My Tips to Help you Prepare for a Big Home Renovation


It’s February and that means we will be renovating not one, but TWO, bathrooms this month. Yikes. Are we crazy? I would have done them separately, but my contractor is a busy guy and he said he could get them done at the same time over the course of two to three weeks, so we jumped at the chance.

My Best Tips to Prepare for a Big Home Renovation

While I don’t recommend doing two complex projects at the same time, I do have a lot to share about how to prepare for a big home renovation. Because even though the projects will kick off in a few short weeks, I’ve actually been preparing for these renovations for over six months.

If you have a major renovation on your upcoming to-do list, I want to give you the steps and useful tools so you can start planning, making financial decisions, and preparing well ahead of time.

Your Home Playbook, the ultimate home maintenance checklist for your life

Side Note: If you’re prepping for a big home renovation, you may want to check out my digital guide – Your Home Playbook. It’s a Google sheet with everything you need to track your supplies, contractors, and timeline.

Talk to Your Contractor

Our kitchen during renovation
Our Demo’ed Kitchen in 2020

If you won’t be doing the work yourself, then you’ll want to find a trusty contractor to get the job done. We hire out any work that has to be permitted – like plumbing, electrical, and new layouts. This post dives into my best tips for finding and hiring general contractors.

I also want to add that I love a DIY home renovation project and learning a new skill. However, I think it’s important to know when to pause the YouTube tutorials, and bring in the subject matter experts! I’ll still be putting plenty of sweat equity into these spaces later on.

We’ve been lucky enough to have the best general contractor for years now, and he and his crew have become good friends. In fact, he is so great that he is booked up for months, even years, in advance! I knew we wanted to tackle both bathrooms in 2022; so last summer I had him come out to take a look at them.

We walked through each space, talked about my visions for the remodels, and he gave me a rough estimate for the work. I told him to reserve February, 2022 for the projects, and here we are!

Budget & Save Accordingly

Create a budget

It’s tough – but you have to get the money questions and conversations out of the way first.

Just as Finn mentioned in this post about financing home projects, it’s important to have a rough estimate for the renovation plan, including the labor costs and building materials, well in advance. We always like to have the total amount of money we will need, stashed away before we start a project. Then, we have a number in mind to help us navigate decisions throughout the project.

I think one of the most common mistakes when it comes to managing larger projects is that it’s easy to not track the smaller budget line items. All these seemingly little things can add up to a lot of money. You have to track everything. A successful renovation is one that doesn’t leave you, or your partner, with unexpected sticker shock, or budget regret.

Our new cloe tile in the shower
Our First Floor Bathroom Reveal

A bathroom remodel is undeniably a great investment in the long run; it’s one of the things that adds the most value to your home. So, we knew it was something we needed to do eventually to get the best bang for our buck and impress potential buyers when we sell someday.

This post has a list of the best things to do to add value to your home! Not to mention, we want to be able to enjoy any upgrades we make for as long as possible before we ever sell.

If Needed, Hire a Designer

Blueprint for a new kitchen

For our kids’ bathroom, we are just planning to upgrade all of the finishes. That means that the layout will stay the same. Because of this, I didn’t feel the need to hire a designer. I can choose all of the items, materials, and tile for the space myself.

In our main bathroom, we’re completely changing the floor plan of the space to ditch the tub and make room for a larger shower. Therefore, I needed a pro to help me with the new layout. I don’t know the ins and outs of creating a shower that is up to building codes, the standard height for a shower bench, or the space needed between a vanity and a toilet; but an interior designer does. I hired someone to help me with the new layout and draw up blueprints that I can then hand over to the crew on Day One of this big renovation. I share more tips about working with a designer in this blog post.

In terms of timing, I had her come out to measure last summer and we tweaked the design all Fall. So, be sure to give yourself plenty of time. I am so glad that we included the designer in our renovation budget. I wanted expert advice to make sure that the final result was everything we needed and wanted it to be. I mean, you only do a bathroom remodel once, right?!

Find Inspiration

how to use pinterest when designing a space

With my contractor on the books, and a new layout for the bathroom, it was time to actually start designing the space! This part is, obviously, my favorite! I typically browse Pinterest and Instagram, saving anything that I like into folders. I don’t necessarily have to love the space as a whole, but if even one element of a photo jumps out to me, I save it.

