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How to Plan a Home Renovation – and Stay Sane

Jul 13, 2021

How to Plan a Home Renovation – and Stay Sane

Jul 13, 2021

This post contains affiliate links. I earn a tiny commission, at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my disclosure here.

This post contains affiliate links. I earn a tiny commission, at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my disclosure here.

Are you trying to plan a home renovation that won’t cause you to lose your marbles? Today, I’ve got all kinds of advice on this topic. Our specialty is living amid the chaos of DIY home improvement projects, and while that is a debatable point of pride, it is just our reality. So how do we stay sane? (Do we stay sane?) Here are my best tips to help you plan a home renovation that feels as comfortable and organized as possible.

Topics in This Post:

> Overview on planning a home renovation
> Tips on buying project materials
> Tool purchase and rental advice
> Childproofing and pet safety
> Dealing with disruptive projects
> Final tips for DIY remodeling projects

plan a home renovation like a bathroom remodel
Not my bathroom, although I wish it was!

How to Plan a Home Renovation

I bet the basics won’t be news to you. Here’s a quick overview on factors and questions to consider as you plan. Then, keep reading for our tips to make your life easier during a renovation.

Cost – What is your budget?
Labor – Can you perform any of the work yourself?
Time frame – When does the work need to be completed?
Impact – How disruptive will this project be to your lifestyle?
Contractors – If you need to hire help, how will you choose contractors?

Start Here: Cost

Most remodeling projects come down to cost, and the other factors are negotiable based on what you’re willing and able to spend. If you’re unsure of the cost estimate, here’s one quick online calculator that can help you get a ballpark idea. You could also reach out to friends who’ve tackled a similar project and ask for a rough estimate. Or, contact contractors for quotes.

Labor: Can You Save Money and DIY?

Based on the cost estimate, decide whether or not you’ll be able to do any part of the labor for your project. As you can see from my blog, there are very few projects we don’t attempt to tackle ourselves, which saves us a chunk of change in the long run. These days, YouTube can teach you how to do almost anything.

Here’s How We Installed Our New Front Door

installing a new front door


The time frame might also factor into your decision on whether or not to hire out. Consider whether a contractor – or you – might complete the work sooner. The labor market is tough these days; you might have to DIY if you can’t get a contractor to commit to your schedule.


Think through the impact that remodeling will have on your day-to-day life. If you’re remodeling a kitchen or your only bathroom, those are extensive and very disruptive projects. If you plan carefully (read on!), I’ve got tricks to mitigate the disruption to your life.

Hiring Contractors

Research, research, research! That’s my best advice when hiring – plus, get 3+ quotes and actually check references. I have a LOT to say on this topic, so stay tuned for my upcoming post on hiring contractors.

Our Hip New Roof

getting our roof replaced

Getting Started

Let’s dive in! Here are our tried and tested tricks to plan a home renovation that will run as smoothly as possible. Remember to stay calm…

Tips on Purchasing Project Materials

If you only remember one piece of advice from this post, I hope it’s this: purchase ALL possible project materials before you begin. It’s crucial to have everything on hand when you need it, so your project runs smoothly. There’s always a hiccup, but at least you’ll have 99% of what you need, ready to go. (If you’re hiring help, clarify with your contractor which materials you’ll need to provide for the job, and the time frame when they’ll be needed.)

  • Make a careful list of all materials and corral them in one location to help you keep track.
  • Take a photo of your collected materials. You might want to reference it on a future hardware store run.
  • If you’re planning a weekend project, purchase all materials by Friday night. That way, you can get started first thing on Saturday morning and avoid the hardware store crowds.
  • Check return policies before purchasing large product quantities. A good rule of thumb for flooring/tile is to purchase 10-15% extra material, and it’s smart to allow enough time for a return window after you finish the work. Home Depot and Lowe’s both have 90-day return policies and I’ve been able to return almost anything with a receipt, including opened product.
  • Keep all receipts in one location until the project is finished.
gather all supplies
stain materials for our front door

Tool Advice

If you plan to purchase new tools for an upcoming renovation, pay attention to the major holiday sales. Wyatt has scored some great deals that way.

Tool Rental Tips

For specialty tool rentals, we have a few tips. We’ve rented tools from both Home Depot Tool Rental and independent tool rental stores, and each has pros and cons. Here’s our advice:

  • Call the tool rental store in advance to confirm that they have the specific tool you’ll need. Also, ask how many they have on hand, so you’ll know if there are backups.
  • Tool rental is often first come, first served, so get there early if you’re counting on a popular item.
  • Plan for potential breakdowns. Rental tools are not treated like fine china, and we’ve had a few breaks happen mid-project. You might need to run back to the store to swap out the tool.
  • Ask for the return time policy if you rent a tool at the end of the day. For example, you pay for a 4-hour rental at 5pm, but the store closes at 8pm. Sometimes you can keep the tool overnight and return it first thing in the morning. This is a trick to get extra time on the clock for your project, without paying more, if you’re willing to work into the evening.
plan a home renovation with rental tools

Child and Pet Safety During a Home Renovation

I’ve definitely gotten these questions about our DIY projects: How do you get work done around little kids? How do you keep them safe?

