How to Renovate a House

Organize The Process and Save Your Sanity

Home renovation
Caiaimage/Martin Barraud/ Getty Images

Judging by shows on DIY Network and HGTV, it takes approximately 24 minutes to renovate a house.  

We all know 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 and real.

Following is the approximate process for whole-house renovation.

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.

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 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.

3. Demolition

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

4. Structural Carpentry

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

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.

6. Insulation

Laying insulation in the walls and ceiling.
  • Install fiberglass insulation in the walls and attic.
  • Insulation goes fast, so make sure that your drywall company is ready to go soon after this.

7. 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.

8. Windows

Installing new-construction or replacement windows.
  • Window installation, whether whole-house or partial, almost always plays into a home remodel project.

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.

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.

12. Siding, Gutters

Exterior work on the outside of the house.
  • With the house mostly finished, it is safe to put on 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.