10 Things You Need To Know Before Starting Any Home Renovation Project

This post is sponsored and contributed by Thumbtack, a Patch Brand Partner.

Home renovations can add functionality, comfort and value to your home. Of course, home renovations can also be costly, and if you want to get the best return on your investment, there are some key factors to consider.

We talked to David Steckel, a home expert at Thumbtack, about what projects homeowners should prioritize and the best way to get the work done efficiently and on budget. Keep reading for 10 things Steckel says every homeowner should consider before starting any home renovation project.

1. Updating Key Areas Doesn’t Have To Blow Your Budget

Homeowners know that updating bathrooms and kitchens is a good investment because not only are the spaces more comfortable, but these rooms — when updated thoughtfully — can help sell a home. But what if you’re on a budget? Steckel says these areas are great to focus on because you can keep the same layout, while focusing on minor updates that will maximize your return financially and aesthetically.

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To make a big impact without blowing your budget, Steckel suggests the following:

Give the space a facelift: Instead of gutting your whole kitchen, just go for a dramatic face lift by changing the counters and having the same material run up the backsplash. You can also paint the cabinets, change the hardware and add some under cabinet lighting as additional upgrades to transform the space. “You will be amazed by how big of a difference these small changes can make,” Steckel says.

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Upgrade appliances: Changing out your appliances adds a significant amount of value — plus, Steckel notes, if you buy multiple units from the same manufacturer, you can likely get a bundled discount.

Update kitchen islands: If you only want to upgrade one part of your kitchen, Steckel suggests focusing on the island. “Change the counter to a butcher block and paint the island a different color than the rest of your space,” Steckel advises. “Add some new pendant lights and you’ll see how easily you can breathe new life into your space.”

Switch out fixtures: “Plumbing and lighting fixtures tend to be high ticket decor items — you can easily spend over $1,000 per unit!” Steckel says, adding that he suggests bringing your inspiration photos to suppliers as they’ll often have units for half the cost.

Use paint to freshen up a space:
“Repainting a bathroom is a quick and budget-friendly way to refresh your space. If your room has intricate trim work, I would suggest working with a pro to ensure you get the outcome you’re looking for. The national average cost to paint a single room is $917*,” Steckel says, adding, “You can also add wallpaper to give a bathroom a more whimsical feel.”

Change your flooring: Another great way to upgrade your bathroom is by installing new flooring. Depending on the type of flooring you choose, you may pay anywhere from $1-$22 per square foot for installations, says Steckel. Plus, the design options are endless — vinyl tile, laminate, natural hardwood, engineered hardwood, ceramic, marble, stone tiles, slab stone, epoxy and more.

“Kitchens and bathrooms have an immediate return on investment if you are looking to resell your home right away,” he says. “You can also use these renovations as leverage to increase your loan-to-value amount, especially if you just bought your home.”

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2. Splurging On Some Projects Makes Sense

For homeowners ready to take on bigger projects, Steckel says turning an unfinished basement into a finished basement is typically the most cost-effective option that will add the greatest amount of value to a home — as all of the structural and major systems work is already in place. The average basement remodel costs $18,500, but costs can vary from $5,000 to $70,000 depending on the project.

And, Steckel says, “Renovations that increase the size of a home, like creating additional outdoor space with multiple functions or increasing the functionality of spaces, will always add value to a home.”

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3. Remembering Final Touches Will Solidify Your Style

You’ve considered new appliances, lighting and paint, but Steckel says hardware is often the last thing homeowners think about when renovating their homes. These small details can actually end up being a substantial line item on the overall renovation.

“Hardware on kitchen cabinets, entry doors, door stoppers or hinges can add a luxurious feeling to your home and create privacy settings on your interior doors,” he says. “These final touches should be considered as architectural details used to solidify and bolster the effect of the specific style and aesthetic you’re trying to achieve.”

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4. Freshening Up Minor Elements Can Have A Big Impact

Hardscape And Yard Updates

Freshen up your home for outdoor entertaining season with a few quick projects that will make all the difference, he says. Power washing the hardscape, cleaning the furniture, sealing whatever needs to be sealed, cutting in fresh lines to the garden beds, adding some mulch, aerating and seeding the grass and touching up any exterior paint, Steckel says can have a big impact.

