What You Should Know BEFORE You Remodel


You’re hoping we will say remodels can be so much fun if you know these things first. We could, but that would be a lie. 

The truth is remodels are about as much fun as a root canal. That lasts for months. 

Still want to do your remodel? You will be happy you did when it’s over. It will bring you so much joy to have your home go from where it is now to where you’ve always dreamed it could be.

Setting expectations and preparing for the many bumps in the road ahead is the only way to make it tolerable. We put together our list of what you should know before you remodel your home, bath, or kitchen.

A Remodeling Horror Story Part One … It’s Us, Hi, We’re the Problem.

We decided to buy and remodel a home in 2004. We had two boys, 11 and 9, and we had just found out I was pregnant with our third son.

We made the decision, due to finances, that we would need to live in the house while we remodeled it. This wasn’t a minor remodel; we took it down to the studs. A concrete slab and 2 x 4s were all that remained after the demo.

There were months where JJ would hammer up sheets of plywood at night as our “walls.” We basically camped in our own home. And by basically, I mean we camped in our own house. In hindsight, tents might have been a better option.

We had what we called a “kitage” for meals.

Kitage [kit-ahj] noun – a small space in your garage you convert into a makeshift kitchen that ultimately leads to misery.

Our kitage had a refrigerator, a microwave on a card table, and a hot plate I would use to make our nightly meals. If you follow us, you know my cooking is my happy place. In 2004, it was my misery. We had no sink. We used the small sink in the bathroom to wash our dishes.

When we had our youngest, I would wash his bottles on my hands and knees in the bathtub. It was a (insert air quotes) special time. 

A Remodeling Horror Story Part Two … It’s me. Hi. I’m the Problem.

PRO TIP: ALWAYS make sure all the contractors are gone at the end of the day before you resume your everyday life. Check twice. Maybe three times.

A cautionary tale … when I was seven months pregnant, it was a Friday afternoon. All the contractors had finished for the weekend.

JJ herded the boys out the door for practice and yelled, “Everyone is gone. I’ll be back after I drop the boys off.”

Silence. FINALLY. It had been a long week of noise and chaos, and I was happy to have a weekend of no contractors. 

I took a quick shower, dried off, and realized the sweats I wanted to put on were in the laundry room. Knowing the house was empty, I didn’t bother to wrap a towel around my large and in-charge seven-month pregnant body. 

I opened the bedroom door, and there, less than four feet from me, was my stunned and horrified plumber. 

He had forgotten a tool or something and returned to grab it. 

I scarred that man for life. And he me. 

That brings me to my first point. 

7 Things You Need to Know Before You Remodel
What You Should Know Before You Remodel

1. If You Can, MOVE OUT

Having contractors in your home is HARD. I know you think you can handle it. Imagine how hard you think it will be to be surrounded by noise, chaos, dust, and foul-mouthed contractors (like me). Now double how bad you think it might be. It will be even worse than that. 

If you can afford it, MOVE OUT. If you can’t, have a plan for dealing with it. 

Where can you go for mental space? Where can you shower on days when the water is turned off? 

Get noise-canceling headphones. 

Most of it will be nearly impossible to work from home, so find rentable office space, if possible, for the loudest days. Plan trips, visit family. Do anything to be out of your house as much as possible. 

2. Hire a GC

You might think you are saving money by not hiring a GC, but you likely won’t save enough to make it worth it. You can’t imagine how many daily decisions need to be made. How many problems arise? How many questions you will get asked every single day? It is a relentless process. We highly recommend you hire a general contractor to run your remodel.

Not sure how to find a General Contractor in your area? We’ve got you covered. Click the photo below.

How to Find a General Contractor For Your Remodel

If you still want to GC it yourself, do all the homework in advance to make it go as smoothly as possible. If you think you are up for the challenge, make sure you strongly EDUCATE yourself on every step of the process before you start. 

3. Have a Design Plan

Design is confusing, and it’s hard to stay on track. I highly recommend you work with a designer to plan out your remodel. If that is not in your budget, do your best to create a design plan in advance. 

Create a Pinterest board. Sketch out rooms. Have checklists. Pick one or two words that define your design style. Modern Colonial, Modern Farmhouse, Beach Cottage. Before you purchase anything, say your style out loud and look at what you are about to purchase. Does it go with your style? 

4, Budget & Finances

10% of your budget should be set aside for overages. Your remodel will likely go over budget. Create a buffer so you aren’t stressing every time something comes up. If you don’t go over budget, you will have money left to do some of those dream items on your list! 

Create a separate bank account for your remodel, put the exact amount of your budget into the account, and track every dime you spend. This will keep you informed and on budget. 

5. Order Everything Now

It’s important to order as much as possible in advance and have it on-site in a storage area. Plumbing fixtures, appliances, tile, lighting. Get it ordered and delivered ASAP. 

Something as simple as a plumbing valve for your shower being delayed or back ordered could hold up the project for weeks. 

6. Understand the Timeline is Just for Fun

Just kidding … mostly. We try our very best to complete our projects on time. 

And if every decision is made on time by the client, all products arrive on time, the weather cooperates, and teams of contractors going down with COVID don’t happen, we are on time. And that is rarely the case. 

For example, we have had record-breaking amounts of rain here in southern California this year. Our projects are weeks behind. 

Have patience. No one wants a job to go over it’s projected timeline. Least of all, a contractor. They don’t make more money on an extended project. It’s the same amount of money, more time, and angry clients. Be kind. 

7. Things Go Wrong … Often

Not just once or twice … often. Prepare for mistakes, challenges, and setbacks. They will happen. 

Coordinating 15 – 20 contractors, thousands of moving parts, and dozens of orders is A LOT of moving parts. Mistakes happen. Your GC or subs are responsible for those issues and should be expected to fix them. 

Remodels are an amazing way to bring comfort and joy to your home, but the struggle is real until it’s over. Being educated, organized, and mentally prepared will make the process more palatable. 

We love to talk about all things remodeling! Have questions? Ask us below in the comments!

Have additional tips for our readers on what you should know before you remodel? Leave them in the comments below!

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