Remodeling for Smarties: Part 1

Remember how American Idol brought awareness of the music industry to the general public and made musicians cool? Now, thanks to HGTV, everyone is buzzing about home decor and renovation.  Everyone is inspired, but many of us living in reality land with no sponsors, free labor, or husband wife power teams have some unrealistic expectations of what really goes into renovation.

I find that most of the people I work with just don’t know what they don’t know.

Here are three steps I strongly encourage you to do before you start getting estimates.

Cate Black Photography

Step 1: Determine if you (and your spouse/business partners) really want to remodel.

I never want to talk anyone out of a project, because I love projects, but trust me, you need to really think this through.  Can you be without the use of that space for 2 months or more? Are you willing to put up with loud noise and mess and dust? Do you really have the money to do it? Be honest because it’s a big commitment.

fhd_Int 008_6017510
Twist Tours Photography

Step 2: Determine why you want to remodel.

Will remodeling solve a particular problem you are facing that is impeding your way of life? Do you want to remodel to add value to your home? Have you watched too many episodes of Fixer Upper/Property Brothers and have TV house envy?

There are different reasons for remodeling, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons for you and your family or business, or it will not be a pleasant experience. Sometimes some simple cosmetic upgrades or paint can really make things feel fresh in the meantime. There is always something you can do now to improve your home, even if you can’t do the big stuff now.

Georgetown Remodel-Master Bath Shower

Step 3. Research

Just like planning a wedding, there are a lot of factors that you need to plan for before you start getting attached to designs and ideas.

To get some initial numbers, do some measuring: linear feet for cabinets, square feet for countertops, tile, and flooring.

A good resource to use is Home Advisor’s Cost Estimating tool to look up some average project costs by location.

Don’t get bogged down, you are just trying to get a general idea to see if this is even do-able.  Just start with some numbers and plug them into a spreadsheet.

This list is pretty typical of what factors into a residential remodel-not including permitting, design and engineering fees if needed.

  1. Demo (removing existing cabinets, flooring, tile, etc)
  2. Drywall and Framing (if you are messing with the walls)
  3. Plumbing (more if you move stuff around, less if you don’t)
  4. Electrical-relocating outlets, adding can lights
  5. Flooring (don’t forget about baseboards)
  6. Cabinets and Installation (add assembly costs if going with cheaper cabinets)
  7. Appliances
  8. Plumbing Fixtures (sinks, faucets, etc)
  9. Countertops
  10. Painting
  11. Light Fixtures and Installation
  12. Doors/Windows
  13. Wall and Accent Tile
  14. Management and Overhead (at least 10-15 percent)
  15. 10 to 15 percent contingency fund (for unexpected costs)

I personally learned all this the hard way. I got all excited to remodel the kitchen of my first home, built in 1955.  This pic was taken after removing the wallpaper with coffee words like “Java” and Espresso” all over it.

200 salem kitchen before 1

I ordered all the cabinets and appliances, selected materials, then got my estimates and we realized that the cost was going to put us into a risky financial position. I had to return everything I had bought and can the project. I was so disappointed.

Instead, I did what I could with what I had which was about $1,500 total in the end.


A year later, we listed the home for sale, made money from the sale and ended up with an exponentially nicer home in a great neighborhood.

It’s so easy to get caught up in other people’s realities on TV- but the best projects are done with a plan, within the realm of what is realistic for you.

In part 2 I’ll focus on things to consider once you decide to do the remodel!

Published by kbythewood

I am in Interior Designer in Austin TX who is passionate about keeping design simple, practical, and affordable for anyone who wants a great space.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: