Your ultimate home renovations guide

  • Planning ahead
  • Homeowners insurance
a couple working on a home renovation project while their dog looks on

Home renovations can include something as simple as repainting a bedroom or tiling a floor, or as significant as making structural changes like adding a second floor to your home. The specifics of how you renovate a house is up to you. Do you want to DIY or hire a contractor? Repaint a room or add a floor? No matter the types of renovations, the reasons to renovate are often the same. Homeowners renovate to increase the value, functionality and livability of a home. Regardless of the scope of renovations you’re considering for your home, we have guidance for how to do it right and save a bit of stress.

Steps to renovate a house

Follow this checklist for how to renovate a house so that you don’t miss any important steps. Some items, like permits, can be expensive if they’re not done on time, or at all.

  • Choose what to remodel – This step is deceptively difficult. You may have a list of renovations that would be nice to have for yourself and no strong feelings about which is the most important to you. In that case, work your way down your list or choose the renovation that fits your current budget. However, if you’re renovating to sell your home or if you have plans to sell in the near future, you could consult with a realtor to learn more about the features that homebuyers are looking for, and how much more they’re willing to spend for them. Focusing your efforts on those renovations could increase the value of your home.
  • Apply for permits – Renovations that involve construction will usually require a permit from the city, and possibly your homeowners association. Look into your local regulations and obtain any permits or permissions necessary before you begin work.
  • Find inspiration from trends – Design trends are constantly changing. Take some time to look at some Pinterest boards, magazines or design websites to see what’s new. Don’t forget about friends, family and pop culture. Consider what you like and how you can incorporate those designs into your remodel.
  • Determine budget – No one has unlocked the secret to how to renovate a house with no money, so budget is an important consideration. You’re not going to be able to add a new bedroom if your budget is more in line with repainting a bedroom. Find average prices for the type of work you want done and start saving toward that goal. Even better, talk to a contractor and get an estimate for the work (but get multiple estimates when it’s time to begin the renovation).
  • Define the scope of the project – Once you’ve decided to redo your bathroom, you need to decide what projects that will include. Do you want a tub, a shower or both? Built in linen closet or removable storage system? A decorative mirror over the sink or a large one over the full counter or wall? Your contractor can help you here. They’re experts in how to renovate a home and have experience developing a reasonable scope of work based on your budget and space constraints.
  • Decide on hiring a contractor or DIY – Hiring a contractor is often the preferred way to get the work done to a high standard. Doing it yourself is often the cheapest. Consider your abilities and budget and decide which is right for you. You might even be able to do both. For example, having your contractor build the room but put up the crown molding yourself.
  • Select materials – The materials that you select will have a big impact on the look of your remodel and the budget. You can save money by using cheaper materials but be careful not to go too cheap or you may need to redo it sooner than if you chose a more expensive and durable material.
  • Demolish the space – The last step before you begin work is saying goodbye to the current design or layout. If you’re doing your own renovations, approach the demolition with caution and plan your process in advance. That way you minimize your changes of causing damage to things that you want to keep, like your existing flooring or wall studs.
  • Begin remodeling – Here’s the exciting part. You get to watch your vision come together. Stay open to changes in this stage. You may find that the paint colors you chose don’t match the new counters as well as you though or that tiling is going to be too difficult to DIY, so you’ll need to hire a contractor or choose a different backsplash style.
  • Have required inspections – You made it to the end! Don’t be too quick to celebrate. You’ll have time to do that once the inspector signs off on the work and says that it’s up to code.

10 steps to renovate a house

The cost to renovate a house

The cost of renovating a house can vary widely depending on a number of factors, including the size of the house, the extent of the renovations, the materials used and the location. A minor cosmetic renovation can cost a few thousand dollars, while a major structural renovation can cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Currently the room with the highest average renovation cost is the kitchen at $10,000-$50,000. While it's important to set a budget and stick to it, you also need to be prepared for unexpected expenses that arise during the renovation process.

