7 signs that your home needs an urgent renovation or update

How do you know when to renovate a house? We asked the experts for the tell-tale signs that indicate it is time for a spruce up

Living room with pink walls, grey sofa, big windows
(Image credit: Future / One Represents Ltd)

Staying on top of house maintenance jobs is key to keeping your home looking smart and tidy as well as ensuring it works well from a practical point of view. That said, even with regular upkeep, all properties get to a point where a more substantial renovation is required.

Perhaps your bathrooms are looking a little worse for wear, or maybe your kitchen is seriously lacking in some of the mod-cons that make life run a little more smoothly - whatever it is, from time to time, all homes need a little TLC.

We reached out to the experts for their advice on the signs that your home is in need of attention, as well for tips on how to renovate a house with some simple upgrades. 

 How can you tell when to renovate a house?  

When you live in a house, it is sometimes easy to overlook how things have deteriorated over time as you simply get used to living with them, which is why it can help to get an outside point of view. 

“Sometimes it’s difficult for you to tell because you become so accustomed to your adaptations, but it’s helpful to see your home from the eyes of a friend,” suggests Anjie Cho, Feng Shui expert, architect and co-author of Mindful Living. “For instance, are there lights that constantly flicker, or the door to the bedroom hasn’t closed correctly in years? These are all signs that your home needs some TLC. But simply having a friend walk through your home can be helpful. See where they get stuck.”

Getting input from those living elsewhere is a great idea, but you can start picking up on the areas of your home that need your attention right now by taking a look at our experts’ tips.

1. It takes you a long time to do everyday tasks

It is amazing how we get used to things a certain way and skim over how much easier things could be if it weren’t for missing cabinet handles or shower controls that take superhero strength to operate. When it is taking you a long time to carry out straightforward tasks, like making breakfast or jumping in the shower, it is definitely time to make some improvements.

“When your daily home path is not straightforward, it shows that your home has many special needs that often indicate it's time to repair, update or streamline,” says Anjie Cho. 

Take some time to do a walk-through of your home, noting down all those little bugbears that are impacting on the way you live your life day-to-day, whether that is carpet that has lifted and keeps tripping you up, or a dripping faucet in your ensuite. You can then make a list, prioritize it and get going on making small improvements that will have a big impact on your enjoyment of your house - tasks such as finding out how to fix a leaky faucet won’t take long but will make a world of difference to how you feel about your surroundings. 

Anjie Cho
Anjie Cho

Anjie Cho is a feng shui and dharma arts educator. Anjie is the co-founder of the Mindful Design Feng Shui School, co-host of the Holistic Spaces podcast, and owner of Anjie Cho Architect PLLC. She’s the author of three books: Holistic Spaces, Mindful Homes, and Mindful Living.

2. Your breakers keep tripping

Tired, old electrics are one of the first things you should look to address when renovating a house and one of the first signs that you should be calling up an electrician is breakers that keep tripping.

“If you are constantly tripping your breakers, there are a couple of things you can do,” explains Austin Glanzer, owner at 717 Home Buyers.”First, check your electrical panel, which is likely in your basement, garage or on an exterior wall of your house. 

“If you have a 100 amp panel, you might want to consider upgrading to a 200 amp panel,” continues Austin. “With modern homes using more energy, you could have too many items on a single breaker, causing power outages.”

Austin also suggests updating your outlets for a quick yet effective home makeover. “To enhance the aesthetic appeal of your home, consider replacing your wall outlets and light switches with matching colors. This is a simple DIY project that can significantly improve the look of your home for a minimal cost. One of the first things I do when flipping a house is replace all the outlet covers, and I’ve done this in my personal home as well. It makes the house feel much newer.” 

Dewenwils Metal Wall Outlet Covers from Amazon come in a stylish brushed nickel finish.  

Austin Glanzer
Austin Glanzer

At 27 just years old, Austin has already accomplished over 70 house flips and wholesaled more than 250 houses. He began his real estate journey at the age of 20 and now owns 20 rental units. Austin is passionate about real estate and investing.

3. Water takes a long time to go down drains

Next up is your plumbing - along with old electrics, neglected plumbing systems should be a priority if you want to update your home - and it needn’t cost a fortune either. 

“If your drains are slow, it could be an easy fix,” says Austin Glanzer. “Visit a home improvement store and buy a drain cleaner like Drano for under $30. Pour it down the drain and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Try Drano Dual-Force Foamer Clog Remover from Amazon.

If you are looking for other tips on how to unclog a bathtub drain, Austin has another suggestion. “You can also use a plunger on your bathroom drain to push debris into the main sewer line, which is much wider than your bathroom drain. This quick fix can help prevent your drains from being flagged during an inspection. I recently did this in my home, and it worked perfectly.” 

