7 Tips to Manage Your Home Renovation (and Stay Sane)


“The devil is in the details.” This is a favorite axiom of a trusted design mentor of mine and never is it truer than in a home renovation. The rewards of a great reno are great! But the ulcer from a nightmare project is, well, a nightmare. From kitchen renovations to bath renovations to additions…and let us not even mention the design build from scratch. Detail, detail, detail.

Follow these 7 tips and they will help keep you sane and solvent during any home renovation.

  1. Due diligence is a must. You must vet and reference check your builder, contractors, kitchen/bath group or designer. This includes googling complaints about a professional or company. This includes checking with the better business bureau before you hire someone. It includes asking hard questions of supplied references, like, “Did anything happen on the job with so-and-so that you weren’t happy with and if so, what did so-and-so do to correct it?”
  1. Get All Project Schedules in Writing and Start a Project Control Binder.   You can put your schedules into your new Project Control Binder, and you can also create tabbed sections for Change Orders, Bids & Contracts and Team Contact Info. I love a good project binder.
  1. Don’t Be Your Own GC. (General Contractor) Project scheduling is the biggest challenge in any reno; don’t try to be your own GC. Let your builder/contractor handle scheduling and subs. Builders have pull that you don’t; they understand the build process in ways that you don’t.
  1. Have Weekly Team Meetings – either by phone or on site depending on your project. This is the most efficient way to keep everything moving and everyone on the same page. In a 20-30 minute team meeting, decisions are made swiftly and information is exchanged immediately. This spares you and the team a whirlwind of wasted time in emails and phone tag. When do you stop your weekly meetings? When there’s nothing left to talk about.
  1. Hire a Designer the Builder Likes Working With – or Visa Versa. No team can win a super bowl if they hate each other. I’ve worked on all manners of reno and construction projects: The best results – both during and after the build – are always achieved with a seamless team. If you already have your dream builder, ask him for a dream designer he likes working with. If you already have your dream designer, ask her for an ideal builder. You’ll get a much better end product and working process as a result. (You still need to vet per item #1.)
  1. Don’t Assume Your Builder Can Be Your Designer. They can’t. Builders build things. They are amazing at it. But they are not designers. Designers design things. They are amazing at it, but they don’t build things. The 2 skills sets are not interchangeable. Hire both an interior designer and a builder to get your best results and protect your invested dollar.
  1. Don’t Hire Family Members or Friends. It’s never a good idea. At first, you think it is, and they think it is, but in the end, it’s too easy for you to feel like you’re not getting the right VIP service for your team or that you are unable to hold your family member accountable because they’re “your family,” and it’s too easy for your family member to feel like they’re bending over backwards to give you “a deal” and feel resentful. Hire people you like and trust. Don’t hire family or friends.

So, who’s in charge if you have a builder and designer on a job? The builder. Designers are not allowed to be GC’s. Builders are “structure-function” focused and responsible. They run the job and make sure the walls all stand up after everyone goes home. The designer works with the builder. Designers are “aesthetic-function” focused and responsible. They make sure the “end-result space” will look wonderful and that functionally it supports you in using it for optimal pleasure and flow, right down to fine detailing like where a light switch is placed near your bedside.

Follow these 7 tips to keep sane during your next home renovation and…happy building!