The most immediate-seeming updates are generally those that appear most obvious: adding some fresh paint, updating fixtures, installing new countertops. These updates seem especially important in older homes, which may not have been renovated in a very long time, sometimes decades (my pink toilet, sink, and bathroom tiles and mustard yellow kitchen counter-tops say hello from 1972!).
However, before you order tile and granite countertops, look below the surface for more pressing issues that need updating first. Paint colors and fixtures can be swapped any time, but other updates should be handled ASAP.
Ask yourself these questions to see if you can skip straight to choosing new paint colors, or if you should consider other fixes first:
A dingy carpet and pink bathroom tile are not exactly life-threatening, but other behind-the-scenes issues may be. Before handling the aesthetic upgrades, check your inspection report for any questionable issues that may need more immediate upgrading.
Hopefully, your inspector also informed you of these issues in real-time during the inspection, as these types of issues can be deal-breakers when it comes to purchasing homes.
Just as older homes have outdated decor, they may have outdated electrical, heating, and plumbing systems. Things like knob-and-tube wiring can actually be dangerous and possibly cause shocks and fires.
Also, some insurance companies will not cover your house if it has outdated systems like knob-and-tube wiring. Other major issues—like structural issues or outdated heating systems—can also be dangerous, so focus your updating efforts on those issues first.
Some home “issues” are not actually dangerous and you can live with them for a while.
Once you have taken care of any safety issues do another round of updates where you fix any malfunctioning issues. Again, you should be able to reference your inspection report and start tackling the minor repair issues and preventative upgrades that can save you tons of money long term. Now is the time to fix leaking faucets, update some plumbing to newer materials, and repair or upgrade older, less efficient appliances.
After we handled safety issues and replaced the knob-and-tube wiring in our house—all before we even moved in—my husband and I had to replace our roof. This was not a safety concern, as the structural integrity of the roof was not in question, and the roof actually looked fine. But our inspector noted spider-cracking in the shingles. If left untouched these could lead to major leaks down the line.
What was a large expense to us at the time will hopefully save us a lot of money down the line. If the roof had leaked at some point, it could have caused other damage inside the house. Therefore, try to handle any functional upgrades before moving onto the next question.
Finally—the projects you’ve waiting for!
After fixing safety issues and upgrading malfunctioning issues, you can move onto the beautifying.
Now, it’s time to paint and tile and update fixtures to your heart’s content. Once you have reached this part of the renovation process, you don’t have to worry about any “behind the scenes” issues because you have already handled them. You will also have a better idea of what your budget is since many major expenses will come earlier if you prioritize the way we did.
This is the time where you really get to make your home your own, and you’ll have a blast doing it!
Nicole is a recent homebuyer and a DIYer who is sharing her experience with us, offering useful tips along the way! Interested in guest blogging with us? Send an email to curbappeal [at] lewith-freeman [dot] com!