Plan a Home Renovation
As the former executive producer of This Old House, Bruce Irving is an expert at home renovations. "To be able to invest in your own home is such a privilege," Bruce says. "To have it turn out poorly or frustrating is a double tragedy—it doesn't have to be that way." Bruce shares his advice on how to have a successful home renovation.

Have Reasonable Expectations
Setting expectations is important in any home renovation project, but done incorrectly, it can be your greatest enemy, Bruce says. "If you have expectations that aren't met, it sometimes turns into a vicious spiral or vicious cycle," he says.

One of the most unrealistic expectations is time. "It's stunning to people that things should take so long," Bruce says. "It starts sometimes right out of the box with the architect's side of things. It's surprising to people that they may not be seeing or hearing from the architect they just sat down with and downloaded their hopes and dreams to for a month or so. They can't believe it takes that long, but it does."

Set a Budget
You have a few options when it comes to setting your budget. Your first option is to give your designer a dollar amount early on. In this case, it is incumbent upon the designer you are working with to know his or her abilities and limits, Bruce says. "I love architects and designers, but some of them are better than others at designing to a number," he says. "The worst and most painful of the many things that can go wrong is to see your dream start to come together on paper, fall in love with this imagined space and then the number comes back from the builder and it's so off that there's just crushed dreams and hatred all over the place."

The other option is to stay open with your budget. "Give a rough ballpark, test it in the real world and be ready to either scale it back or throw more money on the pile," Bruce says.

Invest in the Design Process
Hire a builder, an architect and an interior designer. "There's a reason they went to school and a reason they live and breathe this discipline, and it shows in their work," Bruce says. "If you're only going to renovate once, you better build the right thing because it's really painful to build the wrong thing."

Be Timely with Decision-Making
The homeowner plays a very large role in setting the pace, Bruce says. When it comes to decisions, everything rests on the timely decision-making of the homeowner, he says. "Without someone there to set those time lines, things can get out of control fast," Bruce says.

What to Splurge On
Today's manufacturing capabilities are at such a high level, it's easy to find, good-looking materials everywhere. "But it's the long-lasting things that belong in a house," Bruce says. Spend your money on quality, solid objects in the home that you and your guests interact with—things that move and things you touch every day, such as doorknobs and doors, he says. "You just feel good about the place when the things you're moving have a sense of quality to them," he says.

Designers will know where to get the best materials for the best prices, and Bruce says it's designers' editing knowledge that is crucial in the renovation process. "Talent, if so instructed, can show you levels of material in the market that you would never be able to parse on your own," he says.

What to Save On
Save your money on things that are not built into the house itself, such as fabrics, draperies, wallpaper—even paint, Bruce says. "I would imagine there are areas where the quality curve starts to flatten out and eventually you're spending too much money for not much return," he says.

Save Green by Going Green
"Green things have been with us for a long time—they just didn't have that label," Bruce says. "There are technologies and investments in houses that could be labeled green that do have substance." For example, good foam insulation saves serious amounts of fossil fuels. Also, Bruce suggests weather stripping old windows and putting on a good set of storm windows—doing that is far more economical than replacing them.

Move Out
Bruce advises homeowners to move out during the construction process if they can. "Not only is it for your psychological health, but also for certain size jobs, it's actually a way to save money," he says. "The idea of turning on and turning off the utilities every day, from a contractor's point of view—it's just so inefficient."

More home improvement advice
When making design decisions, always exercise common sense and safe judgment. The opinions expressed by the hosts, guests and callers to Oprah Radio are strictly their own.


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