DIY · Home & Garden

Everything You Need to Know About Home Renovations | Part Two

Learn everything you need to consider before beginning a home renovation. From stress and timelines to all the little annoyances.

A finished cottage dining room home renovation has been completed.

Earlier this week I wrote a Part One to this post HERE detailing everything you need to know about home renovations. This week, I have a part two ready for you. I want to focus more on the actual projects and how to be flexible and pivot when things don’t go according to plan.

I basically want to highlight all the crazy stuff that happens in between.

Here’s what I mean by this. You may follow other bloggers and see their before and afters and get swept up in the aesthetics. Which I understand because I do, too. But we sometimes fail to remember there is a lot of the in-between that we don’t see.

All the stress and the money spent. All the trips to multiple hardware stores, renting tools and vehicles to haul big items. The projects not going how you expected and even arguments. It’s A LOT.

Not to scare anyone, but this is just a reality check that we don’t live in some fantasy world where we spend $50, spend a couple hours throwing a room together, and it’s suddenly gorgeous.

It takes a ton of planning, negotiating, and coordinating. There are often projects that get rerouted to fit in with unexpected curveballs. Anything can arise during the home renovation process.

Now that I’m writing all this out and thinking about the way I coordinate our home renovation projects, I realize how much my business program in grad school (in addition to previous jobs) prepared me for this.

In the business world we have to have a budget first. Then we do lots of planning, often anticipating issues and having backup plans for these. Then there’s coordinating schedules on top of this. When issues arise between parties there’s a conflict resolution aspect. Execution (while staying on a timeline and budget) is vital.

It’s the same thing when it comes to renovating a home. Except you can’t just leave your home the way you leave work at the end of the day. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a construction zone.

All of this while trying to learn home decorating/design. (For example: what looks good with what, which style resonates with me, and how I can make it look both practical and timeless.)

These are all things that must be considered before starting a home renovation journey…

You Don’t Have To Do One Room at a Time

When I first began renovating our home, I didn’t plan as well as I do now. Some of it backfired and some of it I have learned to love and have just adopted as my personal way of doing things. Instead of going room by room, I don’t always tackle one room at a time when doing our home renovation. 

Here’s an example: We painted the living room and decorated a little, but not all of it, from the moment we moved in. It’s not completely finished being decorated over a year later, but it is livable.

I knew that if I was going to spend most of our time in this room it needed to be warm, welcoming, and enjoyable to look at.

So I did invest time in the beginning to decorating this room. However, it takes time to acquire the right decor I want to put in our home.

It’s going to be quite a while until we can add a faux fireplace in. Getting completely new wood floors installed will take just as long. I’m okay with that, though. It’s only halfway done, but it still looks put together.

It may not be my dream living room at this very moment, but it’s still cozy and cute.

I’ve moved on to renovating other rooms in the meantime. I know I can add on to the living room when we’re ready to.

A holiday tree sits in a bay window in a living room as it's a work in progress during a home renovation.
Our living room, a work-in-progress, boasts a beautiful holiday tree in a large bay window.

Now, when it came to our Bathroom Restoration Project, this was a room that needed to be tackled all at once.

I do plan on retiling the shower walls at a later date, but the meat and potatoes of it all got done at once.

One of the reasons I usually choose not to do one room at a time is because of the time commitment. I know that when I’m doing one room that’s going to be all I eat, sleep, and breathe for the next few weeks and nothing else. It’s hard on both me and my husband because we get less time together, less time with family, and less rest. It also sometimes just makes more sense to not do one room at a time.

For example, if I know two or three bedrooms all need new baseboards, I’m going to go ahead and get all the supplies at once, so I don’t have to do multiple hauls. This way I get all the baseboards done at the same time. 

Some times of year I have extra time, and I’ll do painting for several projects/rooms at once because I have the time (winter or summer break, for example).

Additionally, sometimes we don’t have all the money to completely tackle the whole room right at that moment. I know paint is fairly cheap compared to tile, lumber, etc., so I may decide to focus one month on doing all the painting I need to do for a while. 

The reality is, the one-room-at-a-time method that most people follow isn’t always practical. I often have to jump around room to room depending on the week or month. It’s very nuanced.

It’s chaos, but organized chaos at least.

As long as I can keep things straight and I have a strategy, that’s all that matters for our house. Now, if you just absolutely have to do one room at a time to stay focused do it. I’m just basing this all off my personal experience with renovating our house. Some people don’t understand my method, but that’s okay.

Do what works for your home renovation and your life.

Tile has been laid in a small bathroom during renovations.
After laying tile during our bathroom renovation project.

Budgets are Fluid During a Home Renovation

Okay, budgets do exist for a reason, and I’m not debating their validity because you absolutely should create a budget. But think of it more as a rough estimate.

