3 questions to ask before starting DIY home renovations

It’s easy to sit back and look at your house, thinking about all the great things that you could do to improve it. Unfortunately, home renovations involve more than a trip to your local hardware store and a can-do attitude. If you’re itching to do some work but aren’t sure where you should start, and want to make sure that you don’t get yourself stuck halfway, here are some questions you might want to ask yourself before you knocking down any walls.

1.      What is it likely to cost?

It’s nice to imagine that you could do a full home renovation with your couch change, but it’s unlikely. Raw materials are expensive, from power tools to paint to plants, and you often won’t know everything you’ll need until you’re well into the project. If you think that you’re fed up of your house now, imagine how fed up you’d be with the walls half-painted and the cupboard doors off, needing to wait until pay day to fix it.

While it’s not as fun as just loading up a trolley at your local hardware store, the very first thing you need to do is make a list of what you actually want to do, and what that will involve. You’ll then need to break each of those tasks down into procedural lists to see what they actually entail. This will help you to cost out the process. Doing a proper estimate of your proposed plan will do two things: one, it’ll let you know how much it’s likely to cost (and that’s probably the bare minimum it could actually cost). Two, it will help you define the scope of your project. You don’t want to decide to work on the living room to suddenly find yourself under the kitchen sink, wondering how it all got so out of hand. If you just write down the jobs that you need to do for your renovation, it will be easier to keep your project in check.

2.      Why are you doing it?

It might be fun to put a lick of paint on the house because you’re fed up, but is that the best way to put money into your house? Is your time (and money) better spent doing something else? For example, your house might be a little older and need rewiring. That’s probably a better long-term investment than a new vanity unit and retiling. You might also be eyeing off some expensive carpet for the second guest room, but that money could probably redo the bathroom that’s older than your parents.

And if you’re thinking that that’s not as much fun and you’ll give it a miss, just remember that you won’t always have the choice. When those bigger structural things go awry, they won’t wait for you to have the money to spend—you’ll just have to face it. That goes for electrical issues, but also plumbing and guttering, as well as other structural issues and features like your roof. Work first, then play.

3.      What can you actually do yourself?

Sometimes, when you dream at night, you can speak another language, or know how to swordfight, or even fly. Unfortunately, back in the real world, we’re limited by what we can actually do. And in the real world, once you’ve started your renovations, you’ll need to finish them. This means that if you can’t do it, for whatever reason, you’ll need to get in someone who can. This will cost you more than just doing it yourself, but it will also make sure that the project is finished, and finished to a high enough standard to have made the venture worthwhile.

Obviously some work will always need to be done by a tradesman, especially electrical and plumbing work, but you must be reasonable about the other work as well. If your property has twelve-foot ceilings, for example, you might need some specialty equipment to get painting done, if it’s not easier and safer to just hire a professional painter to do the job. But consider time and interest. If things take longer than you expected, you might run out of one, or both. Be kind to yourself, and realistic with your project.

This also goes for things like major structural works. Just because you can knock a wall down, it doesn’t mean that you should, or that your house will be standing once it’s done. If in doubt, don’t be shy to contact the experts. That’s what they’re for!

The most important thing about managing a home renovation is making sure that you’re being realistic with your expectations. Home renovation, like any project, looks a lot easier on paper (or in your head) than it does halfway through. And there’s nothing worse than thinking you’re nearly done with something only to unearth a new problem that’s bigger than the initial problem you were trying to fix. And even the best laid plans can be disrupted by factors completely out of your control, like bad weather, interruptions with tradesmen or unexpected discoveries (like asbestos or other structural issues). Renovations rarely run to budget or to schedule, so the more realistic your initial estimates, however galling they may be, the less likely you are to cop a nasty surprise on the other end.