Gosh, I can’t believe my FIRST home renovation was now almost 2 years ago! SO much has changed since then… from finishing the renovation and thinking the condo would be home for the next 5 or so years, to the pandemic, to selling the condo and buying our forever home…it’s been a wild ride! If you’re going into your first home reno and have NO clue what you’re doing. I feel ya! I was in the same boat as you, and yet I somehow survived my first home renovation without any major (or minor) issues! Today I’m sharing 5 things I learned from my first home renovation, keep scrolling to read more!
I was really happy with my contractor that I used for my first renovation, so much so that I plan on using him again for future projects in the new place! Before starting the renovation I met with 4 contractors, 3 of which came highly reviewed on the Greenwich Mom’s Facebook Group and 1 who came highly recommended from family friends.
I walked through the entire condo with each of them, discussing all the projects from the smallest (adding light fixtures and painting) to the largest (kitchen & bathroom demos). While I wish I could give you specifics to figure out a great contractor from a not so great contractor, for me it was really just who I felt most comfortable with.
All Photo Credit Belongs to Mindy Briar
Three of the contractors I met with were between the ages of 40-60 and while they might have been awesome, I felt like they were talking down to me a little. The fourth contractor who I went with was younger and while he obviously wouldn’t have as many years of experience as the other guys, I was 100% sold on how well we got along. It was clear to me he was just a downright good person. Of course my gut instincts were correct! Our contractor is a really great person and someone I’d 10/10 recommend to anyone local to Fairfield County, CT.
When I first saw the prices of Café Appliances online I wasn’t sure they’d fit in my kitchen budget. For me, the matte white Café Appliances with bronze handles were a non-negotiable. My kitchen had to have them! The first (and only) place I went appliance shopping was County TV & Appliance in Stamford, CT.
I’d previously purchased my washer & dryer from there and was so happy with the customer service & price! I guess it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise then when County TV & Appliance was able to give me such an amazing deal on my appliance package. I was shocked with how affordable my Café Appliances were! Sooooo all this is to say… it pays to shop local! Before going to Home Depot or another big box store, check out your local shops!
(to an extent) When I went into Lima Tile in Stamford, CT I knew exactly what tile I wanted to use for my master bathroom: white fish scale porcelain tile. Here’s the thing, I was so tunnel vision on this fish scale tile that I hadn’t really thought the rest of my tile needs through.While I’d picked out the exact tile for my shower walls before even stepping into the tile shop, I hadn’t really thought about my bathroom floor or shower floor tile choices.
The sales associate at Lima Tile literally said “okay, this is what you’re going to do” and then showed me into another room, pointed at a few faux marble 12×24 tiles on the wall and said, “which one?” I picked out the matte option with minimal veining. Then we walked into another room and he pulled a sheet of herringbone faux marble tile and said, “this is the one you’ll want for your tile floor.”
At first, I was a little confused. Could it really be that simple? I didn’t LOVE the idea that this guy I’d never met before just picked out 2/3rds of my bathroom tile. Buttt on the other hand, he did this for a living and he knew better than anyone which tile combination would be the best. You know what? He couldn’t have been more right! I love how my bathroom turned out!
*Side note: When purchasing my bathroom fixtures, I did stray a little from the experts’ suggestions. Instead of the recommended wall-mounted shower head in addition to the rain showerhead, I ended up choosing a handheld wand. I’m so glad I did! If you have a large shower you’ll want a handheld wand to making cleaning it easier!
Prior to my first home renovation I had no idea how much all this stuff cost! Who knew toilets could range from a couple hundred dollars to over $1,500?! Not me! Since I knew I didn’t want to skimp on things like the toilet, shower fixtures, faucets, tile, I knew that at some point I was going to have to save some money somewhere…. And I did exactly that when it came to the accessories!
The accessories that I’m talking about are: cabinet handles, toilet paper holder, towel hooks, towel rod, lighting fixtures, mirrors, just to name a few! I’ve linked all of my affordable accessories above for you to shop!
When you think about eventually re-selling your home, the accessories are the easiest changes for a new buyer to make. That’s why I wanted to make sure that my money went into what a potential buyer would value the most (ex. an oversized shower with a bench seat and soft-close cabinets).
And for me, I was able to get everything I wanted while staying under budget by balancing my expensive “non-negotiable” list with my “let me find where I can buy this for the least amount of money possible while still making it look good” list.
If this is your first time doing a home renovation, trust me, it’s going to be a bit more overwhelming than expected! And that’s okay! What’s not okay is not having all your ducks in a row. This is kind of a “fake it ‘till you make it approach,” but hey, it works!
You should definitely take before & after photos AND videos of every space that will be part of the renovation. I took plenty of before photos, but I didn’t take any videos and I regret that for 2 reasons. Reason 1: I would just like to have for my reference. Reason 2: If for some reason there is an issue during the renovation (ex. something gets damaged) then you’ll have proof of that to show your contractor.
As for taking notes, I’d recommend having a notebook (or Google Spreadsheet) designated specifically to your home. My Google Sheet includes things like…
-Budget for renovation, broken down by room
-Each and every expense from renovation (and I save receipts in a special box)
-Contact information for contractor, other vendors, etc.
-And I also keep all other important home info on this spreadsheet just so it’s all in one place
You should definitely have a notebook with you when you do your initial walkthrough with each potential contractor. I took TONS of notes from what each contractor said and it was really helpful to review when deciding who to go with!
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