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What not to do when renovating a house

When renovating a house, you should try to avoid common mistakes that can lead to costly and time-consuming issues. Here are some things to avoid:

  • Starting renovations too soon – Before starting work, take the time to research and plan what you want to do and how much you're willing to spend. Failing to plan can make you go over budget or leave you with an end result that doesn't meet your needs or expectations.
  • Underestimating costs – Set realistic expectations about how much money you will need to save or how much of a dent you will need to make in your savings. An unrealistic budget could leave you deciding between taking on debt or living with a half-finished renovation while you save more money to finish.
  • Not getting the necessary permits – You may need to obtain permits before starting work or risk fines or needing to redo the work to meet the local building codes. You’ll save time, stress and potentially money if you get these up front.
  • Hiring unlicensed contractors – Hiring an unlicensed contractor can result in subpar work and potential legal issues. Always hire a licensed contractor with a good reputation, references and insurance.
  • Not hiring a designer – A designer has the expertise and experience to bring your vision to life. Blending materials, colors and textures can be overwhelming and when done poorly it can cheapen the look of your new space. Designers have experience properly putting the finishing touches on designs and elevating the look of the room. Look at portfolios when choosing your designer to be sure that they’re skilled in the style you want.
  • Choosing the wrong team – You’ll be working with your contractor and designer for weeks during planning and renovating. Once they’re gone and the work is done, you’ll have to live with the results for years so it’s important to have people whose personalities and visions are a good fit with yours.
  • Cutting corners on materials – Using low-quality materials can result in short-term savings and long-term problems. You can end up with leaks, rot and even structural problems. It would be a shame to invest so much of your time and money on something only to have it lead to more time and money needing to be spent.
  • Ignoring safety precautions – Renovations can be dangerous so it's important to take proper safety precautions, such as wearing protective gear, shutting off utilities and following proper construction procedures. Your contractor should have precautions in place but don’t be afraid to ask questions if you have concerns about safety.

Renovation tips for different areas of the house

The specifics for how to renovate a house depend on which part of your house you’re working on. Here are some home renovation tips to consider for specific rooms in your house:

  • Kitchen – When renovating a kitchen, consider the layout, storage and functionality. Think about how you use the space and what improvements would make the kitchen better fit your needs. Updating appliances and cabinets can also improve the look of your kitchen.
  • Bathroom – In a bathroom renovation, consider replacing the shower or bathtub, installing new fixtures and updating the tile and countertops. Installing a new vanity or adding storage can also make a big impact.
  • Bedroom – When renovating a bedroom, consider new flooring, paint and window treatments to refresh the space. Adding built-in storage or a walk-in closet can also improve the functionality of the room.
  • Living room – In a living room renovation, think about creating a comfortable and inviting space by adding new furniture, lighting and accessories. Updating the flooring, walls and windows can also greatly improve the look and feel of the room.
  • Home office – If you work from home, consider renovating a spare room into a home office. Invest in a comfortable desk and chair. Add storage for your office supplies. Good lighting and a calm color scheme can also help you focus and be productive.
  • Outdoor spaces – If you have an outdoor area, consider renovating it into a space for entertainment and relaxation. Adding a deck or patio can greatly improve the look and feel of your yard while increasing usable space.

Remember, these are just suggestions. You should tailor your renovation plans to suit your specific needs, wants and budget. It’s great to consider resale value when renovating, but don’t forget that you need to live with the changes that you make.

The best renovations to increase home value

The renovation that will increase your home's value the most will depend on a variety of factors, including the current state of your home and the local real estate market. If you’re remodeling to sell, rather than remodeling for yourself, talk to a realtor to find out what buyers are looking for and how much they’re willing to pay for it. There’s no sense in spending $20,000 on a new kitchen just to get an additional $5,000 in selling the house a few months later. However, the following areas of the house will usually bring in more money than they cost:

  • Kitchen
  • Bathroom
  • Energy-efficient upgrades
  • Adding a deck or patio
  • Finishing a basement
  • Painting
  • Updating flooring

How long it takes to renovate a house

The time needed to do home renovations depends on the scope and complexity of the project, as well as factors such as permits, materials and availability of contractors. It can take a few days for some tile work up to a year for major structural changes. Your contractor can help you determine a realistic time estimate for your renovations. However, keep in mind that unexpected issues or delays can arise during a renovation, so it's best to plan for some extra time just in case.

Be sure to reach out to your insurance company, or the VIU by HUB Advisory Team, to discuss the work you’ve had done and how it might impact your homeowners insurance coverage. Your renovations could result in a change to your premium or deductible so you and your insurance company need to be on the same page about the features of your home. This is true for major changes like new rooms and also smaller changes like adding smart features to your home.

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