Home Renovation Tips, Volume 4: Making Small Changes, Hiring Design Pros & More

by Kate Marsanico

Sweeten renovators share what they wish they’d known: Making a big impact with small changes, the pros of hiring interior designers, and more

kitchen remodel

There are so many things to consider when planning a renovation. You need to think about scope and budget, materials and finishes, and so much more. Making over even a small space in your home is a big deal! Whether you’re transforming a bathroom or a whole house, there are scores of items to keep track of and decisions to make. Here, Sweeten homeowners share what they learned after going through the renovation process, and give their top home renovation tips.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.


Renovation Tip 1: Little renovation changes can make a big impact

Kitchen with wraparound peninsula
before duplex renovation
Tub in renovated bathroom
Office space
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Updating your space doesn’t have to mean major construction. You can easily make a difference through small changes. Take, for example, AC; who turned to a Sweeten contractor to help renovate his loft. He did have some extensive work done, like electrical updates, adding office space, and enclosing a loft.  But he also made smaller changes. Instead of replacing the kitchen cabinets, AC had them refinished in a rich, more modern blue.

He also brought his stair railing up-to-date with a new coat of paint. To modernize the bathroom, he changed the color of the walls from white to gray.  AC’s advice to those thinking of renovation? “Just to be realistic,” he says. “With little changes, you can make a big impact.”


Renovation Tip 2: Work with design professionals, if you can

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Hiring an interior designer is a nice perk if you can fit it in your budget. They provide a keen eye for design and convenience that many renovators find extremely helpful. “I highly recommend working with a design professional,” says Matthew Stewart, who recently worked with a Sweeten contractor to renovate his own condo in Brooklyn. “It’s easy to underestimate the amount of work involved.”

He also recommends not getting too hung up on specific choices. “Sometimes it’s easier to just pick something nice that you know you like, and move on,” he says. And interior designers make that easy, narrowing it down to just a few options that fit your style and project. 


Renovation Tip 3: Budget Wisely: Nice-to-Haves vs. Must-Haves

living room
junior one bedroom
kitchen remodel
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Setting—and sticking to—your budget is important. Sometimes it is easier said than done. “When you’re renovating, plan that it will take more time and money than you plan for,” says Sweeten renovator Claire. “There are always surprise things that happen as you go through the process.”

When she converted her studio into a junior one-bedroom, she “ended up spending roughly 25% more than the original budget.” That was due to added change orders to address issues that came up. Her advice is to decide your renovation “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves” and stick with them.


Renovation Tip 4: Know what you need in a contractor—and for your renovation

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The homeowner/contractor partnership is like any relationship—you need to communicate for it to work. And part of that is knowing what you want, what you expect from the other person, and vice versa. For Ryan and Sophie, finding the right contractor was vital.

They had spent ten years saving up to renovate their one-bedroom, so they wanted it done right.  “The contractor was really good at keeping me in the loop and letting me know what was happening and when,” says Ryan. “Managing and communicating expectations is a big part of a successful partnership.” He also suggests having “a plan so you’ll have a better idea of where to compromise with your decisions and where not to.”

Want more firsthand home renovation advice? See more posts from this series: Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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