded of what needs to be done next.
If you are struggling with how to organize your schedule, there are plenty of templates online. You might find that these don’t work perfectly for your project. But they can give you some idea of how to structure a schedule.
Even with something like plotting the timeline of the schedule, it’s important to do research. This will help you gain a greater understanding of exactly how long a task should take. This understanding will help you to plan your schedule. But it will also help further down the line. As you will know whether the task is progressing properly. Or if something has gone wrong or needs changing.
As we have already said, renovations can be overwhelming. Breaking projects down into smaller steps will make everything more manageable. And it will also help you to stick more closely to your schedule.
How to Find the Perfect Project
Choosing the right project can be a little difficult. Especially when you’re choosing your first project. If you don’t yet know exactly where your skills lie, then it’s best to research specific projects. Find out exactly what each project entails, step by step. This will give you a better idea of what a project will involve. And whether it is suited to you and your skill set.
If you already have a building that you want to renovate, then you need to be realistic about what is achievable. When it comes to renovating, you don’t want to change a huge amount about the building. If you are looking at a property and wanting it to look completely different, then it might be best to move on.
This is because renovation is primarily about restoring a property. You will be improving it and potentially making it more up to date. But you will still want to keep the original bones of the property. And its original features and characteristics. This is especially true when working on a period property. (Make sure to read on below for more information on the differences between renovating and remodeling.)
Knowing exactly what is achievable will also help you to avoid some common mistakes. One of which is underestimating costs.
Inspect the Property Thoroughly
Sometimes, you will come across a property that seems like it is just waiting for you to pick it up. But properties can be deceiving. So before buying, it’s important to check the property thoroughly. This is especially important for your first project. And it’s a good idea to have professionals that you can trust to look over it as well.
And when we say thoroughly, we mean thoroughly. You need to go top to bottom and in every nook and cranny. This will help you to understand if you have the budget for really renovating this property. It’s a common problem that you can commit time and money to a project, only to suddenly need to divert funds to a structural problem.
Is This The Right Project For You?
It’s important to know whether you have the funds and skills for a renovation project. But all practical necessities aside, you also need interest and passion. These will be the real driving forces behind your project.
This interest also needs to be sustainable. It’s easy enough to get excited about a project. But if you aren’t able to sustain your excitement, then the project can become delayed. Or not be realized at all. Here are some tips on how to find the right project for you.
Find Your Style
This is a super important one. Not every renovation project will be the same. And your own personal style will make each project different. But you also need to find your own style of property.
When renovating a property, it’s important to maintain the original style and essence. This means that you shouldn’t take on a property that you want to change entirely. So, if your style is very modern, don’t take on an 18th Century property with original features.
Instead, look for a property built in the 1960s or 1970s. This will give you the best foundation for renovation. You will be able to add in your own style. Without spoiling the original aesthetic of the property.
Know Your Own Skills
Even if you bring in professionals, it’s important to know where your own skills lie. Especially if you want to be hands-on with the project. This can simply be organizing the schedule or establishing the budget. Or it can be creating the floor plan.
Even if you won’t be in charge of a job yourself. Before you get involved, it’s important to know how much you will be able to do yourself. And when to leave it to the professionals. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t get involved and help out.
Knowing your limitations is just as important. You need to be realistic about what you can do yourself. And what will be best left to the professionals. Otherwise, you might try something yourself and fail. Then you will have to bring in a professional anyway. Which will impact your schedule and budget.
When choosing a property to renovate, you need to have a clear vision of your end goal. And you need to know if this goal is achievable with the property.
You need to consider the potential of a house. Despite what social media shows, not every property can be magically transformed into the perfectly Instagrammable home.
Enough Space to Extend
Not every renovation will require adding extra space. But, if this is something you want to do, you need to have a good understanding of property space. This comes back to being realistic.
You will need the space to extend the property. But also to have enough space around it. You need to consider the balance between outdoor space and indoor space. Especially if you plan on selling the property after renovating it. Not many people will buy a large house if it means compromising on green outdoor space.
Space also needs consideration if there are nearby neighbors. You will likely need a zoning permit (mentioned below), but you will also need the support and approval of neighbors. If you want to extend a property, but the neighbors will be irritated if it blocks a view or sunlight, then you don’t have the space you think you do.
As mentioned above, obtaining a zoning permit is very important. This is essentially the permission that will allow you to extend a property. Without this permission, you will be illegally extending the property.
Zoning permits vary by state and by local area. So it’s important to do your research before you get started on planning. If you are looking at a property and know you would want to extend it, check whether local zoning laws will allow it first.
Renovating or Remodeling?
