15 Things You Need To Know Before a Home Renovation

Jillian HarrisHome Renovations41 Comments

Jillian Harris Things You Need to Know Before a Home Renovation-1

Going through a home renovation can be a tough (and relationship testing!!) thing to do and I find that no matter HOW many homes you renovate they always seem to come with their unique “surprises” … whether it’s a pricey asbestos job (we know ALL about this) to a failing roof or wiring that’s not up to code … my first piece of advice to you is to expect the unexpected ESPECIALLY when it’s an older home!!

I already shared some of the tips below with you in my blog about Our House Renovation Update and I added in some new ones that I’ve learned since that blog. They’re all great little nuggets of information for those of you who are about to embark on your home renovation journey … and I’ll certainly be referring back to them if we ever do this again … am I crazy?? LOL!!!

Jillian Harris Things You Need to Know Before a Home Renovation-1 Jillian Harris Things You Need to Know Before a Home Renovation-1


1. You can’t tile a wall with a pocket door: Who knew?! From our bedroom to the ensuite I always envisioned the wall in my bathroom to be tiled but you can’t do that when there is a pocket door because when the door goes back and forth it’ll make the tiles loose! I was really disappointed when I found out we couldn’t do this as I had it all planned out but thankfully while cruising Pinterest I came across a really cool idea where they put panel molding behind the tub and I loved the look of it, so we did that instead!

2. Changes happen: I changed our entrance to the walk-in closet THREE times MAINLY so that it was more functional and made the most sense layout-wise for us!

3. Pay attention to the stairs: This is something to pay close attention to … it’ll impact the rest of your house so you have to take the time to think this one through … whether to keep them in the same spot or change them!

4. It won’t be perfect: Even though I’ve seen hundreds of houses and been a part of multiple renovations it’s still not possible to think of EVERYTHING! No matter how hard you try, there will always be something you’re not entirely happy with and wish you would have done it differently … and that’s OKAY!

5. You won’t always meet your deadline: One would think since I am “Jillian Harris from Love It Or List It” I would be able to meet my OWN deadlines … but that’s certainly not true! LO! Things took MUCH longer due to my own indecisiveness, product not being in stock, the weather, etc! I’ve come to learn that all you can do here is to take a deep breath and forge onwards!

6. Write EVERYTHING down: No offence to contractors, suppliers, or tradesmen here, mistakes are made and sometimes people don’t really listen … or maybe they hear something different than what you said so I would suggest writing everything down because at the end of the day you don’t want your warranties to be misplaced or have the wrong tub size show up or the wrong depth of fridge, etc. Throughout our home renovation, there have been some hiccups and I just wished there were times when I would have wrote something down but I didn’t because I was too busy or forgot and if you don’t do this it just costs you more time and money along the way!

7. You’re going to go over budget: Unfortunately, it’s true … some things are going to be unexpected and some things are just going to end up costing more than you anticipated. If you watched our show, Jillian and Justin, you’ll know that we almost doubled our “budget”… but it’s so hard when you’re building your forever home whether you’re going to be in that place for 5, 10 or 20 years you don’t want to cut corners anywhere because you know you’ll be in it for a while. However, if you are able to stay on budget … please just know, you are my HERO!

8. Stick to a quote and change order: Before we started this reno I told myself that I would stick to a quote and change order … that I would write EVERY expense and change down so I knew exactly where the extra money went … did I do that? NO. Did I wish I had? HELL YES. When you’re sitting there at the end of your reno and you’re thousands upon thousands of dollars over budget it’s SO HARD to know where that money went if you didn’t track it. Big mistake.

9. It’s going to take longer than you think: I truly thought I would be able to get this done like a Love It Or List It reno which is about 8-10 weeks (LOL!! Yeah … riiiiiight) … boy was I wrong!! Here we are over 10 months later … misjudged that one. LOL. I’m the kind of person that likes to push myself and others to the max and I ended up being really disappointed when our contractor and with Justin when I couldn’t move in before Christmas but I should have been more realistic. I mean, here we are in August and the yard is still a mess. I have heard so many people say that their home renovation is a month overdue and over budget and I find that to be a tough pill to swallow but it’s just one of those things you have to be prepared for.

10. Hire ONE person to manage your home renovation: I spent a lot of money on project management, designers, design assistants, etc. These were all people who were supposed to be helping me and while I absolutely love them, there were just so many fingers in the pot that no one was fully accountable for our home renovation as a whole. If I were to do it again I would hire ONE person who was 100% accountable for the project. I think this could have saved a lot of time and money in the long run.