To be honest, our kids are very familiar with the DIY life, so there’s not much allure in tools they see every weekend. They know not to touch power tools and to avoid work in process, but that’s not to say that we don’t prioritize safety. We are conscious of keeping tools out of reach and kids/pets away from danger zones.

I wrote a thorough post last summer on pet safety and childproofing while remodeling, including tips and products we have used and recommend. Keep everyone safe and save your sanity!

How to Childproof a House While Remodeling

child proofing

How to Deal with Disruptive Projects

If you plan to remodel part of your home that will cause a major life disruption, you’ll need to be thoughtful about the process and timing. Here are few recommendations.


For a gutted kitchen during renovation, I’ve got advice in this blog post on how to make a temporary kitchen: Easy Meal Ideas During a Kitchen Remodel

Main Points:

  • Set up a temporary plywood countertop on a couple of cabinets (they can be left in place, even if detached)
  • Negotiate with your contractor to hook up the sink temporarily, or plan to do this yourself. Even if the contractor wants to gut the kitchen, the sink can be hooked back up for temporary use on a freestanding cabinet until the new kitchen is installed.
  • Same goes for the dishwasher – it’s fairly easy to hook back up and might be a sanity-saver.
  • Move your old fridge to the garage for continued use.

How We Saved $20K on Our DIY Kitchen Remodel

plan a home renovation for kitchen remodel


Let’s say you only have one bathroom. While you can temporarily live without a sink or a shower, there’s not really a workaround once you’re missing a toilet. The good news is, you can still remodel a bathroom while living in the house. Just plan ahead to reset the toilet at the end of each workday – all you need is a new wax ring, so buy a bunch to keep on hand. If you’re hiring a contractor, negotiate in advance to get the toilet reset before they leave each day.

If this won’t work for you:

  • Rent a porta john
  • Rent a hotel room for a few nights
  • If you’re hiring a contractor you know and trust, perhaps take a short trip while the bathroom is under construction. You can FaceTime with the contractor when issues and questions arise.

Our latest bathroom project > Building a Bathroom Mirror Frame

plan a home renovation for bathroom remodel

Painting, Flooring, Drywall…

If you’re planning a majorly disruptive project, like whole-house interior painting, refinishing floors, or messy drywall (very dusty!), there aren’t a ton of workarounds. Remove what you can, cover the rest, and consider moving out while the work is happening.

It might be helpful to set up temporary plastic walls that can protect the rest of your space. We use these ZipWall poles with plastic sheeting to create paint spray shelters and contain dust and debris during messy projects. ZipWall poles are expensive, but they are a great investment – they are easy to use and work well.

12 Tips for Using a HomeRight Paint Sprayer

zip wall tent
ZipWall poles

Here’s a cheaper alternative: build a temporary wall with 2×4’s, covered in plastic. You’ll have to build the wall in place and it’s a two-person job. I mocked up a diagram below, and here’s a video of the same general concept (although the video shows a load-bearing, structural wall).

  1. Plan for a top plate, bottom plate, and vertical studs. Cut the vertical 2×4’s slightly longer than you’ll need.
  2. Drape plastic over the top plate 2×4 and position the bottom plate on the floor. Have one person hold the top plate + plastic against the ceiling.
  3. The second person can then push the vertical 2×4’s into position, to lock the wall in place. Attach vertical studs to top and bottom plates with screws. Because you’ve cut them longer, the vertical studs hold the wall in place with force. (This is a way to avoid screwing boards into a finished ceiling, but you could do that, too. To ensure safety for others in your home, you should attach everything.)
  4. Staple the plastic around the frame to finish the “wall.”
temp wall diagram

Final DIY Remodeling Tips

Here are just a few final bits of advice as you plan a home renovation.

  • Plan your stopping points carefully. You can have goals for each day, but plan when you’ll need to stop in order to address anything for the days ahead (ex: hooking up a sink, dishwasher, toilet, etc.)
  • Always practice new techniques first on scrap wood and cardboard.
  • Respect the process and don’t rush your work. This is critical if you’re waiting for adhesives, caulk, grout, drywall mud, etc. to dry before moving on. So what if you need to finish a “weekend project” on Monday and Tuesday after work, or wait for another weekend? You’ll be happier with the end result.

There You Go!

I hope this is helpful – all of our best tips in one post, to help you plan a home renovation that will run smoothly.

Please share your projects with me! Tag your social media posts with @listinprogress or email me a photo. I would love to see what you’ve created. Have a great week, friends!

plan a home renovation

DIY Remodeling Tips from List in Progress

list in progress projects

1 – How to Create Craftsman-Style Door Trim
2 – Best Exterior Behr White Paint Colors
3 – The Best Flooring for Every Room in Your House
4 – 2021 Cabinet Hardware Trends


Hi! I’m Erin, a Colorado-based home improvement blogger and lover of all things DIY. I aim to inspire creative folks to tackle home improvement with confidence and style. READ MORE

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