Before starting your project, you need to consider whether “renovation” is exactly what you want. There is a distinct difference between renovation and remodeling. And it’s important to know the difference before planning out your schedule. Here are the definitions:
1 to restore to a former better state (as by cleaning, repairing, or rebuilding)
2 to restore to life, vigor, or activity : REVIVE
the church was renovated by a new ecumenical spirit
1 to alter the structure of : REMAKE
2 to cause (living tissue) to undergo structural reorganization, alteration, or renewal
Bones are constantly being remodeled. Cells called osteoclasts break them down and osteoblasts build them up.”— Jane E. Brody
As you can see, these are similar ideas. But require different schedules and budgets. Renovating is essentially fixing up a property. So, if you’re looking to completely transform your home, renovating might not be for you. You are more likely considering remodeling.
This doesn’t mean that renovation won’t include structural changes. Only that these should include restoring or replacing the original structure. Rather than changing the shape of it entirely.
You don’t have to keep to the exact existing structure. Especially if you are working on a very old property. As it could originally have been larger and have had structural aspects knocked down. If you are working on a period property and want to restore it to its original style, this can still involve extensions. So you will still need to consider zoning permits.
Buying at Auction
If you want to have a really big project, then some of the best properties for renovating can be found at auction. Properties that go to auction are often dilapidated and in need of a lot of renovation. So you can potentially find a property for much cheaper.
Properties often go to auction because they have been difficult to sell. Or because the previous owner missed mortgage payments.
Houses at auction are traditionally cheaper. But this isn’t always the case. Especially since renovations have become more popular. More and more people are looking to renovate properties. This can drive up the prices at auction.
Some properties are also going straight to auction. Even if they are not completely dilapidated. This means that some properties are being sold for a lot more than expected.
When creating your budget, you need to have a buffer. If you plow all of your money into a project with nothing to spare, you may find yourself caught short. This can be due to finding more structural issues than expected, as mentioned above. Or it can be due to a change in costs.
Other extra costs can arise due to unexpected delays or unforeseen circumstances. Even if they are completely out of your control.
Buying at auction does have more risks than buying directly through a realtor. This is partly because the price can be driven upward by other bidders.
Auction House Conditions
Although there can be variation, a house put up for auction will generally be in a state of disrepair. This is especially true if the house is up for auction due to the previous owner being unable to pay the mortgage.
If they couldn’t pay the mortgage, then it is very unlikely that they could afford any repairs or renovations. So, you could be looking at a property that just needs some TLC. Or you could be faced with a huge project ahead of you. Which might require renovating from the foundations up.
This is another reason to do a lot of research beforehand. Have a super close look at the property. And remember that buying at auction is a risk. If you already have some experience with auction houses, then you might feel a little more confident.
But if you have never bought at auction before, make sure to get there early. And read up on how the process works beforehand. Otherwise, you might be beaten out by a pro who might have other plans for the property.
Do I Need Outside Help?
Now, this is a big question. For first time renovators, the answer is usually going to be a very big “Yes!” Wanting to renovate as much as you can yourself is very understandable. But, as mentioned before, knowing your limitations is super important.
You really don’t want to renovate the property alone, only to find out later that something avoidable went wrong. Especially if it’s a few years down the line, and you’re living in the property yourself.
So, even if you want to do as much as you can yourself, consulting and working with professionals is a good idea.
Architects will be especially helpful if you’re working on a renovation that will involve altering the structure of the property. We did mention above that structural work is usually considered to be “remodeling”. But there are definitely some instances where renovation can involve structural work.
This is especially true if you are working on a property that requires a lot of structural repairs. Working with an architect can help you to better understand the mechanics of the property. As well as how to approach different tasks.
An architect can also be helpful for period properties. If you want to restore a property to its original style, then an architect can help with this. Especially if you want to add an extension or other aspects that were originally on the property. But have since been removed.
There is a perception that architects essentially only draw out the blueprint or floor plan. But this definitely isn’t the case. It’s a good idea to consult an architect before you get started. So you know what will be achievable and realistic.
If you are planning on selling the house after renovation, architects can also help you to understand what is currently the most popular and sellable style.
A lot of people want to do the physical work of renovations themselves. And it is amazing to be able to look at something you did with your own hands. But, renovating a property can be a lot more complicated than it looks.
One of the reasons why some renovators do a lot of work themselves is to save money. But, if you don’t have the skills, you’re going to spend more money in the long run. If you accidentally do something wrong, you will end up having to pay more to have it fixed. Then you will have to pay for it to be done professionally. Which could have been done in the first place.
This is once again a case of being realistic. Paying builders to do the work won’t mean relinquishing control. In fact, hiring builders can even help you to realize your vision even more than you could alone. This is because a builder will be able to tell you what is and isn’t achievable. They will also be able to tell you what is currently popular and fashionable.
Consulting builders can also help you to understand timescales. They will be able to provide you with quotes and a tentative timeline. Which you can factor into your schedule. This will also help you to work out your budget.