11. It’s going to take some time to make it perfect: Chances are, you’re not going to be totally in love with your home renovation once it’s complete … one day you’ll realize that you want wallpaper somewhere, or a wall to be a different colour, the rug you ordered for a room might not look right, etc. I would give yourself some time to make these adjustments as you settle in. I booked our big home photo shoot for September because I thought by then I would have everything just perfect but it’s still not even close to being there so I would suggest giving yourself a year to make all of these little finishing touches!

12. Don’t forget about the ceiling plan: Everyone is always so concerned about the floor plan (which is important!) but nobody is ever as concerned about the ceiling plan! There are changes that you will make in your home that will affect how the ceiling looks, for example, heading into our bedroom the ceiling drops and it LOOKS like a reno went down … so it looks a bit funny. Going forward I would keep the ceiling plan in mind and envision how a reno would affect the site lines of your ceiling.

13. Don’t worry about being matchy-matchy: Sometimes people drive themselves crazy trying to stick to a specific theme but don’t worry about it! You CAN mix metals and styles within your home and the more you do so, the more personality it will give your home and the more fun you’ll have with it!

14. Your house is going to be dirty and dusty for months after you move in: It’s super annoying and I don’t know how to solve this … but just wanted to give you the heads up. LOL!!!

15. Don’t lay down your nice area rug until after landscaping: Ahem …. it’s destroyed.

Jillian Harris Things You Need to Know Before a Home Renovation-1Jillian Harris Things You Need to Know Before a Home Renovation-1

I don’t have a 9-5 job and I can’t imagine having one and going through a major home renovation like this as I was probably on the phone dealing with our renovation around 1-2 hours per day for an entire year! It took away from my time with Justin, Leo, Nacho … my self-care, etc. So make sure to give yourself some time to have those phone calls and take those meetings!

Having said all of the above, try not to stress out, as my dad says “These are the seeds you sow” … did you need a reno? probably not … but if you are going through one, chances are you are doing good in life, so grab yourself a glass of wine, get some extra sleep and embrace the craziness of this journey.

I’m sure a lot of you have been through your own home renovations by now as well, so if you have … and you’ve learned some valuable tips and tricks along the way, make sure to share them below in the comments section so we can all learn from your advice!!

Good luck to everyone out there who is just starting or in the process of their own renovation!!! We know how you feel!! LOL!!



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  • YAY! Best blog every Jillian!
    Thank you!
    Xoxo: Amanda Savage

  • My one piece of advice would be that if you hire a contractor, make sure you get all receipts for things they purchase. We had a contractor and, as part of a renovation, his company put in a new 50 year shingle roof. The shingles failed within 12 years, but because we did not have the receipt, we could not collect on the warranty. The contractor had since passed away, and we had no way of tracking down the receipt. It was a ten thousand dollar lesson…!

  • Hi Jillian,
    Do you mind sharing with me what paint colours you used for your main floor in your new home? We are just renovating our home in Penticton:)

    • Jillian Harris  • 

      Hi Nancy!! I plan on sharing all of these details with you in my upcoming home reveal blogs!! XOXO

  • The best tip I got from my decorator was this. If you surround yourself with things that you truly love, it will all go together. And also, to give me confidence she said ” decorate your home as if it were a cottage. You wouldn’t be afraid to decorate a cottage would you?

  • I can’t agree with #10 more! I work for a construction company in project management and some clients hire way too many people and it ends in confusion, like who is calling the shots here?! This is a blog I’ve thought of writing many times!

  • Just bought a 4 level split that was built in 1980. While I am super excited to completely gut and renovate… this isn’t our first rodeo. My husband and I have already had disagreements about hardwood and colours… and we haven’t even taken possession yet! In the mean time we sold our home and we are moving our three boys and tito (our dog) into a townhouse. We decided that this was the best option. Rather then stress about time. We are adding a couple months to our rent than we expect to complete the renovation so that we don’t feel pressure and take our time! But I kinda wanna be ‘home’ for Christmas, so I get it Jill! Thanks for the tips. The other tip I have- put a sensor on you fridge and dishwasher! In case they leak. This is possible and something I am doing this time around / last Reno our basement ceiling (which we were just about done renovating) ended up collapsing with water when our fridge waterline was leaking! Ruined the just about done basement and had to replace all the hardwood on the main! It was a huge messy wet project!
    Good luck to all! Thanks Jill for all u do to inspire xx

  • Hi Jillian,

    My name is Ashley, I’m a huge fan of yours, I’ve never done this and left a comment on one of my role models pages or anything like that because I never thought my words would be heard but here it goes.

