No matter how many hours of HGTV we’d watched (and believe me, there were many), nothing could have entirely prepared us for our home renovation a few years ago. Combining our two-bedroom apartment with the one-bedroom next door - we theorized - would give us enough space to grow our family at a smaller investment than selling and buying a new three-bedroom in our Brooklyn neighborhood. Plus, we could design the home to our liking.
That did prove true, but not without some hard lessons learned.
A wise friend told us prior to starting our project that if you can survive a major home renovation with your partner, you can work through pretty much anything together. She was absolutely right. For an added degree of difficulty, we were raising a 1-year-old baby while combining apartments. We were really in for a test.
Now that hindsight has kicked in and the project is complete, I can share some of the knowledge gained that can (hopefully!) help the next person who is seeking to remodel their home.
1. Don’t Skimp On Due Diligence
Your team - from your contractor and subcontractors to your architect - requires full vetting. Ask for updated licenses and referrals prior to starting. Just because someone comes recommended by a neighbor or friend doesn’t mean that they’re the right person for your project. Ask about the size and scale of their previous work to be sure their experience matches up with the requirements of your renovation. Chat with former clients to hear their highs and lows. Read reviews online. Even if this takes an extra few weeks to sort out, it’s worth it in the long run. Firing someone midway through for doing a poor job is much harder than waiting to hire the right person.
2. Question Every Cost
Never assume that your contractor’s estimate price is the best price - or that it includes all the little costs. For example, we were led to believe that a particular flooring company had the best price for the type of wood we wanted to install. But as it turned out, the quote given to us by our builder only included the engineering of the wood, not the shipping or installation, which made the cost as pricey as all the other bids. We had already signed off on the purchase, so that was a huge surprise expense. Whether buying curtains, a ceiling lamp or flooring, always price-compare and ask about any extra fees and costs. Outlets with free shipping, like Amazon, suddenly became our saving grace. We weren’t hit with unexpected costs and didn’t have to schlep purchases around the city or pay for delivery fees. Lesser known fact: Amazon also offers design tools like “Shop by Room” and “Home Style Quiz.”
3. Try To Stay Put
Our biggest expense in this whole process? Relocating. Twice. Living through the renovation with a baby was not ideal: There would be times when we would not have running water, and the apartment would be covered in dust, the noise unbearable. And while I don’t regret moving during the transition, we should have started the search to find affordable living options much earlier. The project (of course) took longer than initially estimated, which had us scrambling to secure another sublet and then paying through the nose for it. In hindsight, we should have moved outside the city, where short-term housing is more abundant and less pricey.
4. Apply For Permits ASAP
Depending on your municipality or township, certain permit approvals can take longer than average. For example, our sprinkler work took many months to be approved (and that was after being expedited) because of a supposed backup in New York City. This is a major problem, unless you are okay with living in an unfinished home and needing to invite contractors back in later to finish their work.
In short, home renovations are never as easy as they seem on TV. The good news is that the renovation allowed our family to grow without needing to move out of our Brooklyn neighborhood, where rising home prices could have easily priced us out of the market. We survived — and it was totally worth it. And if you keep a few key lessons in mind, you can too!
With great prices and free shipping on millions of items, right to your door, Amazon makes it easy to achieve any goal. To find the tools you need to get the job done in the most convenient, affordable way, visit Amazon.com today.
This article was paid for by Amazon and co-created by RYOT Studio. HuffPost editorial staff did not participate in the creation of this content.