House seven design
Inspiration via House Seven Design

It’s helpful for me to save things that inspire me, and once I have a good amount of pictures, I go through them to find the common threads. For example, for our main bathroom, I figured out the color palette after examining all of the inspiration photos that I saved from Instagram.

inspiration via halfway wholeistic
Inspiration via Halfway Wholeistic

Once I had a good idea of what I wanted for each space, I then got started creating a list of what I would need to buy.

Write Up a Product Sheet

Next, I create a master list of everything I need for a big project like this. I prefer to use Google Sheets, but you could also do this in Excel. Or you can buy Your Home Playbook where I’ve already done the work for you! I created one with two tabs on it and listed out everything I would need for each room, including the vanity, new light fixtures, toilet, etc.

I did my best to think through every single item of the room, from the big stuff, like tile, to the small things, like a toilet lever. This took some extra time, but it ensured that we had all the necessary materials, down to the smallest part, to make this a successful renovation. It also helped us stay within the budget.

Then, I simply started to online shop for a few hours every week, trying to find items that fit the styles of each space. I ended up finding a lot of stuff from Signature Hardware, and that made shopping a bit easier! They have pretty much everything you need when it comes to bathrooms.

Create a Mood Board

main bathroom design plan

Once I had the exact items I wanted to use, I got busy creating mood boards for each bathroom. You can check out this blog post with a step-by-step tutorial for creating a free mood board. I find that it really helps me visualize the new look of a space and confirm that I’m effectively using the floor plan.

It also helps me recognize when an item doesn’t work in the room. Seeing the colors and styles next to each other is crucial before buying.

Start Buying & Storing Your Items

The sink in our garage
Storing items for our last big project…our kitchen! Plus, baby Rory 🙂

In November, I started placing my orders. With so many shipping and stocking woes these days, I was a bit worried that things wouldn’t come in time for my February projects. But items literally started arriving the next week! This was both good and bad. Good, because my items were in stock, but bad, because our garage would be filled for the foreseeable future.

Finn and I made room in the garage and the boxes have been piling up there for the past three months! If you don’t have a garage, figure out a storage space ahead of time.

Make a Plan for Living Arrangements

Our makeshift pantry area
Our Temporary Kitchen Setup in the Basement

If you’re doing messy, major renovations, it might make sense to get out of the house for a bit. During our kitchen renovation, we lived at home, but we took a lot of steps to create a functioning kitchen and living space in our basement during that five-week project. Still, even with the best preparation, it’s inevitable that it will be inconvenient at times and likely disrupt your daily routine. This time around, we are heading on a family trip to Florida to get out of all of the construction mess.

Even though we’ll still have a functioning bathroom on the first floor, we don’t want the kids around the renovation for too long. This gave us a good excuse to plan a family vacay, even though I’m a tad sad I’ll miss out on a lot of the behind-the-scenes demo. I’m planning to FaceTime my contractor from afar every morning to make sure things are progressing and that they don’t need anything from me to keep the work moving forward.

Finalize Last-Minute Details

And that brings me to where we are right now – preparing for our big renovations that will start at the end of this month. Here’s what’s left on my to-do list…

  • Clear out the space: We’ll empty each bathroom and set aside what we will be keeping.
  • Prep documents: I’ll print the blueprints, mood boards, and product sheets for the crew to have on-hand.
  • Get money ready: Every contractor is different, but we typically pay in three installments – at the beginning, middle, and end of the project. We’ll make sure we’re liquid enough for those large transactions to go through.
  • Go through product orders: Before demo begins, we’ll go through the large pile of boxes in our garage to make sure we have everything on hand.
  • Confirm start date: I’ll plan to call my contractor next week to align on our start date so we can fully prepare our home and family for the mess that lies ahead.
  • Take before photos: Of course I’ll be taking photos to document for the blog! Even if you’re not a blogger, take before photos! It will be great to see the dramatic before and after once you’re all done.

Bring It On!

how to prepare for a home renovation project

As you can see, this was more than six months in the making and we haven’t even started yet. If you’re planning a big project for the year, get going now so it’s smooth sailing!

Casey

Catch Up On The Bathroom Renovation


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.

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