Remodeling Your Home: Expectations vs. Reality

Man DIY installing white oak hardwood flooring in a bedroom

Photo: Armando Vara Photography | Floor: Little Square

Written by Maria Salmeron

Maria Salmeron is the Austin manager for Matriarchy Build, a home services platform with a female-first point of view. Maria is a project manager with 10 years of experience across numerous trades including cabinetry, floorings, tile, sheetrock, and eco-friendly remodeling. As Matriarchy Build's Austin manager, she provides services to customers along with overseeing larger renovation projects. Her goal is to help people achieve their renovation dreams.

Starting a home remodeling project is both exciting and scary at the same time. You don’t know what you don’t know. There is no way to accurately predict your remodel journey, but there are a few rules you can be sure of. We’ll dive into expectations versus the realities we typically see in remodels.

Expect the Unexpected

Renovating your home will uncover a lot of unknowns. It’s best to expect the unexpected and try to roll with the unforeseen inconveniences as they arise. You will feel better planning than being blindsided and forced into a solution. Such situations may arise due to site conditions or inaccurate specifications regarding materials or measurements.

Some examples of this could be that your foundation isn't perfectly level, so you'll need to pay extra to have it floated to install the flooring properly, or that your electrical system is not up to code and needs changes to pass inspection. Another example we’ve seen is carpenter ants or remnants of carpenter ants during demolition, which leads to framing having to be replaced, as well as leaks that could result in saturated insulation and mold. 

How To Stay on Budget When Renovating

While each renovation has its unique set of challenges, we always recommend a contingency fund of 10% to 15% of your overall budget for any unanticipated expenses. If at the end of your project, you still have money left over, that’s great. You can put it toward your next project. 

We always recommend a renovation contingency fund of 10% to 15% of your overall budget.

How Long Does a Renovation Take?

Just like your budget, we recommend adding a buffer to your timeline. The timeline your contractor quoted is an estimate. As we’ve learned, we can’t always accurately predict how a renovation will unfold, and there are a lot of variables at play here, including material lead times, contractor availability, or sometimes even weather, which can cause issues. Delays are so common that they shouldn’t come as a surprise but more as part of the process. 

Hire Contractors or Tradespeople

Transforming your home is made possible by partnering with skilled tradespeople. This is your home and this is their place of work, so you will be spending a good amount of time with each other.  As a homeowner, I would ask contractors how they handle change orders and add-ons. Will the contractor communicate via telephone or email, and how quickly will they communicate if something arises? Will they pause work until they get your approval? Keep in mind that getting your approval before moving forward may slow down construction. I would also ask the contractor to include a timeline for pulling permits and executing inspections with the city. 

Before each trade has completed their work, perform a walk-through. This is your chance to fine-tune the details and correct any mistakes that may have been made. People are not perfect, but they are much more likely to make your dream a reality when you communicate kindly and clearly. Flexibility, patience, and a realistic perspective will help keep your renovation focused on the exciting result. 

Read more renovation planning and budgeting tips