Considering A Whole House Renovation?

A whole-house reno is a huge undertaking that requires careful planning before you pick up the sledgehammer.
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Kitchen design by Meridian Custom Homes, photograph by Sarah Farkas.

Advance planning may not sound glamorous, but it’s a crucial step that homeowners often overlook according to Tim Hebert, owner of Hebert Design Build. “Proper planning ensures the project meets your needs and your budget, and helps ensure the project progresses smoothly,” he says. 

The key is to consider your long-term goals. Will you need more bedrooms to accommodate a growing family? Is this your forever home that you’ll stay in after you retire? Do you plan on selling in five or ten years?

Planning also helps prevent the most common renovation mistake: making changes after the project has begun. “Changing an aspect of the renovation requires a change order, which is usually expensive and can cause delays,” Hebert says. “Thorough planning avoids delays and added costs.” 

Alex Mitchell of Meridian Custom Homes agrees. “Make as many design and specification decisions as possible before you start construction. This will allow you to have a better handle on cost and allow the process to run much more smoothly,” he says. “Then, once you’ve pulled the trigger, enjoy the process.”

If you have a historic home, it might require extra time and investment. “Regulations are constantly changing and getting approvals can take a long time,” Hebert says. “And, your home could have outdated electrical or plumbing that may need to be replaced. Sometimes you don’t know until you open up the walls.”

Your plan should include structural changes as well as colors and finishes, says interior designer Kim Peterson, who has completed dozens of whole-house renovations over her career. “If your design plan is not good at the onset and your flooring and wall color don’t work well together, then it’s hard to pick furnishings that work. It’s that cohesiveness in a room that makes it feel cozy.” 

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Bathroom design by Hebert Design Build, photograph by Daniel Gagnon.

It’s also important to get professionals in your process early—architects, engineers and designers. “You don’t know what you don’t know, and mistakes are expensive. If you can’t afford to have a pro throughout the project, it’s more important to have them in the beginning planning process, rather than calling them in at end when something has gone wrong,” Peterson says.

Start by identifying the home’s issues: what’s not working, what’s your end goal? Do you want to change the location of major items like the kitchen plumbing? Then sit down with your builder or designer to help with the next step: the dreaded budget. 

“Decide what you can really afford to spend, and discuss how much it makes sense to spend. I see people put a ton into a house that doesn’t warrant it. If you’re staying forever, great, but if not, consider your return on investment,” Peterson advises. “Pros can tell you what’s realistic, where you can prioritize, and where you can get the most bang for your buck.” 

Picking the right professionals to work with requires homework. Ask everyone you know who has been really happy with their renovation results for referrals on tradespeople, designers and contractors. On a big project like a whole-house reno, one thing falling through the cracks will create a snowball effect.

As for timeline, Peterson says to expect things to take longer due to pandemic supply chain interruptions. “Everything is taking longer and costing more right now.”

Paint Brushes Placed On Top Of Can Filled With Blue Paint. Classic Blue Color Of Year 2020.