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How to Renovate a House

Paint Before Floor? Floor Before Windows? Organizing a Whole House Remodel.

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Home Renovation
Copyright George Marks
The process of renovation can be mind-bending. Here is one suggested whole house renovation timeline.

1. Design and Planning

Whether it's a sketch on a cocktail napkin or full-blown architectural plans, some type of planning and design always comes first.

2. Roof, Foundation, Siding, Windows

Protect your future renovation work by making certain the house won't collapse on you (foundation, major structural problems) and that it will remain dry (roof, siding, windows).
  • Secure the foundation.
  • Make major structural repairs to areas such as weakened walls, joists, and carrying beams.
  • Repair or replace roof.
  • Replace seriously damaged windows that may threaten future remodeling work. If not seriously damaged, leave it for later in the process.
  • If the siding is so damaged that it will allow water infiltration, repair or replace the siding. If not seriously damaged, leave it for later in the process.

3. Demolition

Depending on the scale of your renovations and the condition of the house, demolition might be the first step.

4. Structural Carpentry

At this time, call in the carpenters for major carpentry projects. Things like:
  • Moving walls.
  • Constructing new walls.
  • Significantly enlarging window openings.
  • Adding beams to support a greater weight upstairs.
  • Punching in new doors (or removing existing doors).
  • Adding new construction windows.

5. HVAC Ductwork, Electrical, and Plumbing

With the walls and ceiling open, it's time for the HVAC company to install ductwork for central heating and air conditioning. Also with the walls accessible, run new electrical and plumbing systems. Electrical and plumbing inspectors will visit at this time, too.

6. Insulation

Last thing to do with the walls open: install fiberglass batt insulation in the walls and attic. Insulation goes fast, so give your drywaller a call and let him know he's next up.

7. Drywall

  • A second inspection from the electrical inspector (and perhaps the plumbing inspector) will give you the go-ahead to close up the walls.
  • Drywallers hang sheets of drywall, apply drywall compound, and let the compound dry. After drying, they sand it smooth. Sometimes, they will repeat the process until they achieve a seamless surface.

8. Flooring

Installing the flooring later in the renovation process saves your flooring surface from significant damage.

9. Windows

Install new-construction or replacement windows.

10. Fine Carpentry

Here's where you introduce carpentry that doesn't involve structural issues. Install baseboards, molding, trim around windows and doors, built-in elements (bookcases, breakfast nooks, etc.).

11. Interior Painting, Wallpaper, and Other Surface Finishes

Painting interior walls, hanging wallpaper, painting molding and trim, staining and sealing trim: all of these detail-oriented surface finishes should be the last items you do indoors.

12. Siding, Gutters

With the house mostly finished, it's safe to put on siding. You don't want to do this earlier (unless absolutely necessary) because doors and windows may get punched out, ruining the siding.

13. Major Auxiliary Building

Last, do major auxiliary building projects like: Large building projects like additions should come last. My view is that you do this last so you don't deplete all of your money and energy on projects not related to renovating the house itself. However, an alternate view is that you may want to build an addition very early in the process so that you don't ruin any work you do in the main part of the house.
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