Have a house project you’ve been putting off forever because of limited funds or conflicting opinions on design? The new HGTV show “Renovation Impossible” might be all the motivation you need to actually get going.
Host Russell Holmes is a general contractor who also plays the part of “construction counselor” to Dallas-area homeowners who just can’t decide on which direction to take, or who have unrealistic budgets. Using both compromise and creativity, Holmes helps get stalled renovations rolling and finally finished.
Curious to learn how to get out of a renovation rut, we asked this pro about coming up with a realistic plan, getting more bang for your buck, and predicting home trends.
What’s the most common reason for a renovation stall?
People think the problem is the supply chain and the design, and more often than not, it’s actually themselves. Fear of “my wife’s not going to like it, my husband’s not going to like it, it’s going to be too much money, it’s going to take too long, it’s going to be too disruptive.” So I think fear would probably be the most common reason.
How can homeowners overcome those fears?
When it comes to a construction project, it is probably one of the most devastating to a relationship because you’re causing an upheaval in your home. You need to go into it with a common goal. Know that you’re going into a big, disruptive project. Understand that you’re going to have to be at your best when your significant other is at their worst and vice versa. Know that this isn’t just a weekend DIY; this is going to be a major undertaking. The team attitude is huge.
Construction delays are to be expected. What’s the best way to mitigate them?
It all comes down to planning. You may not know exactly what you want, but there [are] certain things every project is going to need. You’re going to need some drywall, you’re going to need studs, you’re going to need electrical wire, and you’re going to need stuff for plumbing. If you can get yourself ahead of the game and have all the basics there, that’s going to save you time in the long run.
The other thing is people need to be flexible with the supply chains being what they are. You may not get Option A, so you need to have an Option B and C and know that you’re OK with them, because if you want to say, “A is all I’m holding to,” you’re going to end up paying for that in the long run, not necessarily with just the cost of that item but shutting the job down to wait for it. When you have guys standing around, you might as well just keep throwing your money out the window.
How should homeowners approach doing a renovation in stages if budget is holding them back from doing everything at once?
If you’re going to do it in stages, don’t do something that’s going to cause you to have to take two steps backward. Do it so that Step A is going to lead to Step B, is going to lead to Step C, so you’re not reinventing the wheel every time. That’s one of the pitfalls that a lot of homeowners fall into, and it causes them to get frustrated and then the project gets stalled and they say, “you know what, it wasn’t worth it.” Lay those stages out. Have a really good plan so that [you’re] always moving forward.
What areas of the home are the most strategic to spend on?
Obviously, invest where the greatest return is: kitchens, bathrooms, expanding floor plans. But all those also come with their own issues: Your taxes are going to go up based on more bathrooms or usable space, so consult a tax consultant to see how it is going to be affecting your project long term. There is [also] something to be said for just doing your entranceway or your mudroom or an outside space that you’re not really utilizing because value doesn’t just come in dollars and cents. It comes with enjoyment. If you can enjoy an area by doing that, that’s worth all the money in the world.
Which upcycling techniques can help finances go further?
You’ve got to be creative. My first delves into repurposing was my sister had an old TV stand. It was nice, but a side was coming off. I was redoing my bathroom, so I pulled that top off, got a top that had a chip on it from a big-box store, laid that on top of it, [and] that was now my bathroom vanity! See something that you love, and find another purpose for it. Also, the online classifieds go a real long way when it comes to saving money because I may have gotten rid of something that you really love, so try to get that, give it new life.
Demo is a great way [to stretch your budget]. Don’t be afraid to pull things down to see what’s behind it, because you never know what you’re going to find. It could be an amazing brick wall behind some old drywall or paneling. Pulling up carpet is a great savings if you’re willing to do it yourself. Underneath you may find that diamond in the rough with a hardwood floor.
Is it important to design according to a home’s time period and existing space?
There’s a couple of factors I take into account when I’m dealing with clients who may or may not want to keep with the time period of the house: Is it an investment? Are they going to be there a couple of years and then they’re going to sell it? Resale value is super important.
I don’t want to see somebody take a house that’s a Tudor-style house or a center-hall Colonial and then they go modernize it inside. It just doesn’t match; it’s like Jekyll and Hyde.
More importantly than designing to the space is what’s your intention with this home. Is this going to be your family’s and your next generation’s home? Because then we want to build it to the family. But if this is something that is a step toward your next home, we’re going to take into account what the market trends are going to be and what’s going to help you with your resale value so you can get into the next home that you really want.
The popularity of open floor plans is being challenged by the need for segregated at-home workspaces. What’s your prediction for this trend?
You can have a hybrid of both. Instead of making a complete open floor plan, maybe open up a wall, but throw in some sliding French doors so you can close off the space when needed.
The other thing is, I see a lot of people embracing a space that’s unused—and that’s their garage. It’s housing your car, but could it serve a better purpose? Could you make it a pseudo office? Could you make it a playroom? Being able to make your house more of a transformer and fit multiple needs is really where the trend is going.
What motivational words can you offer someone who’s been stalling on their own ‘impossible’ renovation?
Tomorrow, you’re going to get in and you’re going to start your project. Make sure you know, one, what area you’re going to work on. Two, do both of you or the whole family agree on what you want to have accomplished? Get those big items, then you can work on the little details: the colors, the finishes.
Brace yourself, because it’s going to be a roller-coaster ride! This isn’t going to go easy and smooth no matter how great the contractor. There’s always issues. As you start to pull things away, don’t be afraid if you see water damage. It’s OK—you’re catching these things in time to be able to fix them so they don’t become a bigger problem. Go out there, do it, don’t be afraid, take it on, and know in the end you can sit back and go, “Yeah, I did that.”
“Renovation Impossible” premieres on Thursday.