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As soon as we signed on the dotted line and the Chic Villa was officially ours, I immediately wanted to put my stamp on the new house by putting holes in the walls. (Images: Ashley Hafstead)

Surviving your first renovation in a new house

As soon as we signed on the dotted line and the Chic Villa was officially ours, I immediately wanted to put my stamp on the new house by putting holes in the walls. But I had no clue just how much work AND money goes into what seem like minor renovations.

The first project we tackled was taking two soffits down in the living room, as they made the space feel smaller than it should. I will never forget the dramatic HGTV moment when the contractor pulled aside this giant wall of plastic and calmly stated “we have a problem”! Immediately my heart sank. I could just see the dollar signs.

“How much is it going to cost me?" I nervously inquired. “Well, it will be another $400 for extra materials -- we need more dry wall than we initially thought," my contractor patiently explained. I mean, I couldn’t say no with two giant holes in my ceiling! “Alright lets do it” was my simple reply, but as I quickly learned, unexpected things come up left and right when you start opening up walls.

After my first experience with a renovation, here is my short list of things to look for and what to expect when tackling your first renovation. I hope my tips help prepare you for your first reno, and good luck!

  1. Make sure you find a reputable contractor. This is THE most important step. I got lucky and a friend of mine flips houses and I used her guys. Try asking your friends and family if they know anyone. I have found that word of mouth is the best way to find skilled workers. There are also other great outlets that vet contractors such as Angie’s List, or Thumbtack (multiple contractors actually bid on your job and you choose who you want to do the job) but word of mouth is my preferred method.

  2. Expect to pay half up front and the other half after the job is done. This is very normal in this industry. This is why it is really important to find an honest contractor. I have heard horror stories of contractors disappearing after they get paid the first half for the job.

  3. There is roughly an 80 percent chance you will go over budget. Prepare for that before the job even begins and make sure you have extra set aside. If you come in on budget, GREAT, but it's always better to be prepared.

  4. Understand that the timeline contractors give you for the job is a rough estimate -- things can and do go wrong. Parts don’t arrive on time, workers get sick, etc. So give yourself a bit of breathing room with your timeline.

  5. Expect everything to be covered in dust. Even when they section off a room with plastic from floor to ceiling, dust gets EVERYWHERE! A good contractor brings a shop vac and mop and will clean up after the job is done, but expect to do a thorough dusting afterwards.

You can follow Ashley's first-time homeowner series as she renovates #chic_villa here!

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