Just remember that you can speak to a lot of different professionals. Many will be happy to work with you. Few will try to take over and work against you. But, you can still reach out to different people and companies. And you can even change builders part way through, if things aren’t quite working.
Renovating – Finishing Touches
When you first begin renovating, it can be difficult to ever imagine the end. But, no matter how long it takes, you will eventually get there. And then you can add in the finishing touches that will make a property perfect.
These can be practical elements. Or they can be aesthetic features. Being able to see a property go from disrepair to a home is a fantastic feeling of accomplishment. Even if you plan to sell the property, you will be able to know that someone is making a home due to all your hard work. Here are some of the most important finishing touches to remember.
This is definitely one of the final steps of any property renovation. Which can be a little frustrating if you’re more inclined to the aesthetic side of things, rather than the practical. But, once you have the structural aspects finished, designing the style of the property is one of the best things about renovation.
If you are planning on selling the property after renovation, then it’s important to keep the decoration neutral. This will allow any potential buyers to imagine their own style in the property. But don’t make it too boring. Some people find it difficult to envision how they would like to style a home. So a balance is needed.
This stage can involve putting up wallpaper. But also deciding on crown molding, hearth design, or tiling. These are practical and physical decisions. But they align more with the finished style. Rather than anything practical.
This is, of course, a huge aspect of the renovation process. Your ideas for exactly which pieces you will choose might change. But it’s important to establish the purposes of each room before renovating. This will help to ensure that each room has everything it needs.
For example, if you’re planning an office, this will need lots of sockets. A bedroom will need lots of natural light. And a den will need to be quiet and cozy.
It’s also a good idea to decide on big pieces early on. Such as couches and dining tables. This will help when establishing the layout of a room. Even if you aren’t sure exactly which fabric you will use. It’s useful to know the shape and style of the couch you will want. This will stop you from adding in any features that will get in the way or clash.
Keep a Snagging List
“Snagging” is a term used widely throughout the renovation and construction industry. But rarely elsewhere. Snagging refers to any practical task that needs completing before a project can be considered complete.
As the name suggests, these are usually minor issues. For example, a door handle not being attached. Or a scratch on the wall needing painting over or removing.
Snags are small tasks that need to be done before the project is completed. But aren’t essential. Items on a snagging list are generally cosmetic. They can be a little more serious, such as poorly put up wallpaper. But it won’t be anything that cannot be easily fixed.
Top 5 Tips For First-Time Renovators
The guide above covers a great deal of the information you need to renovate your first property. But, there will still be so many factors to consider and learn about. Even if you do your research beforehand (which you should!), you will still finish the project having learned a lot on the job.
To start you off, here are some top tips for renovating your first property:
Make a Realistic Wish List
“Realistic” is definitely the keyword when it comes to renovations. Scrolling through Pinterest and Instagram might be fun. But you need to work within your budget. And within your timescale. Planning beyond your means will only result in stress. And potentially delaying important tasks.
So, make a wish list of everything you could want for your perfect property. Then scale it down until it fits into your budget. And forget about everything else. Don’t dream about things you cannot afford. This will only spoil what should be a fun process.
Work Out What Work Needs to be Done
Schedule schedule schedule. You need to have an accurate, sustainable, and well planned out schedule. Stick closely to the timeline. This will help to prevent you from going over budget. Before you even go near any practical tools, you need to plan.
Assess the property, both yourself and with professionals. And make a list of everything that needs to be done. This will be the basis for your schedule and your budget.
Set a Realistic Budget
Again, being realistic with your budget is essential. Going over budget can be super stressful. And it will make the process difficult and unenjoyable. Plan out your ideas beforehand. And come up with a cost estimate. Then compare it to what you can afford. And scale down until it fits your budget. Work within this. And always budget for mistakes!
Make a Plan and Stick to It
This is super important. Make sure your plan is realistic, achievable, and sustainable. And then stick to it! But you also need to plan for problems. This might sound difficult. And it is difficult to plan for something to go wrong when you don’t know what that something might be. But you simply need to have a sensible plan. Just not one that is too strict and rigid.
A lot of professionals and companies will provide free quotes. So it’s worth shopping around. Just make sure to only request quotes from professionals whose services you might actually use. Don’t request a quote just on the off-chance that you might use them. Otherwise, they will be spending time and money on something that had little chance of happening anyway.
Overall, the most important things to do are research and plan. It’s fine to have big dreams when it comes to renovating a property. Especially if it will be your home. But just remember that this is your first go. So everything might not be perfect. And you might even go on to renovate more properties in the future.
Remember that things can go wrong. And problems will probably arise. But if you have a good plan and a sensible budget, you should be able to achieve your renovation goals.