How to 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 major 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 big home reno on your to-do list for 2022, I want to give you the steps and tools so you can start planning, budgeting, and preparing well ahead of time.

Talk to Your Contractor

Demo kitchen
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 to find and hire a contractor.

We’ve used the same contractor for years now and he and his crew have become good friends. But because he is so booked up, his schedule is jam-packed months, to 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

Just as Finn mentioned in this post about financing home projects, it’s important to have a rough estimate for the project cost, well in advance. We always like to have the total amount of money we will need for renovations stashed away before we start a project, so having a number in mind helped us plan ahead and it motivated us to set the money aside.

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

Updated bathrooms are a great investment to improve the value of your home, so we knew it was something we needed to do eventually to get the best bang for our buck when we sell someday. (This post has a list of the best things to do to add value to your home and bathrooms make the list!) 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 layout of the space to ditch the tub and make room for a larger shower. Therefore, I needed a pro to help me with the layout. I don’t know the ins and outs of creating a shower that is up to code, 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 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.

Find Inspiration

Save inspiration - how to prepare for a big home renovation

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 general 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

how to prep for a big home renovation project

I like to use Google sheets, but you can also use Excel, to create a master list of everything I need for a big project like this. I created one with two tabs on it and listed out everything I would need for each room, including the vanity, 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 really helped make the task of sourcing each item more manageable.

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 kinda have everything you need when it comes to bathrooms.)

Create a Mood Board

main bathroom design plan
Rough Draft of my Main Bath Design (more details coming soon!)

Once I had ideas of 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 a space and I can get all of the little details just right.

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 plan ahead of time for all of the big items that will soon be heading your way.

Make a Plan for Living Arrangements

Our makeshift pantry area
Our Temporary Kitchen Setup in the Basement

If you’re doing big and messy 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 in our basement during that five-week project. This time around, we are actually heading on a family trip to Florida to get out of all of the construction mess.

How to prep for a big renovation - make a plan for where you'll go during construction

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 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, but 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

So there you have it, how to prepare for a home renovation, or two. 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 home project for the year, get going now so it’s a smooth sailing project.


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.