    After work today I was watching your Instagram stories on how you worked with ty Pennington on Extreme Home Makeovers( btw, that was honestly my favourite show me and my siblings had the privilege of watching with our parents after dinner) that reason being, it showed me at a young age that I should be greatful for all the good things in my life, wether that be having the newest gameboy , or just having a plate of food on the table. It also gave me a sense of compassion for family’s that are going through these real life hard times from health issues to job loss or any other reason.

    I truly hope someone is able to help you succeed at possibly starting a new extreme home makeover. helping people and making others happy at the end of the day is the most rewarding feeling.

    I thank you for being so real and raw expressing your emotions so the world can see, I know it must be tough some people can be so cruel and twist words around negatively. I know me being a young women at 25 I look up to you.

    Thank you for being you!!


  • Westend Mum  • 

    And after your inside reno is finished and you relax by sitting near the window (with that wine glass in your hand), watch out of the window and… Be shocked, because you understand that the reno is not over, it will start again next spring, because the outside (landscape) is all wrong… 😉 Never ending reno 😀

  • Everything turned out beautiful Jillian!

  • Amazing tips. I love your reno so much.

  • As an owner of a 100 year old house, my advise for first timers would be take care of the foundation stuff first (eg. wiring, plumbing, foundation, etc.) before you get caught up in the pretty things. Making your house look nice will come, but you don’t want to put a lot of money into decorating only to have it ripped up because of a wiring issue.

  • Eric McMullen  • 

    Great blog entry Jillian! I am a residential remodel contractor and your insights are accurate to a large degree. I often share most of these issues with my clients prior to starting projects. I do like your idea of a project manager that is unrelated to the contractor, it definitely helps!

    I would add one item to your list, spend as much time as you can planing and preparing. My jobs go so much smoother for everyone when I have clients that have spent some time researching and determining what it is they want. I very much encourage spending time on sites like Pinterest and Houzz.

  • Marie Hunter  • 

    Fantastic advice jillian! I had a question not sure if you can help do you know any wonderful & im sure you would have many recommendations of a contractor who would do a kitchen reno in a condo in white rock/ocean park area we have been looking for months we are new to the area .

    Thanks so much

  • Tom Pendleton  • 

    I realize that probably there will not be a next time for you doing extensive work. If there is a next time, hire a competent architect and contractor, or a competent design-build contractor. There may be delays in getting the final product completed, but with a good honest contractor / designer you should not go over budget, and all of the other problems you commented on should not have happened. Homeowners need to do major research up front in choosing a contractor which will prevent most problems during and after the project.

    Also, remember that there is not a contractor in existence that does not say they do “quality work”. What you’re looking for is value, and with value you get what you pay for. Whether it’s marble floors or vinyl flooring, or granite or Formica countertops, the products can be installed haphazardly or correctly and most homeowners cannot tell the difference because construction is not their vocation.

    There will be bad apples in any group, but the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, and the Builders Council of the Home Builders Association are in my opinion the two best resources for obtaining contractor’s. To the best of my knowledge, all other referral groups charge money for the contractor to be recommended or to be put in a position where people can actually view their ad.

  • What an excellent article and great advice. It is also good to read all of the other comments with suggestions also. Thank you Jillian.

  • I am looking to paint my nursery a light gray from the BM collection. Do you have any recommendations of color?

    • Jillian Harris  • 

      Benjamin Moore GREY OWL 2137-60: This is a nice LIGHT creamy grey … that isn’t too stark and is classic and clean!

      Benjamin Moore SMOKE 2122-40: Grey, with a hint of robin’s egg blue!

  • Montie Nelson  • 

    Before planning for home renovation, we should take some essential tips from different sources. Home renovation is a beneficial step that helps to bring some effective changes in our home and we can easily get an attractive interior and exterior look. But we need to know certain facts before renovation, here this article describes some important renovation tips. Thanks for highlighting such essential things.

  • Thanks for the great tips about remodeling our home. We just bought our home and it needs a ton of work and like you, I also wanted a pocket door in my bathroom. It’s great that you mentioned that by putting a pocket door where there is tile, it will wiggle them loose. Maybe we can work out a new design, but you definitely helped me be more prepared for our remodel.

