In the spirit of humility, I thought it would be kind of fun to share my top three renovation mistakes with you today. It hasn’t all been gold light fixtures and roses, you guys!
This past year has been super exciting for Jeremy and I. Choosing to move away from our hometown, house shopping in another state and renovating our 1970s ranch beyond recognition… so exciting!
But with it came an enormous amount of stress. We took on a huge project that drained us emotionally, financially, and taught us the true meaning of Christmas. (Haha! We didn’t buy each other Christmas gifts this year because we spent so much $ on our house!) Almost a year in, we’ve learned SO MUCH. A part of me already wants to redo the whole project just to prove I could make smarter choices, but a part of me is also saying, “Nope. You’re living here until you die.”
Anyway! I’m excited to share just a few of our mistakes with you today.
Mistake #1: Taking on too much at once.
Wow, did we ever!
I was so inspired by our ABM office renovation we had done the year before. We had all the painting, tile, and construction work done before we moved in. This meant we never had to work with contractors hammering in the next room over, it wasn’t super dusty, and we were able to settle in and decorate right away. So that was where my head was at when I decided to redo basically every surface in our new home before we moved in.
When we closed on our house, the first thing we did was have the kitchen and all the bathrooms demoed. Soon after that, I realized we were quickly going over budget. Uh-oh! So that meant that as I completed each space (already over budget), I didn’t have ANY room to make upgrades. I think in a way it was good to be forced to keep costs as low as possible, but it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as it could have been. It was pretty stressful.
And while I am still excited about all of these rooms, I wish I would have gutted them one at a time. The one advantage we have now is that we never have to move out of our house to get our kitchen re-done. But in hindsight, I kind of feel like that would have been smarter than the way we did it. Even with having to temporarily move out, I think that doing one at a time would have created a much better result AND a better experience for Jeremy and me.
What I will do differently next time: One room at a time. Period.
Mistake #2: Taking quotes as a final price.
I was SO naive. I took quotes as an actual price for our budget. But 90% of the time there was a problem halfway through and that often added hundreds or thousands of dollars to the price tag. I didn’t leave a lot of wiggle room in our budget, which is why we went over budget very quickly.
I also learned to be very specific about what is included in a quote. Just because I explain my whole vision in a walk through with a contractor does NOT mean they included all that work in their quote. It’s important to get every detail spelled out, in writing. If not, you’ll end up with a lot of add-ons.
What I will do differently next time: For contractor work, I will always double the quote from now on (MANY of our quotes went that much over!). Because until it’s done, we won’t know for sure if they’ll find mold in the wall, a rotten subfloor or something else that blows up the budget. This also goes back to doing one room at a time – it would have been much easier to manage just one disaster at a time than what we had where they were happening all over the house! Haha!
Mistake #3: Working long distance.
To save money, we hired all the trades people ourselves and did not have a general contractor. But for three months of the renovation, we were still living in Missouri and having friends drop by weekly to check on the process. Again, so naive.
It seemed logical to me that we could hire contractors to do certain jobs, pay them for those jobs, and expect them to be done right and on time. Right??
What I learned is that forgoing a general contractor is a good way to save money, BUT it’s also a lot of work. If you want to do this, you need to be available, basically full-time, to supervise the contractors, making sure they show up (!!), do their work, and answer questions all day, every day.
What I will do differently next time: In short, I would never try to renovate long distance without a (very) trusted general contractor overseeing the project.
Honestly, I don’t know if I would ever do a large project without a general contractor again. It’s just not worth the enormous strain it was on my work and our marriage. I can see now why general contractors make the money they do! It’s a VERY frustrating job to manage a renovation. It takes management skills… hiring, firing, disciplining and managing a timeline with a LOT of working parts and a lot of places where expensive delays or mistakes could happen.
Haha! I hope you enjoyed hearing all about my mistakes!! We learned so many valuable lessons. And you know what? It feels GOOD to admit how much I messed up. Because now that it’s mostly behind us (and we’re still married – haha!), we can mostly look back and laugh at all our mistakes because we know we learned from them and will not repeat them again.
Do you have any crazy renovation stories?? xx- Elsie
Credits//Author and Photography: Elsie Larson.
So relatable! I wish I read it before making a mess of my home by trying to renovate myself. My recent coordination with Tremblay Renovations for my penthouse in Ottawa was amazing and the outlook was just dreamy. I would totally recommend them if anyone wants to save the struggle I went through for my Home renovations Ottawa.
As per the saying, other mistakes teaches you more than their success. This blog post on the mistakes that you did while renovating your home is pretty useful for everyone who is about to renovate their homes. Thanks for writing and sharing this post.
Great tile work. We are looking for ideas for a bathroom and like what you have done very much.
Great read before we start on our renovation adventure! It is always helpful to read the lessons learned and I love your honesty!
In my opinion following are some mistakes which people often make while renovating their house.
Renovating one room at a time: Don’t rush into things, it is always best to renovate one room at a time, it allows you to have a piece of mind and lets you think more effectively when it comes to selection of the interior materials and color of your room.
Picking you contractor on a whim: People who are looking for a renovator often chooses the contractor rapidly without putting much thought into it. I would recommend to research and make your decision based over personal references and reviews.
Never Ignore Proportions: This is one aspect which people often neglect while renovation, they make the decision to tweak or expand a certain room without thinking of the impact which it will have over the house. Therefore, it is essential to keep an eye over the proportions as well as the relationship of various other elements associated with spacing and ceiling height.