He also suggests that before inviting friends and family over for an outdoor gathering, it’s important to inspect your patio or deck for cracks and peeling paint. This damage could mean you are due for repairs or repainting. The average national cost of deck and porch repairs ranges from $250-$1,200.

Regular Home Maintenance

Maintenance projects will always add value to your home, Steckel explains. “Consistent projects on your home add value because they protect larger-scale investment items, such as HVAC repairs and weekly lawn and garden care. Home projects that are more visual, such as deep cleaning or pressure washing, will also increase the value of a home.”

Aesthetic updates, such as changing shingles from asphalt to cedar, gutters and sheet metal to copper, interior paint upgrades and kitchen appliance and bathroom updates are also great updates to make, he says. “Lastly, projects that add square footage to the indoor or outdoor areas of the home will always increase the value of a home.”

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5. Maximizing Livable Space Matters

Because most people tend to focus on the interior when they move into a new home or during renovations, they can oftentimes leave exterior projects on the backburner, Steckel says., “And because there has been so much momentum in the housing market over the last few years, we’re seeing a lift in exterior focused projects as homeowners look to continue maximizing their livable square footage,” he adds.

The first — and most significant and costly — phase of exterior renovations is typically creating a framework for the space, or hardscaping, such as adding a deck, building a fence or landscaping, he says. “As more people settle into their homes, we’re now seeing an uptick of homeowners entering into phase two where they’re looking to elevate their spaces beyond furniture and decor with larger ticket items that couldn’t fit into their phase one budget, like a hot tub or gazebo,” Steckel says “In fact, gazebo installation and construction is among the highest trending categories, up 102% year-over-year — and up 381% in the past three months.”

As homeowners look to create new and different areas to spend time outdoors, Steckel suggests other renovations to consider include outdoor kitchens or patio awnings — which are up 121% over the past three months — as well as more thoughtful conversation spaces — such as built-in gas fire pits or outdoor bar areas.

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6. Updating Basements Pays Off

If you only have one space you can renovate, Steckel says the basement is the one to focus on — and depending on your budget, you have options for how extensive you choose to make the changes.

“I would suggest that a basement ‘facelift or refresh’ — think painting, some flooring, and new fixtures, AV and furniture — could cost around $35 per square foot; a renovation around $80 per square foot — think moving walls, new floors, lighting, trim, re-doing the bathroom, moving the mechanical room or ducts or upgrading appliances; and a reno plus underpinning can easily exceed $150 per square foot — lower the basement a couple feet, put in a heated floor system, full gut and everything new.”

7. Renovating For Functionality Increases Value

“One aspect of renovations that can put your home at risk of decreasing its value is always in the design,” Steckel advises. “When renovating your home, you should stay away from choosing finishes that are the ‘trend of the moment’ or very specific to your taste. The more general your design and finishes can be, the more buyers it will attract.”

In order to avoid decreasing the value of a home, Steckel says you should keep in mind that the ultimate goal of making upgrades and renovations is to improve the overall functionality of the spaces within the home.

“Homeowners must choose wisely when selecting everything from the layout, contractor, paint colors, finishes and more,” he says.

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8. Knowing Your Priorities For A Project Is Key

“The best way to save money with any project is to plan ahead and this is where the rule of three comes in handy — you can choose only two of the following: speed, quality, pricing. If pricing is your priority focus, you’re going to have to give up on either speed or quality,” Steckel explains. “Aligning on your key priorities will go a long way during the project. It is crucial that homeowners spend a lot of time in the planning phase and building their team. Thumbtack is the perfect place to find the professionals you might need, which depending on your scope can include a landscape architect, designer and general contractor.”

Below are four key tips Steckel suggests homeowners consider to ensure they’re successfully planning ahead for projects:

Tip No. 1: Haste makes waste. The number one mistake that homeowners make is rushing to begin their job, he says. Every day that you spend planning, hiring your team, selecting finishes, value engineering, etc., takes days — if not weeks — off the duration of the job. “There should almost never be any surprises when doing a renovation. During the planning phase, your team should figure out and pressure test most potential surprises. Doing this well is the only way to accurately price your job and it is the only way to make sure there are no surprises.”

