How to Phase Your Home Renovations

It’s tempting to want to fix everything all at once when you move into a new home that could use some attention. We understand why – you want your new home to feel like one and not something that the previous homeowner left behind. No one feels relaxed taking a shower in a bathroom that hasn’t been updated since before they were born or cooking in a kitchen with aging appliances and peeling backsplash. If you’re like us, you also want to have your friends and family over to your new house as soon as possible and you don’t want them feeling unimpressed or commenting about how much work you have ahead of you. 

But, it’s important to phase renovations throughout your home. It keeps you focused on one project at a time, instead of starting a bunch of different projects around the house and then having to decide how and where to divide your time. It could leave some areas unfinished for months, depending on the scope of the project. Renovation phasing also helps you keep an eye on costs in case things get more expensive when planned, which they usually tend to do. 

We’ve used renovation phasing as we worked on our current property and found it incredibly beneficial to maintaining our budget and, more importantly, our sanity. Here’s a few ways to incorporate renovation phasing into your next project:

  1. Identify the areas that need the most attention and where you spend the most time 

Begin your home renovation by determining the home’s most urgent needs first. It might be that before you can redo the kitchen or the main bedroom that you have to replace the roof or the HVAC system. These are critical costly fixes and have to be addressed before making necessary but cosmetic changes. From there, map out which areas of the home are most important to you and where you spend quality time. You’ll want that space to be finished early so you can enjoy it for the longest period of time – whether that’s the backyard, the kitchen or the main bathroom, you and your budget will decide where to start. When in doubt, it’s never a bad idea to start in the bedroom, since it’s an area where you spend most of your time at home (in non-pandemic days anyways!) and where you go to relax.

  1. Create project-free zones throughout your home 

Once you begin a full room renovation in your house, like the kitchen or main bedroom, find a space that you can organize and keep clean for the duration. In a new house, it can be tempting not to fully unpack spaces that you know will be renovated later, but it’s important to create a space where you can step away from the project to relax without the mess and stress. It’s especially critical if you have kids or pets that can’t wander into an unfinished space unattended. Try to space your major projects out by levels if possible – for example, if you’re renovating the kitchen, make your main bedroom a comfortable space to unwind, as opposed to your living room that might be next door and catching some residual dust and temporary storage area. It may not be the perfect space, but know it’s a temporary solution that might motivate you to work faster!

  1. Scale projects appropriately

Renovation phasing also doesn’t mean that you have to go all in on one big project or only start one thing after you’ve finished another. Once you’ve gained more confidence and experience, you can start a few smaller projects at a time and work on the incrementally. For example, we worked on our kitchen backsplash while we also painted the walls, floor and window trim in our main hallway and kitchen. The brick for our backsplash was stored and cut outside, so the weather had to be nice enough to partially work outside to complete that project and we used rainy or colder days to complete inside projects. It also helps when you can have two (or more!) people working on something at the same time! Alexa usually paints while Andy handles anything that involves a saw. We also find that taking a break from a  large lengthy project with a small quick project can help provide some much needed instant satisfaction and a mental break. It’s truly all about balance and committing to getting the project done. 

If you have the resources, you can always close on your new home before closing or moving out of your old one and begin renovations before you even move in. This method, while not attainable for everyone, can be extremely helpful for families who can’t have their children running around an unfinished space or if the home needs immediate updates before you can even move in. However, it’s likely that you’ll have to do some renovation phasing at some point in the project after moving in, so it’s a great exercise to practice when you have competing wants, needs, and budget constraints. 

In our current home, we renovated our main bedroom, bathroom, and closet first because we wanted it to be our safe space where we could rest at night and escape from the rest of our home projects. It also happened that the main bathroom was completely unusable when we purchased the home, so our main space in the home aligned with our main need. As we worked on this project, we did hire a crew to help us install a french drain and regrade our backyard so that we could create an entertaining space for friends while we renovated the main floor later on. We were able to scale our projects appropriately in two different spaces in the house without breaking the budget or feeling like we didn’t have anywhere in the home to go. 

Not complete, but we were functional at this point, which was a huge moment in our journey! No more microwave meals!

Which space would you renovate first? Comment below – we’d love to hear from you! 

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