How to Renovate a House

Organize The Process and Save Your Sanity

House floor-plan on computer in middle of room being renovated

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Judging by shows on DIY Network and HGTV, it takes approximately 24 minutes to renovate a house. Everyone knows this is not true, but this style of fast-shot remodeling presided over by glib hosts takes away from the core notion that home renovation is complex and difficult. A look at the major elements of a whole-house renovation will give you a sense of what's involved.

1. Design and Planning

A sketch on a cocktail napkin, full-blown architectural plans, or just a firm set of thoughts about how the remodel should progress. It is cheaper and less frustrating to correct mistakes before the remodel takes physical form. Ensure that you have funding for your renovation.

2. Roof, Foundation, Water Issues, Siding, Windows

Roof replacement or repair; foundation fix; stopping water infiltration; installing or repairing siding and windows. Large projects must be done first because subsequent projects are impacted by them.

  • Protect your future renovation work by making certain the house won't collapse on you (foundation, major structural problems) and that it will remain dry (roof, siding, windows).
  • Secure the foundation.
  • Make major foundation repairs to areas such as weakened walls, joists, and carrying beams.
  • Repair or replace the roof.
  • Replace seriously damaged windows that may threaten future remodeling work. If not seriously damaged, leave it for later in the process.
  • If the siding is so damaged that it will allow water infiltration, repair or replace the siding. If not seriously damaged, leave it for later in the process.
Wooden beams horizontally laid for foundation of renovated house

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

3. Demolition

Demolishing and disposing of sections of the house that will be replaced by later projects.

Tile flooring demolished next to wooden flooring for house renovation

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

4. Structural Carpentry

Carpentry that is in support of other work such as drywall, new or moved walls, windows, doors, etc.

  • Moving walls.
  • Constructing new walls.
  • Adding beams to support a greater weight upstairs.
  • Punching in new doors (or removing existing doors).
  • Adding framing for new construction windows, or significantly enlarging the window openings.
Wooden support beams exposed in renovated house

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

5. HVAC Ductwork, Electrical, and Plumbing

Vital services that need to be installed when the walls and ceiling are open.

  • With the walls and ceiling open, it is time for the HVAC company to install ductwork for central heating and air conditioning.
  • Run new electrical and plumbing systems. Electrical and plumbing inspectors will visit at this time, too.
Electrical outlet and wires exposed in wall of renovated house

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

6. Windows

Installing new-construction or replacement windows.

  • Window installation, whether whole-house or partial, almost always plays into a home remodel project.

7. Insulation

Laying the insulation in the walls and ceiling.

  • Install insulation in the walls and attic.
  • Insulation goes fast, so make sure that your drywall company is ready to go soon after this.
Pink insulation inserted between wooden support beams

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

8. Drywall

Closing up the walls with drywall: hanging it, mudding it, and sanding it.

  • A second inspection from the electrical inspector (and perhaps the plumbing inspector) will give you the go-ahead to close up the walls.
  • Drywallers hang sheets of drywall, apply drywall compound, and let the compound dry. After drying, they sand it smooth. Sometimes, they will repeat the process until they achieve a seamless surface.
Drywall holes and covered with white compound for patching

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

9. Fine Carpentry

Carpentry that is not supportive: baseboards, molding, trim around windows and doors, built-in elements (bookcases, breakfast nooks, etc.).

  • Fine carpenters give your house that finished touch.

10. Interior Painting, Wallpaper, and Other Surface Finishes

Painting interior walls, hanging wallpaper, painting molding and trim, staining and sealing trim.

  • All of these detail-oriented surface finishes should be one of the last items you do indoors as this work can damage other work of yours.
  • Should you paint before installing or sanding your flooring or the reverse? This is debatable. Laying flooring first means that paint might get on the flooring. Painting first means that the floor sander may scuff your walls.
Paint brush dipped in Spruce paint buckets with cream-colored paint for interior walls

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

11. Flooring

Your final floor covering—laminate, solid hardwood, tile, engineered wood.

  • Installing the flooring as late as possible in the renovation process saves your flooring surface from significant damage.
Wooden planks installed for end of house renovation

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

12. Siding, Gutters

Exterior work on the outside of the house.

  • With the house mostly finished, it is safe to put on the siding. You do not want to do this earlier (unless absolutely necessary) because doors and windows may get punched out, ruining the siding.

13. Major Auxiliary Building

Any buildings that are detached from the main house.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Homeowner Permitting. Mecklenburg County Government.