3 Key Questions to Ask Before You Begin a Home Renovation



Many of us who watch HGTV see a home renovation that moves quickly and seem to prioritize the selection of countertops and flooring over the construction. I get it, this makes for better tv watching. We definitely don’t want to have to tune in for 8 months to see a typical renovation unfold. Unfortunately, this gives you some pretty unrealistic expectations about what a real-life renovation looks like. Even my smartest clients have been blindsided by the timelines, budgets, delays and stress that really occurs during a renovation.

One of the best tips I have for any new client is to be prepared. If you know that what you see on tv is scripted for entertainment you’ll be less likely to have unrealistic expectations. And that will make for a more grounded experience for you. 

So what should you be prepared for when it comes to a renovation? In the simplest terms, timelines, budget and sharp decision making are the keys to success during a renovation. Jumping into a renovation unprepared will make the experience less enjoyable and more stressful than it needs to be. Here are the 3 questions you should ask yourself before your renovation starts.




1/ What Is My Renovation Budget?


It’s shocking how many people haven’t fully decided on how much they’re willing to spend before they sit down with the experts (contractor, designer, architect, etc). Maybe you’re hoping  that the experts will educate you about costs and budgets. Regardless of what your contractor or architect thinks, only you know what you actually have available to spend.

The worst case scenario for your team is when you have no budget. I’ve had clients say there is no budget but then they agonize over every decision. Having no budget is more restrictive and there’s less peace for you during the immensely long selection process. 

Instead of knowing that your designer is staying within budget you’re going to need to micromanage every decision that’s made. This is way more stressful than necessary and you’re going to pay more in design and construction fees. Everytime you need to pause to consider the price of selected materials you have wasted time on the job site. If you want to learn how to avoid going over budget during a renovation, read this post.


No Budget Will Cost You More

As a designer, it’s not possible for me or the rest of the team to accurately narrow down your choices when there’s no budget. Take backsplash tile as an example. There are hundreds or thousands of tile options for me to choose from.

When I’m creating your design I’ll need to know both your aesthetics as well as your overall budget so that I can always be working within the parameters of that budget. Without a budget I may suggest an imported, hand-made tile that’s $100 per piece. I have no clear understanding of your threshold when it comes to budget. If you find this price shocking I now need to go back to resourcing. The time I’m now spending (and billing you for) could have been avoided if I had a better understanding of the overall budget. 



2/ What Is My Renovation Timeline?


This is another area that causes issues before the project even begins. If you’ve been watching a lot of HGTV then your expectations around timelines may be very skewed. Your contractor and designer will give you real estimates of timing but it’s always smart to buffer a bit for the unknown to occur.

I often meet with people who have been contemplating a renovation for months or even years. By the time they start bringing a team together they’re excited and ready to proceed. The problem is that since Covid the design and construction industries have been overwhelmed with work. Even if you’re ready to start tomorrow you may be shocked to discover that it’s months before your team can start work.

There are a lot of tradespeople required to complete even a simple renovation project. It can be a juggling act of scheduling for the contractor or project manager. If one of your trades is delayed or doesn’t show up it can trigger a domino effect of delays.

Try to be optimistic about how long this project will take but be flexible. And don’t plan any large events until the project is completed. This can cause unnecessary stress if things don’t go as planned. The last thing you want during a renovation is to be worried about where you’ll serve Christmas dinner to 20 relatives. 


3/ Do I Understand What I Want to Achieve?


There are a lot of factors that can cause delays during a renovation but indecision is one of the biggest. When clients don’t have a clear understanding of the vision for their space they end up needing to explore every option. This causes delays before demolition can even begin. 

A designer prepares all the construction documentation from which the trades will implement the design. That means space planning, electrical, millwork design and materials selections. When a homeowner is stuck in the cycle of endless revisions it means there’s nothing to deliver. And that in turn means the trades are on hold until there’s a design.

Instead, spend a lot of time looking at design magazines and perusing sites like Pinterest. It can take months before you see a common theme emerge but it will happen. You don’t need to have it all figured out but be confident in your design style (if you’re not sure but want to know what your own design style is, take the quiz). Once you meet with your designer they’ll be able to uncover things in your preferences that you weren’t able to see.

Now that you’ve committed to a design, stick with it. It’s tempting to want to explore every option available to you so that you know you won’t regret your choice. Instead, try to trust that you’ve hired the best team to lead you through the process. We all have some moments of regret when we see a space that looks exciting but know that you narrowed it down to the very best option for you! Being a fast and decisive decision maker may be the single best contribution you can make as the homeowner.


Your Renovation Is More Successful with a Plan

I hope this helps you understand the importance of preparing for your renovation. Making decisions ahead of time will allow you to move ahead quickly and confidently. It will also save you money and stress in the long run. 

If you have an upcoming renovation project that you’d like to discuss, reach out to me. I’d love to speak with you.


If you know your design style but you struggle with which paint to use, take a look at my Made-For-You paint palettes. They take the guesswork out and give you the confidence to get started.


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