Nine times out of ten you’ll probably go over the budget.

Whether it’s just by $10 or a few hundred, you’ll probably go over it. I think out of all the projects we’ve done, not a single one of them have been under budget. Even when we’ve found unexpected good deals on certain items, we always ended up having to unexpectedly pay more on something else. (Usually this was for specific tools or more supplies when we ran out). 

I consider myself to be frugal and resourceful, checking multiple sources until settling on what I think is the best deal for the quality I want. However, sometimes you just can’t avoid spending extra.

Sometimes we might forget during the planning portion that we need certain tools for tiling, for example. They may seem like small, insignificant items until they all add up and you see several Lowe’s receipts and realize you spent $150 more than planned.

I’ve also had times where I bought extra tile, for example, just to be safe and then later somehow misplaced a receipt and was unable to return it because of that. What I’ll do to make up for that is I’ll reuse that leftover tile in the future on another project. I could easily create a backsplash somewhere else in the house or use it on a piece of furniture in the future. Sometimes you have to be inventive to make up for spending more than anticipated…

Furthermore, if you overspend on one project, you may have to wait a few weeks until you can afford the next project. That’s just life sometimes.

A man works hard refinishing hardwood floors.
My husband, shortly before moving in, worked hard helping to prepare the hardwood floors.

The Domino Effect – More Projects Lead to More Projects

You know how it goes, you remove the shower panel to add new tile only to discover there’s mold behind it in your bathroom. Now you have to call someone to professionally remove this and wait until this happens before you can even begin tiling the shower.

This particular scenario hasn’t happened to us, but I could just see this going wrong when someone starts to renovate a bathroom. 

Sometimes other projects tend to pop up while we’re working on another one. Whether the garage door breaks and you have to stop the project you’re on now to pay for that getting fixed, or you’ve uncovered the fact that there’s rotting wood floors when you remove carpet to replace in a room you’re working on.

These things happen and you just have to adapt to the situation. Sometimes something more imminent pops up. And sometimes this needs to be handled first before you can give full attention to another project.

It takes so much patience and discipline at times. But you have to stop what you want to be working on to focus on other projects that unravel along the way. 

I remember when we were nearly finished with our bathroom home renovation and I was updating an old door. It was so close to being done, but when my husband went to add the door knob it was slightly too big. We have old doors, so we knew replacing it with a different knob would be more difficult to source.

Instead we spent $8 on a large wood file to shave some wood out of the hole and were able to fit the knob in that way. Once we got that done I was able to continue finishing the other parts of the bathroom and finally decorate it.

Prioritize your projects, breathe, and try to remember the stress won’t last forever.

A man is working on removing a threshold from a hardwood floor.
Adrian, my husband, carefully removing a threshold from the hardwood floors.

Timelines are Elusive During a Home Renovation

Our projects never seem to get done on the timeline I have in mind. I always have to be reminded by my husband that we’re not on a time limit, but then I always remind him that we can’t draw projects out for eternity either.

So we kind of balance each other out.

We laugh about these things now, but I swear this issue comes up every time we start a new, big project.

I personally try to be as adaptable as possible, but when I realize something is going to take twice as long as I anticipated, I sometimes freak out. I sometimes feel as if everyone is watching and always expecting the latest update on our home. But I am gently reminded that those people’s expectations don’t matter.

Everyone is on our their timeline and a home renovation should never be rushed. I would rather take my time than regret making silly mistakes and pay for it later.

We both work full time and sometimes people just don’t understand that this is not an HGTV show with a huge budget and a crew to work all hours of the day on.

If you have to put a pause on projects, it is okay. The world will keep turning, the project will still be there tomorrow and the next day. There will always be another project to work on, so you can’t kill yourself trying to get it done super fast. It’s hard because we all want that instant gratification and to see that “after” shot of all the pretty things decorated and all lined up, but that’s not how home renovations usually play out.

A finished cottage kitchen is painted white, with a chandelier and farmhouse table and benches.

Final thoughts…

Hopefully, hearing about our trials and tribulations during our home renovation journey has helped you understand more of what you’re getting into before jumping into a home renovation.

I hope I haven’t completely deterred anyone, but I do hope I help you understand the nature of the beast. Knowing that not everyone else has it together is sometimes comforting, being that we usually only see highlight reels in online communities.

I also want to note that throughout this entire process, even with all the stress and exhaustion, my husband and I are still very grateful to have a home. We feel fortunate to have what we have and are by no means complaining. We are really just keeping it authentically real in between all the before and after photos of our finished projects and polished photos.

More Home Inspiration

Small Bathroom Makeover in Our Cottage

How to Strip Paint from Wood Doors

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How to Install a Pea Gravel Patio

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Simple Hallway Ideas

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