When It's Time To Renovate, What Comes First?

Written by Jaymi Naciri Posted On Saturday, 15 February 2014 08:46

You bought the house. You saved your pennies. Now it's time to renovate.

And you have absolutely no idea where to start.

Join the club. Figuring out what to rip up, redo, or revitalize - and in what order - is challenging. Not to mention determining your color palette and your design style and your budget!

Martha Stewart's Editorial Director of Decorating, Kevin Sharkey completed a year-long renovation on his home and has provided some great do's and don'ts. The first step: create a decorating file by "pulling everything and anything that you like or think you would like to see in the space." This can be an actual physical file (good for paint chips), or, use Pinterest as a place to pin and store everything from furniture to flooring to sample rooms you see online.

You'll want to start doing this now, even if you're not planning on making any changes for awhile. You don't want to be a year down the road trying to figure out where you saw that great chandelier that was going to make your space.

Once you've got some idea of how you want things to look, you can embark on a plan of action.

Do your floors first.

People like Sharkey believe in doing the floors first and then working up and out. The floors are a big, typically expensive, undertaking, not to mention they can be time-intensive and a very dirty job. Get 'em done, cover 'em up, and move on to other stuff.

When asked if floors should come first or last, Tom Silva from This Old House replied: "You can do it either way. My painting contractor wants to be last so doesn't have to repaint baseboards that have been splotched with stain or polyurethane, or nicked by a sander."

Just kidding. Do your floors last.

"My flooring contractor sees things a little differently," continued Silva in This Old House. "He prefers to be last because floor finishes take a while to fully cure, so he doesn't want anyone walking on them even when they're covered with protective tarps. He also says it's pretty common for other contractors to damage or spill stuff on a finished floor. The way he figures it, it's much easier to touch up paint than a floor finish."

360 Mortgage agrees, pointing out that home renovations that involved moving or eliminating walls, moving appliances and "taking out sheet rock and dry wall can leave the original floors of your house in very poor condition.

"Although renovating flooring is one of the most coveted home renovations, home buyers should avoid it at all cost until they know that they are through with any other major remodeling projects."

Do your kitchen first.

A kitchen remodel typically yields about a 70 percent return on investment. And we all know a great kitchen can help sell a house. So from a smart-renovations-in-case-you-want-to-turn-around-and-sell perspective, doing your kitchen first makes sense.

Plus, if you have a kitchen that's old, ugly, and outdated, you'll want to brighten and freshen up the space as quickly as possible - which is why people often start swinging the hammer in their kitchen before they even move in.

If you are redoing the entire thing and you already live in the home, expect to be displaced for a bit. Set up a mobile kitchen with a microwave in an alternate space, and stick to a plan to move through the renovation as quickly and easily as possible while keeping your wits about you. Check out Houzz for some tips about how to figure out your kitchen reno plan.

On second thought, wait on the kitchen.

It's best to save it for after everything else is done. After all, it's messy, it's inconvenient, and it's expensive. Isn't it better to get all the smaller stuff done (painting, new switch plate covers, new light fixtures) first? After all, "the average cost of an upscale kitchen remodel is more than $80,000," according to HGTV.

You can. If you need more time to figure out the plan, to save some money, or are able to carve out a chunk of time when renovating might be more convenient (like after the kids are out of school and shopped off to gramma's house for a few weeks?), doing your kitchen remodel last makes great sense.

Confused? Yeah, we know.

The bottom line is there is no totally right or totally wrong way to go about renovating. The choices are personal, so you have to approach it personally. Ask yourself a few important questions that should help you figure it out:

  1. Have you saved everything you need to save?
  2. Would an unforeseen situation derail your renovation plans? If it did and you had to scale back, what would be the most important thing to change?
  3. What are your goals for this house? Are you looking to stay for a while or are you renovating to sell for a higher price?

If you still don't have an answer, do this: think about how you feel in your home. Do you walk in and cringe in the kitchen or feel uncomfortable in certain rooms because of the color of the walls?

Look around. Are the floors not just ugly but unsafe because of cracking or splitting? Would moving that wall completely change the flow of the home and reveal the rest of the changes that need to be made?

A few practical questions like this could provide you the answers you need to move forward with a successful renovation.

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