  • We’re about to start a reno to our home! Thanks for this!!

  • I’m going to be handing this out to all my new customers. Thanks!

  • Hi Jillian,

    My wife and I love your show “Love it or List it! I love your design and you have a sense of humour ?.
    I need your advice, we bought a resale home. We have a Brazilian Cherry hardwood flooring, is it ok to sand it down and restrain with darker shades?

    Many Thanks,


  • I’ve never done home renovations before, so this was helpful. I’ve got some ideas of things that I want to be done to my home. It was enlightening to learn that I’ll need to give my self around a year to make things perfect.

  • It’s great to know about a home remodel. We want to remodel the entire basement this year, so this is great to learn. It’s hard to hear that our project won’t turn out perfect, but that does make sense! We’ll keep that in mind.

  • Best blog as ever Jillian 😉

  • Tracy Kostyniuk  • 

    Helpful in making me feel normal and not a whiny woman! I really enjoy your writing style as I feel we are just having a cup of coffee❤ Reno life coming up but I can’t even get a floor plan figured out (30 yr old home, husband is a contractor👍) any suggestions? Like you walk into a home and tell Kenny I want this knocked down and that window moved…and the layouts are always amazing! We watch a lot of reno shows lol, Chip & Joanna who? Have you heard of Jillian?!😋

  • Remodel is a costly exercise, which requires a lot of effort and material investment, in addition, at times, pretty spoils the mental health)) To avoid many unpleasant situations, most insurance companies offer remodel and civil liability insurance. It is interesting that even building materials can be insured.

    Civil liability is a separate item, which should not be ignored. You may think that this is unnecessary waste. And if you look at it from another angle? Sometimes there are embarrassments – for example, problems with plumbing: breaks the pipe and neighbors floods through your fault. Unpleasant situation with unforeseen expenses, and besides, spoiled relations with neighbors. But with the insurance of civil liability you will not have to worry, because the insurance company will pay the expenses.

  • Lovely renovation plan. Looking forward to see something related to home decor!! Thanks for sharing.

  • In my opinion following are some important things which one must consider before proceeding with home renovation:
    Make sure you are well aware of the costs associated with the renovation
    Find the contractor that fits your requirements  
    Prefer quality material when it comes to selection of roofing, flooring and plumbing materials
    Make sure your renovation’s are in compliance of the council regulations
    Make sure you make your insurance company aware of your renovation
    There are a number of home renovation service providers, however, I recently availed the services from Yorconstruction, and they did a splendid job in renovating my home.

  • My favorite part of this article is when you mentioned that it is not really imperative for home renovations to stick to a specific theme. Calling it matchy-matchy was so chic by the way! Our kids have gone to college and I wanted to reinvent the living room to give it a more vibrant glow. Since there are only two of us left at home, the house has since been dull and boring. I was wary that the style I chose would be a stark contrast to the aesthetic of the rest of the house. Thanks for sharing this fun read. It sure gave a fresh perspective on the living room renovation I’ve been planning.

  • “It’s going to take some time to make it perfect”
    Absolutely right! All perfect things, ideas and projects take a lot of effort and time. People should keep this in mind because renovating home can be a pain in the neck but they are usually impatient.
    Great post though!

  • Thanks for sharing the 15 things which we must know before home renovation/remodeling. In addition to this, we should discuss our plan and requirements with our professional home contractor. So, they can build our dream home. Secondly, we should ask about their experiences of home improvements services.

  • Here are some things to consider before you kick-off your kitchen remodeling project:
    Planning ahead does not only help you to complete your project on time, but it also helps to keep your project on budget.
    Make sure your select a reliable, trustworthy and Professional Contractor with more than 5 years of experience, and a good reputation with Better Business Bureau, and positive customer references.
    Insist over a detailed contact with the contractor to ensure that in case of any damage of lost the contractor will be held responsible.

  • Thank god for this article. How relatable. Puts it all into persepective!

  • You’re going to go over budget, it’s going to take longer than you think so truee XOXO and what about the furniture? so hard to choose sometimes. Take a look at Eurooo site for some tips 😉

  • lp development  • 

    Great advice always we have to search for the right people to undertake our renovation. For London we can help you buy and design the right kitchen cabinet and design the right fitted wardrobe for your next renovation. http://www.wood-and-glass.com/