What You Should Know before You Start Renovating

Renovating a house is a major undertaking, but a rewarding project - if done right!
Christopher McFadden

Renovating a property is a significant undertaking, but it doesn't need to be a nightmare. By getting advice from professionals and with a little planning (actually a lot), your new 'dream property' can be achieved relatively quickly (and within budget).

Here are some useful tips to make sure the entire project goes swimmingly. This is not intended to be an exhaustive guide and is simply an overview of some common questions. 


How much does it cost to renovate a house completely?

First of all, some housekeeping is in order. Whenever you search for this kind of question online, you will be presented with various estimates. But many tend to confuse renovation works with what should really be termed remodeling. 

Renovation, technically speaking, is to "restore (something old, especially a building) to a good state of repair."


Remodeling, on the other hand, is "to alter the structure of" a building. 

In respect to this question, we will consider the approximate cost for 'making good' a dilapidated house. 

The cost for completely renovating a house really depends on the extent of the works, house size, build form, building's previous renovation history, building defects (if any), and age of the building. It also varies depending on your geographic location. 

According to sites like realtor.com, typical costs range from between (of course prices will vary around the globe):

  • $25,000 and $45,000 for small renovation projects like painting, minor repairs, and maybe some landscaping. 
  • $46,000 and $75,000 for medium works - low cost plus new kitchen and bathroom, and;
  • $76,000 + for high-level works - This will include low and medium and include fixing structural issues (foundations for example), roofing and sewerage issues. 

How much does it cost to renovate a three bedroom house?

Typically speaking, renovating a three-bedroom house will cost will depend on what is needed, and your ambitions for the project. But, that being said, sites like homeadvisor.com have collated some useful information.


According to their surveys and research, in the US, typical three bedroom house renovation projects cost:

  • $45,685 on average around the United States;
  • Projects range in cost between $18,447 - $75,066;
  • The cheapest project was $3,695, and the most expensive was $150,000.

But, of course, the cost of your project could be less or more than the average but is likely going to fall between the two extremes. Most budgets for minor works tend to be at least $5,000.

Is it cheaper to remodel or build a new house?

This ultimately depends on the works needed. If you plan on gutting and changing the layout of the building, it may be cheaper to simply bulldoze and start again. 

In order to make a realistic judgment, you should seek quotes (at least three!) for both scenarios and decide from there. This is usually the simplest and quickest way to weigh up the options.  

Sites like PlanSwift.com provide typical remodeling versus new build costs, as follows:

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Remodeling typical costs in the US

Remodeling is a very nebulous term and can range from just fixing up a few rooms to a complete change of internal and external layout. But typically it costs somewhere in the order of:

"If you’re just updating a few rooms like the kitchen and bathroom, the cost is estimated to be under $100,000 through increasing the budget to $150,000 would make the budgeting process a little less stringent.

New roofing and siding for a home can add an estimated $40,000 to $80,000 to the remodeling budget. A substantial remodel for an average 1,500 square foot house is estimated to run somewhere between $140,000 and $230,000," according to PlanSwift.

house renovation
Source: sturti/iStock

New build typical costs in the US 

Depending on the circumstances, it might be cheaper to just start from scratch. But it should be noted that, on average, remodeling is usually cheaper.  

"An average 1,500 square foot home is estimated to cost around $600,000 if it’s built on a $150,000 lot. In the San Francisco Bay area, it costs $250-$300 per square foot for new residential construction adding $450,000 to the 1,500 square foot house. The Bay area adds another $150,000 to $1,500,000 to the overall cost for building lots. This option isn’t affordable to anyone unable to support a $1 million+ mortgage," states PlanSwift.

What are the steps to renovate a house?

Renovating a house can be a titanic task, but there are some general rules and steps you should follow if you want it to go smoothly (and safely). According to sites like TheSpruce.com, they are as follows:

1. Failing to plan is planning to fail - Plan, do, act! It is usually advisable to employ an architect, building surveyor or interior designer (or both), and relevant engineers to help you plan the works and identify issues like structural problems, planning restrictions, etc. This will also allow you to budget and get the right level of funding and avoid any nasty surprises.

house renovation
Source: Kerkez/iStock

2. Fix big things first - If you have identified any significant issues (water ingress, subsidence, utility problems, Health and Safety issues - fix these first! Else other minor works might need to be redone in the future. 

3. If you need to demolish, do it now - Make sure any demolition works are done before later parts of the project. Though this is more relevant to remodeling works that renovation per se

4. Do electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and carpentry work before decorative works - Any works relating to structural support or upgrade of electrics should always precede decorative works for obvious reasons. This will usually, though not always, include replacing or repairing windows.

5. Add insulation whilst walls, ceilings and floor voids are open - If you need any of the above, install any insulation before closing them back up. 

6. 'Make good' - Once all the above are complete, close up any drywall, etc. before proceeding, obviously. You might want to consider employing a building/electrical/plumbing inspector to check things over first, too. 

7. Decoration time! - With all the big stuff done, you can now sort out any fine carpentry (non-structural) work like flooring, molding, trimming, built-in elements, etc. You can also start all the painting work, wallpapering, and other surface finishes. 

house renovation walls
 Source: artursfoto/iStock

8. Put down the flooring - Flooring is usually one of the last phases of a project. Laying carpets or laminate floors should occur as late as possible to prevent damage from earlier works (especially painting). 

9. Finish up - With all the major works done and interior finished, you can now sort out any minor exterior works like guttering and siding (if required). This could be done simultaneously with flooring works if desired. 

And, of course, bring in the furniture, etc. 

Some other things to consider when renovating a house

Here are a few other things you should consider when planning on renovating a property. 

  • Beware of Asbestos - Many houses built prior to 1990 (2000 in the UK) may have had Asbestos used as a significant building component or installed at some point in its history. Always seek advice or get professional advice. This may need to be removed, adding extra costs (do not do this work yourself!). 
  • Lead-based paint - For older properties, lead-based paint may have been used at some point. Seek advice before sanding down paint. 
house renovation asbestos
Source: Alpha/Flickr
  • Is your home listed/protected? - You should be told this when purchasing property (or by architects/building inspectors). This may limit what you can actually legally do to the property.
  • Mold and damp - Prior to any works, you should get this tested and remediate. Works to correct the underlying issue (water ingress/condensation) can then be pursued. 
  • Consider "eco-vating" - Since you are renovating anyway, why not consider making your new home as energy-efficient and eco-friendly as possible. Add insulation, consider renewables, a new boiler, and other measures into your ambitions for the final project. 
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