Tip No. 2: Finish selections are key. We recommend committing to as many of your material selections — flooring, countertops, paint, etc. — as possible on paper before the project starts, Steckel says. “This way you’ll have time to find alternatives before they’re needed onsite, especially considering current supply chain issues caused by high demands for home projects. It is also important for your contractor to know your preferences for materials so that they can keep it top of mind during the build. For instance, if you want a heated floor or marble in the bathroom, the contractor will have to actually lower the bathroom floor to make sure it is flush with the hallway or bedroom beyond it.”

Tip No. 3: Leverage the pros. Encourage your remodel team to make suggestions, and make sure they perform a “value engineering exercise,” where they analyze what the requirements of the project will be before beginning construction, Steckel expertly advises. “Leveraging the experience and knowledge of the team you’ve hired is key.”

Tip No. 4: Don’t cut corners. “Try not to be pennywise and pound foolish. Sometimes it might seem like a financially good decision for you to go directly to a supplier that you found online,” Steckel explains. “We would not recommend going direct for anything that goes behind a wall or ceiling or is not easily replaced by a DIY method. Your contractor is not going to provide a warranty on anything that they do not supply, so if you do purchase something from an unknown supplier with a long lead time and it ends up breaking or being dysfunctional, you will be responsible for purchasing another one and awaiting delivery again. This will cost you more in the long run.”

We recommend compiling at least 20 inspiration images and putting them into a folder or saving them on a Pinterest board, says Steckel. “This will be helpful in the long run as it will help your renovation team organically determine your aesthetic expectations and also help them anticipate additional costs for your scope of work. Always be sure to share this with your renovation team to ensure they understand your expectations at the outset and you don’t get hit with these costs in the middle of a project.”

9. Avoiding Costly Mistakes Requires Diligence

At times it may seem cheaper to take on a DIY task, mistakes made can often make those initial savings obsolete, Steckel says. Hiring a pro and planning are essential to an effective home renovation. “Spend as much time as possible planning on paper before you start tearing up the place,” he says. “Every day you spend planning saves you at least that much once the project starts.” Here are some of Steckel’s top tips:

1. Hire the most appropriate team for your job. Appropriate can mean only specialty and licensed trades as legally required since you’re hoping to manage the project and DIY some of it yourself or it can mean going for the “Cadillac” version of a GC, architect and designer.

2. Make sure you’ve checked with your HOA, board, city for any and all base building contractors or local requirements that you must adhere to.

3. Double check all your dimensions, put tape on the floors to mark out walls and furniture. It’s always a great way to be able to visualize the space.

4. Ensure you cost out and double check availability for at least 80% of the finishes and, of course, make sure you have your financing sorted out.

5. Depending on the scope of your project, you’ll want to pack up anything that is small, on a wall, on furniture and of course anything that will impede the pros you’ve hired. With a small space, you’re probably going to have to move everything in there about four times throughout the project, so ensure everyone’s life is as easy as possible by packing well.

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10. Hiring Top-Rated Professionals Gets The Job Done Right

Steckel says there are a range of home projects and tasks that homeowners can do on their own to ensure everything throughout their home is maintained and running smoothly in between visits from home experts — both inside and outside the house. However, he says when it comes to more technical or larger scale projects, homeowners should consider hiring a professional to complete at least parts of the project, since hiring a pro to fix a failed DIY project tends to be more expensive than having a pro out to do the project from the start.

That’s where Thumbtack comes in. From the get-go, you can find top-rated pros for any home improvement projects with the Thumbtack app. Whether you need a house cleaner or a handy professional to complete small projects around your home or a general contractor for a major renovation, Thumbtack can connect you with the local professionals you need to to complete any task. And for more personalized service, the Thumbtack membership program offers one-on-one guidance from a home specialist for the duration of your home renovation project — from planning and budgeting to hiring the right professional for the job, the Thumbtack membership program takes the guesswork out of your repair, maintenance and home improvement projects.

*A note about project costs featured in this article: Figures represent national average cost estimates using data provided by Thumbtack pros and additional research. These figures are provided for educational purposes only and are subject to change at any time due to various factors. Details about your specific project and local rates can impact costs.

This post is sponsored and contributed by Thumbtack, a Patch Brand Partner.

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