My 10 top tips for a first time renovator

Any renovation project can be daunting, whether you are revamping your living room or adding a double-storey extension on the back of your property. Here are some of the choices I made (and some I wish we had!), the lessons I’ve learned and my renovator tips for anyone starting out on a new project.

I’m not going to lie it was tricky to get this list down to just 10 because this whole experience has been a learning curve and as our renovation project is still ongoing we are constantly adding to this list. So, clipboard ready, here are my 10 top tips for a first time renovator…

When you have found your builder (go with your gut and not necessarily the cheapest) collate a list of questions; what time will you finish? Will you tidy up at the end of the day? Will you put down dust sheets? What time will you arrive in the morning? Most builders are earlier risers, and this was fine for us during the week but if your builder is thinking of working weekends you might want to consider asking them for a day off – and try to resist spending the day dusting!
Plan where you can store furniture etc from the rooms that you need to clear. It’s a good idea to have a clear out before the builders arrive and make everything accessible. You will inevitably need that face cream that you’ve put away in a box under stacks of books and furniture. Try to plan ahead for this.
Dust WILL get everywhere no matter how hard you try to stop it. Be prepared for this and try to see past it for at least a few days or you will spend every waking hour dusting! Try to keep one or two rooms dust free by closing doors and putting an old towel under the gap at the bottom.
Consider how you will cope if your bathroom or kitchen is being done. It might be the right time to stay with family for a few nights. If possible ask the plumber to keep the toilet in until the very last minute. We had almost a week when the only way to flush our toilet was to throw a bucket of water down it. I won’t go into detail but you can imagine the difficulties with two toddlers, especially one who is potty training. That’s another point, which seems obvious now… DON’T potty train AND build at the same time!
Introduce your children to the builder, they will be spending a lot of time at your house so it’s important that they feel comfortable with them. My boys liked pretending to be our two builders with their toy tool belts on. It kept them entertained for months and when the main build was finished they asked where the builders were every day.
Never pay a tradesman upfront, always hold some money back so they finish the job. In our experience tradespeople often think they have finished when there is still more to do. This was a lesson we learnt the hard way so the last tradespeople we had in didn’t get their final payment until we were sure everything was done.
Expect that it WILL take longer and cost more than you think. We all know this, but our ever-positive outlook means that we are often disappointed or stung when our contingency isn’t enough.
Go to the neighbour’s house and let them know when the building work will start and how long you expect it to go on for. It’s important to keep them on your side – bake them a cake or take their bins out!
Don’t be afraid to talk to your builder, make sure they communicate with you. Ask for regular updates on the progress of the build and don’t be afraid to say if you are not happy with something. If you are managing the build yourself make sure you get the correct tradespeople in at the right times – for example, you will need the electrician before the plasterer.
Finally, and the most important for me – use Pinterest. It helped me visualise every room and by spending weeks pinning what I liked onto specific boards I could really create a mood board that I was happy with. I often showed tradespeople and builders my Pinterest boards so they could get an idea of what I was looking for.

You may also enjoy: First Time Renovator: when Covid-19 halts the renovation

Featured image: istock.com/PeopleImages

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