Judging by the popular 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.
It's important to understand what you're getting into when you choose a whole home renovation. A look at the elements of a major home renovation will give you a sense of what's involved and help you effectively plan your projects.
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Start With 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 is a good place to start. It is cheaper and less frustrating to correct mistakes before the remodel takes physical form. One of the first considerations is to be sure that you have funding for your renovation.
Draw up a simple "yes/no" list of do-it-yourself projects and projects you want professionals to do. Look for contractors and subcontractors for those jobs you do not want to do yourself.
Apply for permits for the jobs you want to do on your own (if necessary). If you're hiring a contractor, they will likely handle the permits for you.
Consider the Bigger Projects
The biggest projects you might take on include roof replacement or repair, fixing the foundation, dealing with water infiltration, and installing or repairing windows and siding. 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. That means addressing the foundation and any structural problems. Secure the foundation and make major foundation repairs to areas such as weakened walls, joists, and carrying beams.
Then look at keeping it dry, which involves the roof, siding, and windows. Repair or replace the roof. Replace seriously damaged windows that may threaten future remodeling work. If not seriously damaged, leave the window repair or replacement for later in the process.
The same goes for siding. 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.
Plan for Demolition
You will demolish and dispose of sections of the house that will be replaced by later projects. This is a huge undertaking that many homeowners overlook until the project begins, then they begin scrambling to make up for lost time.
Exercise caution when demolishing surfaces coated with lead-based paint. Asbestos, which is often common in older homes, can be a serious health hazard as well. It's a very good idea to call in a professional to help with anything that involves asbestos or lead-based paint.
Think About Structural Carpentry
Carpentry that is in support of other work is known as structural carpentry. This can include 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.
Many of these projects can be undertaken by an enterprising DIYer, but some projects, such as enlarging window openings, might call for a contractor's expertise.
Plan Out HVAC, Electrical, and Plumbing Jobs
These are vital services that need to be installed when the walls and ceiling are open. Open walls and ceilings make it easier for the HVAC company to install ductwork for central heating and air conditioning and for electricians and plumbers to run new electrical and plumbing systems.
In most places, building code requires that only those professionally licensed to do the work can handle this part of the renovation. Carefully check the requirements in your area.
Consider the Windows
Window installation, whether whole-house or partial, almost always plays into a home remodel project. Installing new-construction or replacement windows is a project many homeowners can try, but keep in mind doing it on your own might invalidate the manufacturer's warranty. Check into the requirements and hire a professional if necessary, as that warranty could save you many headaches down the road.
Plan Out Insulation and Drywall
Before the drywall goes up, the insulation must go in. Look at the options for insulation, and plan to use different types for different areas of the house. You'll need it in the walls and attic, and you might be able to do all of it yourself.
Before you close up the walls, you'll need a second inspection from the electrical inspector (and perhaps the plumbing inspector). They will give you the go-ahead to close up the walls.
You'll close up the walls with drywall: hanging it, mudding it, and sanding it. 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. With some practice and patience, you might be able to do this on your own.
Brush up on Fine Carpentry Skills
Next comes the carpentry that is not supportive: baseboards, molding, trim around windows and doors, and built-in elements, such as bookcases or breakfast nooks. Fine carpentry gives your house that finished touch.
Move on to Interior Painting, Wallpaper, and Other Finishing Work
Many homeowners can handle the work of painting interior walls, hanging wallpaper, painting molding and trim, or staining and sealing trim. All of these detail-oriented surface finishes should be some of the last items you do indoors, as this work can damage other parts of the process. For instance, 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.
Your final floor covering will vary depending upon the room; for instance, you might choose laminate, solid hardwood, engineered wood, or carpet for various living and bedroom areas and vinyl, tile, or marble for bathrooms and kitchens. No matter what you choose, plan to install the flooring as late as possible in the renovation process. This will save your flooring surface from significant damage.
Move to the Exterior
Once the inside is done, or close to it, it's time to work on the exterior of the house. With the house mostly finished, it is safe to put on the gutters and siding. You do not want to do this earlier unless absolutely necessary, because doors and windows may get punched out, thus ruining the exterior job.
Now you can also consider external renovations that might be connected to the house, such as adding a front porch or sunroom. Now is also the time to think about the parts that are entirely separate from the house, such as detached garages or swimming pools.