Hence, it is crucial to select a trustworthy and technically sound contractor, who could provide you with trouble-free renovation service, and that to under your budget.
I know I’m late to this party, but I have been going through an entire house renovation while living in it, and I’ve been slipping slowly into madness. lol. I’m exhausted, and just when I think I’ve learned my lessons on it, I realize I have more hard lessons left to learn.
I can relate to almost everything you wrote. It’s been tough. I ASS-UMED during the walk through that we suddenly had the same vision and that they knew what I wanted. lol. Things were missed. A cabinet here, the type of paint, the number of coats of paint, the specifics such as price of tile budgeted for, etc. I went to pick out tile only to find out that the quote only budgeted for extremely cheap tile, but I wanted moderately priced tile, so that meant more money. Then there was a disagreement as to what “wood look tile throughout the entire downstairs” actually meant. “Oh that didn’t mean the closets too.” “Uh, yeah, it did. I want it in the closets too.” Then, I didn’t have the quality of quartz for the countertops tied down in the contract. I cried when my poor quality quartz countertop was brought in.
I think my breaking point came during the renovation of the stairs. That contractor and I just cannot communicate effectively with each other. He was the one person I subbed in myself as my General was on vacation, and I thought it would be a good time to get the stairs done. It was a disaster! I almost gave up and ran away from home. Ha! It was the low point of the whole experience. The quality was horrible.
Living in the home was a test to not only my patience but also to my General contractor’s patience. I don’t know how many times I had to remind him that I needed at least one room and one bathroom in which to live. He didn’t always listen. There were days I went without any water in the house.
Anyway, I was sitting here thinking how difficult this process has been and happened upon your blog. Great blog!
its so cool of you to share your lessons learned. I’m a contractor (female, yay!) and because I do that for a living and know how hard it is, I haven’t tackled anything in my house because i know I should just spend the $ on a General! Even with the skills I know I don’t have the time to also project manage my house. You house is beautiful though!!!
We are in the middle of renovating a house that we moved into a few months ago! I live in the “before” pictures :/
We elected to forego contractors entirely and do it all ourselves (he is very handy), but didn’t anticipate that it would be… So. Much. Work.
On the other hand, the diy approach has helped keep us from blowing our budget and the amount of time it takes to get rooms done has allowed us to save up more for upgrades as we go.
Thanks for sharing, Elsie!
I think my biggest renovation mistakes come from thinking I can let the little things slide. At the end of a project, I get lazy and let things like damaged trim slide. I never even put any trim in my upstairs renovation and the just forgot about it!
Thanks for sharing! My husband and I moved into our house 2 years ago and have been slowly doing projects. We are currently renovating our kitchen and I’m so grateful and excited but it’s such a pain!!! And it’s totally true what you said about still being married- my husband and I always celebrate that fact after every project 😉 haha! But in the end your house turned out beautiful!
Wow, it’s really not that bad, however I will agree with you that forgoing a general contractor is a good way to save money and gives you more time to get other things done.
When we bought our house (a long time ago), my husband did all the work with my brother-in-law’s help ( he did remodeling for a living). We totally ran over budget trying to fix all the problems. Everything I had saved for decor had to get used for renovations.
This is such a fascinating and informative post! We’ve never done large-scale renovations as we’re still renting, but such great info to know in advance. Thank you for being so honest about the difficulties. Of course, your home has turned out beautifully–I especially adore your flooring choices (blue wood!). Bravo on getting through the process and all the creative work you do for ABM! 😀
Thanks for taking a look! I realize that link is more of a look at what it looked like before. It looks soooo much better now: http://www.roseannbathphoto.com/blog/2016/1/7/living-room-sneak-peek And I’m finally getting some art for the walls. That part isn’t easy. But I found this artist on instagram and absolutely love her work: http://emilyjeffords.com/prints/
So candid and insightful, thanks! As a nurse I always tell people that ask me about finding a doctor that most of them really know their stuff, you just have to find one that works with your personality. My husband and I found the same thing to be true when looking for a contractor to build our house. (Lay out expectations and ask if they can work with you on the parameters outlined, then as you said, put it in writing–if they act uncertain then look for someone else.) My husband once said a great thing when I was shy about following up with our contractor on something that had been done wrong–“…when he pays the bills then he can make the decisions!” Amen! Mary Wilding www.mytributejournal.com
Oh this was a relevant post right now. We are currently in the early stages of renovating our first home. I too was very nieve. I didn’t think the house needed even half as much work as it turns out it does. There is mess everywhere and we are all stressed living in a mess. Our budget is low so were having to do a lot of the work ourselves. So we are learning on the job.
One think I have noticed about contractors is that no one seems to want to do any work. Getting people to turn up is a huge nightmare.
Yep. It’s hard when you want to do all the surfaces and painting at once. But I am a little jealous of people who do one room at a time just because they have TIME to be thoughtful and plan every detail of each space. I don’t really regret how we did ours because now that it’s over it’s REALLY nice to have all the surfaces replaced, but I would’t do it that fast ever again. Too stressful. It could have been more enjoyable..
To compensate I cut a BUNCH of expensive stuff out of our plans. And we aren’t doing any outdoor renovations until next year. So basically I just replaced some things with less expensive options and gave the whole thing a longer schedule (which I’m already glad for because I want a slower, less intense reno for the rest of it). 🙂