Home Hacks

5 Things You Should Do Before Starting a Renovation

September 18, 2015

As the season shifts, it might be time to tackle that home renovation you've been dreaming of—but do these things first.

Some find it daunting or unsettling to have their houses torn apart during a renovation project, but I love the whole process and the world of possibility it opens up, with new rooms, space, and light. I've been restoring, renovating, and remodeling houses for many years (you can read all about those projects in Life | Style: Elegant Simplicity at Home, my new book) and have learned so much along the way.

Before embarking on your own renovation, do these 5 things—and the process, which is never predictable, will be far more manageable:

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before you renovate

1. Set up a flexible budget.

No matter how much you think the project will cost, it could cost double. There are always surprises and changes along the way that surface unexpectedly once you start tearing down walls and opening up floors. 

2. Have a clear vision of the end result.

Visual references are so important to the process. In addition to drawings of the project, tearsheets from magazines and inspiring pictures from Pinterest will ensure that you are on the same page with your contractor. A picture is worth a thousand words!

before you renovate tricia foley

3. Make a five-year plan.  

Even if you are embarking on a small renovation project, it should be approached as part of the big picture, a step in the direction of the end goal. I always have one-year, two-year, and five-year plans for renovations, which I work towards so that efforts are not duplicated afterwards, and the sequence of construction projects make sense. Prioritizing a list like this gives you something to work, budget , and plan for. 

4. Get recommendations for a contractor and construction team.

You’ll be working together in your home, possibly for months, so a good, respectful relationship is key. Recommendations from friends, work you’ve seen and admired, and neighbors’ similar projects are the best way to find compatible craftsmen. 

before you renovate tricia foley

5. Create a realistic schedule.

There is a sequence of events in a construction project and many trades are involved. The contractor is like an orchestra conductor, bringing all the players in a logical sequence to make things run as smoothly, efficiently, and economically as possible. Try to get a sense of how long your project will take, so that you can make arrangements to move out, eat out, or be present for critical decision-making along the way.

Have you tackled a home renovation? Let us know your best tips for those taking one on, in the comments. 

Designer Tricia Foley has poured her heart into a renovation or two—and chronicles the incredible results in her new book, Life | Style: Elegant Simplicity at Home, which hits shelves on September 29.

First photo by Marili Forastieri; second by Tricia Foley; and outdoor photo by Jeff McNamara/Country Home magazine/Meredith Corporation.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Montie Nelson
    Montie Nelson
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Designer Tricia Foley, whose upcoming title Life | Style chronicles her loving renovation of an all-white Long Island home, shares her tips for picking out and using white paint.


Montie N. August 18, 2017
If we are living in an old home and we plan to do some kind of renovation to give our home a new and innovative, then we must follow expert advice. Home renovation is definitely a beneficial step for every homeowner, but we should also estimate the budget before renovation and apart from these, we should consider certain things as mention in the above article. Thanks for highlighting such essential things.
tricia F. September 18, 2015
I think the direction here was advice to the homeowner who wanted to tackle a smaller renovation project themselves. Of course, for a bigger renovation or building project, calling an architect is the first, most important step!
amysarah September 18, 2015
Perhaps I'm biased (as one myself) but it's interesting that hiring an architect isn't suggested anywhere.