Remodeling a home is exciting, but there’s no doubt that it is disruptive, too, and you’ll likely be weighing up the question of what’s the best room to renovate first.
With renovation ideas for living spaces, bedrooms, bathrooms, the kitchen and more, you might think of beginning a guest bedroom to put off the time when the kitchen will be out of action, for example, or consider tackling the room that will cause the most disruption while it’s being remodeled first to get it over with.
To help you make the best decision we asked renovation pros to share their expertise on which room to start in and why.
The best room to renovate first
When you’re renovating all – or most – of a home it can be hard to know where to start. You’ve likely accumulated kitchen ideas, bathroom ideas, main bedroom ideas, and more, but choosing the best room to renovate first may not seem obvious with so much to do.
The professionals do have a favorite starting point, but there are factors you should bear in mind when deciding. This is the lowdown.
Start with the kitchen
A kitchen remodel is a great first step in a home renovation, according to the experts. ‘Kitchens are a wonderful place to start when prioritizing a full home renovation,’ says interior designer Kristin Kong of K Kong Designs.
‘They often require the most time and carry a larger portion of the budget. The heart of the home, gathering spot, drop zone, and entertaining area, a kitchen is the room used most often therefore starting here is a smart option. Changes in cabinet layout and island configuration can impact flooring decisions which is another benefit of having a kitchen remodel planned before starting other portions of the home.
‘Custom hoods or high-end appliances can be budgeted for to ensure these impactful design elements make the design plans. Open to the majority of the main level of the home, color palettes utilized in the kitchen will flow into all the major living spaces.’
Chad Hackmann, regional partner at Alair Homes Arlington, which provides custom homes and remodeling, agrees that the kitchen can be a good option. ‘When considering which room to renovate first, the kitchen often takes precedence due to its central role in daily life – meal prep, entertaining, eating, and socializing,’ he says. ‘It is also well documented that the kitchen gives the highest return on renovation investment.’
If you are looking for kitchen tips, whether you are starting from scratch or want to update your current space, this book is filled with gorgeous projects and ideas to help.
One way to approach the question of what’s the best room to renovate first is by considering the flooring, according to Thomas Borcherding, lead designer and owner of Homestar Design Remodel. However, you may well end up with the same starting point of the kitchen. Here’s the reason.
‘From my experience, you should first identify whether or not new flooring will be run continuously throughout the floor plan,’ says Thomas. ‘If you are running new flooring throughout the home, and it will run into the kitchen, then the first room that you should renovate is your kitchen. This is because new base cabinetry will likely change your kitchen’s floor plan, requiring new flooring.’
There’s an alternative approach you might wish to take on the best room to renovate first if you haven’t worked with a particular professional before.
‘When working with a contractor or installer for the first time, you may wish to begin with the least intensive remodeling project,’ suggests Thomas Borcherding. ‘Doing so can allow you to gauge the quality of your remodeler prior to committing to your large projects.’
Go top down
Strategic planning is necessary for a major remodel, and you might like to work in a tried-and-tested way. ‘It’s typically best to renovate from the top down and the outside in,’ advises Chad Hackmann.
‘For example, if you have an unfinished basement that you want to address first but also know you want to do a major update to the kitchen or bathrooms someday, you want to create a master plan to understand how working in one area will impact another.
‘If you do the basement first, then the kitchen or upstairs bathrooms later, and don’t plan properly, you may have to do more work in the basement later to account for moving plumbing, electrical, and/or the HVAC.
‘Similarly, if you want to replace your vinyl siding while knowing you need to update the windows, you may want to wait and do it all at once so it is more cost-effective and a less disruptive project in the long run.’
Consider reno extent
How much you are doing to each room should also count in your plan of action. ‘Minor kitchen or bathroom updates, meaning new appliances, new cabinets, new sinks, and new countertops that are returning to the same place they were (a pull and replace), might precede a basement overhaul if they don’t interfere with the infrastructure,’ says Chad Hackmann.
‘Yet major changes involving plumbing or electrical relocation may necessitate a comprehensive approach. It’s like I always say – if you are going to move the toilet a few inches, it probably requires a totally new plumbing run, so you might as well move it to where you want.’
Factor in disruption
Planning to stay in the house while a renovation is taking place? You might be tempted to start in the kitchen to get this major disruption over with. But Chad Hackmann advises weighing up the consequences of staying put for the duration at all.
’The first thing you have to ask yourself is what your realistic tolerance for chaos is,’ he says. ‘Do you need things neat? Do you hate dust anywhere in the house? Then you should not live there while work is going on. That said, a typical kitchen renovation that requires moving walls, plumbing, and electrical will take more than six weeks and probably nearly three months. The amount you save in rent could get you that bigger, better range or fridge you’ve been eyeing, so it might be worth a little chaos.
‘Additionally, if you do choose to live in the home during renovation, expect the timeline to be extended and the cost to increase,’ he says.
Thomas Borcherding advises: ‘During a kitchen remodel, my clients make heavy use of toaster ovens and air fryers. They also dine out quite regularly. During bathroom remodels, my clients will either use their spare bathroom or utilize a gym’s shower if there is no spare bathroom.’
What is the hardest room to remodel?
Kitchens and bathrooms are the rooms that need the most work when remodeling because of the electrical and plumbing work typically involved alongside the installation of new fixtures and fittings.
Both kitchens and bathrooms can be smaller remodeling projects if the elements of one of these rooms are simply being replaced with new versions while the layout will remain the same. However, it can be an opportunity to improve the room’s design in which case it’s a more major project with different professional contractors involved.
Take time before embarking on a renovation. ‘Step back and think about your long-term goals and make a master plan that includes all the rooms you want to eventually renovate before you start tearing into one,’ advises Chad Hackmann. And be mindful to follow the six steps for renovating your home to ensure the project goes smoothly whichever rooms your project involves.
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Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.
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