4. Your floors are letting your home down

You might not realize it, but your flooring has just as much of an impact on the way your home looks and feels as your walls, yet it is surprising how many homeowners will refresh a room with a lick of paint while leaving threadbare carpet in place. 

“Carpet that is starting to fade, worn out or turning dark around the edges where it connects with the baseboard is a definite sign that it is time to renovate and replace,” says Eddie Rider, interior designer at Eddie Rider Designs. “We can all do a great job keeping everything clean but sometimes you just have to replace the carpet.”

It isn’t just carpet that needs attention over time - often it will be necessary to look into how to refinish hardwood floors too. 

“When the finish is wearing off of your hardwood floors, it is time to renovate,” states Eddie. “This is a big project and a major pain in the backside, but it is something that needs to be completed both for visual needs and longevity. This is also the perfect opportunity to choose a slightly different stain color and love life for the next 20 years.”

If you find that you have areas in your home where the floor feels bouncy underfoot, you might need to undertake a little explorative work. You may well find that they have begun to decay and weaken, in which case the joists will need to be repaired or replaced entirely with new.  

Eddie Rider
Eddie Rider

Eddie Rider of Eddie Rider Designs has spent more than 20 years curating various residential projects in scale and involvement. As a luxury residential designer, Eddie, strongly believes great designs, whether personal spaces or custom residential properties, begin with a comprehensive understanding of clients’ needs and expectations

5. The roof of your house is showing signs of failing

This is a big one - a roof in need of repair or replacement needs to be addressed with a degree of urgency if you want to ensure it doesn’t cause serious damage to your home which will, in the long run, end up costing you money.

There are several signs that a roof needs your attention and while some of these may point to other underlying issues, it is well-worth being vigilant. 

  • Slipped or missing roof tiles
  • Watermarks, mold or mildew appearing on your ceiling
  • Your roof looks as though it is sagging at points, rather than being straight
  • Loose, damaged or missing flashing around chimneys and roof vents
  • Water penetrating your loft space
  • Signs that mortar has been coming loose
  • The underlay of your roof is rotting or damp
  • Cracked, sagging or broken guttering

6. You feel drafts wherever you go

Don’t put up with drafts in your home - not only can they make living in it pretty uncomfortable, but they also mean the money you are spending on heating your home is being wasted.

“Drafty windows are a common issue. If you have wood windows, consider upgrading to vinyl windows, which are much more energy-efficient,” says Austin Glanzer.

If you are unsure whether to repair or replace a window, for example if you are worried about ruining the character of your home with new, unsympathetic frames and glazing,or want a cheaper fix, there are other options. 

Adding simple draft strips can make a huge difference to comfort levels in your home and you can pick up this TORRAMI Fuzzy Brush Seal Weatherstripping for Window and Door on Amazon for a great price.

“If you already have vinyl windows, you can improve their efficiency by capping them with aluminum,” explains Austin Glanzer. “This can be done to match the color of your house and is not as unattractive as aluminum foil. You can have this done for less than $300 per window. I have done this on several of my flipped houses, and it works amazingly well.”

7. Your paintwork is peeling

This applies to both inside and outside your home. Paint that has begun to peel or that has been damaged is going to do nothing for the aesthetics of your home and this is an easy one to fix on a DIY basis. 

Learning how to paint a wall is not too hard - just be sure to thoroughly prepare your surfaces before you begin for a high-quality and long lasting finish. Liquid Sugar Soap from Amazon is a good product to have to hand to get walls free of grease, dust and dirt before painting. 

Externally, discolored and peeling paintwork on your timber finishes and render can totally ruin the curb appeal of your home - plus you need to be on the lookout for cracks in rendered finishes as it can mean water will be getting in behind.

 Your essential kit for repainting walls 

Very often, at the same time as carrying out renovation work it becomes clear that some adjustments could be made to the layout to bring the house up-to-date with a more modern way of living. Make sure you know what to expect with our tips to consider before a remodel

"Ultimately, trust your instincts," concludes Casey Ridley, founder and president of The Designery. "If your home no longer feels inspiring or welcoming, a remodel can bring back that spark, making it a place you're proud to call home."

Natasha Brinsmead

Natasha has been writing about everything homes and interiors related for over 20 years and, in that time, has covered absolutely everything, from knocking down walls and digging up old floors to the latest kitchen and bathroom trends. As well as carrying out the role of Associate Content Editor for Homebuilding & Renovating for many years, she has completely renovated several old houses of her own on a DIY basis.