Last Updated on 4th August 2021

Renovating your home is a stressful experience at the best of times – anyone who has embarked on a domestic makeover knows that from start to finish, there is always going to be an air of pressure about the experience. This is natural because while you are renovating, your life is somewhat in flux – and so it is in your best interests to keep the mistakes to an absolute minimum because they will simply add time to that period of flux.

It should be said, then, that before you embark on any renovation project – and that’s before you do anything, including buying the necessary materials – you know what you must do, and just as importantly what you mustn’t do. When you know how to avoid the mistakes which hold back so many renovations, you’ll be in a much better position to make quicker choices, complete work in a timely fashion, and be finished with the work ahead of schedule. Let’s run down the list of things you must keep in mind…

Avoid rushing anything

Yes, we mentioned above that everyone wants the process to be finished as soon as possible, and so a piece of advice like this might seem counter-productive. You do want the process to be finished in good time, but if ever there were a time when the phrase “more haste, less speed” was appropriate, now is it. Consider what you’ve got to do and go through it step-by-step. That includes procurement of materials for the makeover – start with a list of everything you need to do, and consider what you’ll need to buy. Then work down that list point by point, getting the best price you can to avoid wasting money.

A key point is to ensure that you are buying the right size of everything. When you get into business mode, it’s easy to look at an online store and just add everything to your basket without pausing. That serves you well only up until you open the package when it is delivered and see that the paintbrushes you have ordered are retouching brushes for smaller projects, the paint you’ve bought to finish a bathroom is actually a tester pot, and that you’ve bought silicone sealant but not the gun you need in order to apply it. 

Once you’ve got everything you need and are embarking upon the work itself, remember that rushing anything will end up with more mistakes and a longer period spent working. If you’re painting anywhere, make sure masking tape is applied everywhere it needs to be, dust sheets are on furniture, and that everyone involved in the work knows what they’re supposed to be doing. For instance, if two people are painting, they should start at opposite ends of the room. This way, they won’t replicate each other’s movements and should arrive at the halfway mark at around the same time. 

If you hire a contractor, work with them

It may be that you choose to have most of the work in a renovation done by an expert – a perfectly sensible choice, and one which should ensure that everything is done neatly and well within a time schedule. If you do make this decision, don’t make the mistake of giving vague instructions, asking for a quote and just accepting what the contractor says. That will inevitably lead to disagreements further down the line, which will delay work, see whole areas need to be redone, and cost you more money.

When you know what you want done, speak to the contractor and lay out your needs point by point. Explain when you want something specific, and defer to their judgement if sourcing a certain material would be better done by the tradesperson. You may know exactly where you want to buy the picture frames for part of your wall display, and it’s for you to sort that out. But if you don’t know much about plumbing, and part of the reno involves replacing a sink, it’s probably a better idea to give an idea of the kind of look you want, and then leaving the sourcing to someone who knows how the replacement will work.

Commit to a vision

The number of renovations that have gone down exactly as per the dreams of the homeowner is unknown, but it’s probably a minority and possibly a small one. Simply put, there are wrinkles here and there – items don’t show up in time, paint looks different on the wall than it did on the can – that can’t be foreseen, and need to be accommodated. It may well be the case that you need to compromise on some parts of your renovation because, as the saying goes, stuff happens. 

It’s mildly irritating if you don’t get exactly what you were hoping for, but it’s worse if you end up with something you simply don’t like. So commit to a vision for your makeover, and allow some compromises within that vision to protect the overall idea. Strive for 100% perfection (and who knows, it may even come true!) while accepting that even 90% of your overall dream look is pretty good going. It may be that some ornaments you wanted aren’t in stock, or anything else – if this is the case, you can always go ahead with the rest of the renovation and come back to fit those when they are in stock.

Make alternative arrangements

As noted above, one of the frustrations of renovation work is that for the duration of the process, things are in flux. Your home doesn’t quite feel like it’s your own during this time. To some extent, especially if you are doing a portion of the work yourself, there will be a certain amount of living alongside the mess. But this should be kept to a minimum, because not only is it annoying for you to live on a building site, it’s also frustrating for anyone to be doing decorating work in a functioning home.

If you have more than one bathroom in the home, then designate one that can be used if some part of the work is going on near or in another bathroom. If the kitchen is being worked on, call out for takeaways or buy low-prep food that doesn’t involve getting in the way of contractors. The more they can be left to their own devices, the sooner the work will be complete and the fewer errors are likely to be made. In point of fact, if it would be appropriate for some members of the family to go for a break or stay with relatives during the renovation, so much the better. The fewer people that are in the house during a reno, the better.

Budget realistically

Many people will try to make a renovation feel somewhat easier by budgeting tightly and trying to do things on a shoestring, but this tends to be a very good way of finishing off a poor renovation and still costing yourself more money than you would have done by just leaving it alone. It’s admirable to try to set a low budget, but it has to be realistic. Price up how much all of the materials will cost, then price in all of the labour it’s going to need. Then add on about 10% of that number for contingency

Aside from all the other reasons to avoid under-budgeting, you have the not inconsiderable obstacle that once you break a budget, it ceases to mean very much and you can quickly find yourself breaking it again and again. Set a realistic one and be assiduous about sticking to it, only ever breaking it if you have absolutely no choice.

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