Whether you’ve bought a fixer-upper, or your property simply needs an update, homeowners may find themselves confronted with multiple renovations at a time. Upgrading your home can also be  contagious—once you update one room, it can feel tempting to do them all. If you’re looking at several home renovations on your to-do list, where do you even start? How do you decide what projects come first and what tasks can sit on the back burner? 

Rebecca Hay, president and principal designer of Rebecca Hay Designs, gives us some pointers on how to prioritize home renovations.

Image via Unsplash

How to decide where to start

You have several areas of your home that need a renovation—the kitchen is dated, the entryway isn’t functional, and the bathroom fixtures are in need of a facelift. So which room comes first?

Hay explains homeowners should start with the areas they get the most use out of, and the rooms that are going to get the best return when they decide to sell their home

“That’s typically your kitchen and then any bathroom,” she said. “Those are the bigger-ticket items, but if you do those first, the other updates can be done over time and are more budget-friendly.”

To cut down on prolonged expenses and disruptions, it’s easier to renovate the bigger, messier projects first to get them out of the way. Focusing on large renovations that get everyday use, Hay said, can also improve your lifestyle and use of the home, while also communicating value to potential home buyers. 

With any renovation, it can be exciting to pick out wallpaper and new lighting as you decorate your space. However, the structural integrity and health of your home should always come before any surface-level renovation. If your roof needs to be replaced or your window trim is rotting, those tasks should take precedence. 

“You always want to prioritize that before any cosmetic renovation, because those are the non-negotiables,” explains Hay. “I would say start with those non-negotiables and maintain the bone structure of your home to make sure it’s safe and sound and healthy, and then you can put together all of these other things.” 

How seasonality and life stages come into play

The time of year—and the time in your life—can help determine which projects take priority. 

If you’re a young family with children, your renovation needs will be different than someone who is heading into retirement, which could dictate which projects you start first and how you change your space. For instance, Hay started a renovation on her own kitchen to open up the floorplan to allow in more natural light, improve functionally, and provide better sight lines to her children. Compared to empty nester clients, they have different needs for the same space. 

“​​They don’t care about watching children run around unless they have grandchildren, but they do want to keep it so they can entertain openly, be prepping in the kitchen often while guests are sipping a glass of wine, maybe they’re at the (kitchen) island,” said Hay. “The stage of life you’re at will 100% affect the use of your space, especially your kitchen.”

Image via Unsplash

The Canadian climate may also determine when you pull the trigger on a renovation. Hay explains the summer is the busiest time of the year to renovate thanks to favourable weather, but it means contractors may not have as much availability. On the other hand, trades have more openings in the fall and winter seasons, but ice and snowy weather can prevent certain tasks from being completed.

“Seasonality is a huge part because it gets so cold in the winter months,” said Hay. “If you want to tackle an exterior renovation, whether it be a porch or any exterior painting, those things can’t be done in the winter.”

Prioritizing tasks to save costs and time

If funds allow, lumping multiple renovation tasks together can cut down on expenses and time spent renovating versus spreading them over a series of phases. 

For example, if you have a plumber working on your kitchen, it might be worth renovating your bathroom at the same time since the tradesperson is already onsite. 

“If you can group similar types of renovations together, that’s definitely going to help for cost savings, for example, opening up a shared wall in the dining room and kitchen. I’d say for bathrooms and kitchens, if you have the budget to do them at the same time, I would because there are similar trades involved,” said Hay. 

Oftentimes, renovating can be exhausting and homeowners can run into decision fatigue where they feel thrown out of routine and start to lose sight of the big picture. If you can, Hay suggests it might be worth temporarily moving out and completing all of the renovations at one time.

“If you just start doing one room at a time, then you’re forced to make decisions based on previous decisions and it doesn’t always work cohesively,” said Hay. 

If you do end up grouping projects together, or the one project you take on is large enough, you’ll likely want to call in a professional to help you manage all the timelines, tradespeople, deliveries, etc. When you work with a contractor or designer, they’ll handle these moving parts for you, but taking on the renovations yourself means they’ll be in your hands. Enlisting the help of a professional can help cut down on stress and let you focus on the big picture rather than the nitty gritty. If you need recommendations for a contractor or a designer, a REALTOR® will be able to provide some contacts. 

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What if I’m planning to sell my home?

Even if you’re planning to put your home on the market within the next few years, you can renovate strategically to get the home you want and still appeal to buyers. 

When renovating for sale, Hay said curb appeal can be an important component to consider, as the front of the home is the first impression for any purchaser.

However, Hay explains it’s important for homeowners to renovate what works for them and their family. It’s a personal decision, and future buyers who have different needs for the space may opt to renovate the property once they move in. 

“You make those big picture decisions, structurally and functionality-wise, that will appeal for resale and that work for you, but when it comes to the aesthetics and the type of tile and the drapery, pick what works for you because the next homeowner might just switch it out anyway,” said Hay. 

If you’re planning to sell your home, enlist the advice of an experienced REALTOR® to get an idea on what areas of your home may be worth upgrading before hitting the market.

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