26 Tips for Tackling a Major Renovation

I certainly didn’t think I’d be sitting here 26 months after this old Victorian officially became our home and still have unfinished projects and still be surrounded by moving boxes instead of furniture. Ideal scenario, it most definitely is not. Am I starting to pull my hair out? Yes. Am I still happy I took on this whole crazy project? Absolutely.

Since it is still going to be awhile before I can fully reveal the house, and it’s been a 26 month journey to get this far, I thought I’d run with the theme and share my top 26 Renovation Revelations to kick off the week.

  1. In your architect you must trust. While I’ve wavered about a lot of design decision (cuz you have to make like 1,000) the floor plan designed by our genius architect from Porro Design is not one of them.
  2. Know your materials. What is the difference between marble and quartz? How will oak vs walnut look and perform? What’s the difference between ceramic and porcelain tile? These little choices will have a dramatic effect on both the performance and the cost of materials in your house.
  3. Understand construction timelines. Did you know you need to have all your light fixtures selected long before construction is complete because they all have to be roughed in when the walls are open?! Can you tell I didn’t know that? I was frantically picking lighting long before I’d actually given myself time to think about room design. Not ideal. This leads directly to point four.
  4. Have a vision going in. Design decisions can be very tough to make on the fly when you’re dealing the thousands you have to make, often all at once.
  5. The work is only as good as your subcontractors. You may love your architect or your general contractor but it everyone else who touches your house that will affect the details.
  6. Measure twice and cut once.
  7. Double check everything. Don’t assume the “experts” will get things right.
  8. Order things much further in advance than you think you need to. Then you’re not left waiting around when things ship late.
  9. Cabinets always take twice as long as they say they will.
  10. Order extras of things like door or cabinet hardware in case what you select is discontinued.
  11. Try to make at least one bold choice somewhere. You want to feel a little uncomfortable with your design!
  12. But stick to timeless choices for things that are expensive or hard to change later. A dramatic light fixture can always be swapped. A backsplash you’ll tire of in a year or two cannot.
  13. There are 5,000 versions of white paint – test at least 5-8 of them before you pick one. I picked Benjamin Moore White Wisp btw.
  14. Open boxes when things arrive – they might not always contain what you thought you ordered.
  15. Trades only like to work when they have everything on site (think tile, plumbing fixtures, appliances) so make sure you have everything at the right time.
  16. Grout lines should be about 3/16″ thick.
  17. Your chandelier should hang 34-36″ above your table.
  18. Kitchen pendants should hang 32-34″ above your counter.
  19. Scale matters. Scale matters perhaps most of all, so if you don’t know how to determine appropriate scale for things like light fixtures or tile, hire a designer who does. Trial and error will be more costly in the long run.
  20. Test paint colors on site to see what they’re going to look like in your space.
  21. Floors finished onsite can take as much as 3 weeks to complete(!)
  22. Don’t be afraid of black paint (spoiler alert!).
  23. Know that good home furnishings take a long time to make/arrive.
  24. Live in a house before you decide how to decorate it.
  25. Order big things you’ll want, like beds or sofas far in advance.
  26. Let your personality and style shine through your furnishings – they can evolve with your changing needs.

Source: APT. 34