Real Life Renovations: Tips for Creating the Home You Want

Renovating your home can be an exciting yet daunting process. With careful planning and preparation, you can create the home of your dreams. Here are tips for undertaking real life renovations to get the house you’ve always wanted.

Define Your Goals and Create a Budget

Before beginning any renovations, clearly define your goals. Consider how you want to use each space and what improvements would enhance your lifestyle. Prioritize changes that are necessities versus desires. Once you’ve outlined goals, develop a realistic budget. Get quotes for materials and labor. Factor in contingency costs for unforeseen expenses. Identify must-have elements and lower priority items you can add later.

Research Design Trends

Look over magazines, websites, and model homes for inspiration on colors, materials, layouts and architectural details. Focus on trends that provide timeless style, not fleeting fads. Consider creating a visual mood board collaging images, fabric swatches and paint chips. Examine what worked well in your current home along with changes you want to implement. This research will help guide your renovation decisions.

Hire the Right Contractor

Securing an experienced, reliable contractor is crucial to a smooth renovation. Ask friends and neighbors for referrals. Review online profiles and visit potential contractors’ active job sites. Request at least three quotes for your project. Vet credentials and visit to check ratings. Ensure the contractor has proper licensing, insurance and bonding. Meet in person and have a detailed discussion about your goals and expectations. Make sure you feel comfortable and confident in the contractor before signing a contract.

Plan Ahead for Permits and Approvals

Depending on the scope of work, your renovations may require securing building permits or approval from a local historical commission if your home is a designated landmark. Research well in advance what types of permits or other approvals you’ll need. Build in ample time for submitting documentation, completing any required inspections and waiting for final approvals. Doing this legwork early prevents delays in starting renovations.

Develop a Realistic Timeline

Create a detailed timeline mapping out every step of your renovation, from getting permits to final walkthroughs. Build in cushions for inevitable delays related to material shortages, labor issues or hidden problems uncovered during demolition. Recognize that most renovations take longer than initially projected. An extra month of planning at the start helps prevent time crunches later that can increase costs. Adjust your move-out and move-back-in dates accordingly.

Pack and Move Out Efficiently

The extent of packing and relocating depends on the renovation scope. For whole home overhauls, plot out where everything will go, e.g. self-storage, relative’s basement or garage. For single room redos, pack items carefully, labeling boxes by room. Take time to declutter before packing and get rid of items you no longer need. Work with your contractor to determine realistic move-out and move-in dates based on the master timeline.

Document Before Demolition

Before walls get torn down or rooms gutted, thoroughly document your home’s existing state. Take photos of every inch, especially spots that will be modified. Measure rooms and openings to reference later. Note the location of electrical outlets, vents, plumbing lines and other infrastructure. Salvage pieces like door hardware, light fixtures or flooring for reuse or sale. Demolition day will come quickly, so photograph and measure early.

Closely Monitor the Renovation Process

During construction, check in frequently to inspect progress and head off potential issues. Having an experienced foreman to supervise daily work is ideal. Review finished elements like tiling, paint colors or cabinet installation while changes can still be made. Provide periodic payments to your contractor per an agreed upon schedule after verifying satisfactory work. Stay reasonable but firm if any disputes arise. Document every step in writing and photographs.

Execute Final Walkthroughs and Inspections

When renovations near completion, thoroughly inspect all work during multiple final walkthroughs before making final payment. Ensure every last detail is addressed, from fixing scratches to color touch-ups. Review finished floors, walls, lighting and other elements closely in different lighting. Compile any final punch list items for the contractor to complete. Once satisfied, obtain necessary final inspections and certificates of occupancy.

Complete Landscaping and Curb Appeal Touches

While renovating indoors, don’t neglect exterior updates to boost curb appeal. Fresh sod, new plantings and a paved walkway help enhance the entire property. Repaint or install new front doors. Upgrade outdoor lighting and hardware. Add stylish yet functional elements like planter boxes or a potting bench. A beautiful outdoor space is a wonderful complement to your brand new interior spaces.

With thoughtful planning and diligent project management, you can stay on time and on budget when tackling major home renovations. Following these tips will help turn the home of your dreams into a reality. Soon you’ll be enjoying all the benefits and beauty of your personalized spaces.

Frequently Asked Questions About Real Life Renovations

Here are answers to some common questions about undertaking real life home renovations:

How much do renovations typically cost per square foot?

Costs vary dramatically based on the scope of work, materials used and location. Average per square foot costs for renovations range from $100-250 per sq ft. High end renovations can run $250-500 per sq ft.

How do I choose between DIY versus hiring contractors?

Consider your skill level, budget and how much time you can dedicate. Professionals complete work much faster with fewer complications. But DIY can save money if you have the expertise. Strike a balance doing DIY for demo then using contractors.

Should I take out a home equity loan to finance renovations?

Home equity loans offer low interest rates and potential tax deductions. But also consider tapping savings, your 401k or personal loans. Weigh rates and terms to choose the optimal financing method for your needs.

What’s better: a fixed price or time and materials contract?

Fixed price contracts provide cost certainty but may have change order fees. Time and materials contracts are more flexible for addressing unforeseen issues but costs can add up. Assess the project complexity and contractor to determine the best contract setup.

How do I prevent cost overruns on my renovations?

Create an itemized budget, build in contingencies and follow it closely. Get detailed quotes for all materials and labor upfront. Use fixed price contracts where possible. Avoid going overboard on custom features or finishes. Closely oversee work and authorize any changes in writing.

How can I tell if my contractor is overcharging me?

Require detailed invoices showing exactly what you’re being charged for materials and labor. Check invoices against your contracted costs. Ask about any unclear fees. Review hourly labor rates. Do comparative shopping for supplies yourself at home improvement stores.

What renovations add the most resale value?

Kitchen and bath updates, finishing basements, adding bedrooms and improving curb appeal offer great ROI. Upgrades should be suitable for your home type without over improving. Focus on features most sought after in your real estate market.


Renovating your long-term home to fit your lifestyle is an extremely rewarding experience. With ample preparation, clear communication and close oversight during construction, you can create your dream home within your timeline and budget. Keeping the big picture goals in sight amidst the stresses of renovating will help ensure your project stays on track. Soon you’ll be enjoying all the benefits of your beautifully updated home.