5. Triple-check your materials on arrival.

On work sites, packages tend to pile up but they’re not always opened. It’s wise to make sure that what you’ve received is exactly what you were expecting down to the color and finish.

This happened to us: Two houses ago, we planned for all-chrome fixtures in a bathroom only to find that the installed shower handle was brushed nickel. It was pretty visible and we had ordered it in chrome, so we had to replace it. And in another bath, we put in a double vanity with exposed porcelain undermount sinks—but these arrived unfinished and in slightly different colors. At our request a third sink was sent—but it, too, wasn’t a match. To get coordinating sinks, we ended up painting the bottoms a clean, glossy white. It worked surprisingly well.

Bottom line: Inspect boxes on arrival—and avoid losing time down the line.

6. Inspect and approve all tilework before it’s grouted.

Dark grout hides dirt but it also highlights badly aligned tiles. And since you can’t make changes after grout is applied, it pays to be an eagle every step of the way.

This happened to us: The Greek key entry isn’t the only tilework we’ve had to rip out. A while back, we noticed that a half wall of grouted kitchen tile had corner edges that didn’t meet. Fixing that required pulling out the work piece by piece. Lacey has just enrolled in an all-woman course to learn to wield a tile saw and lay subway tiles herself.

Bottom line: If you’re going for a contrasting look, you need solid tilework.

7. Add dimmers to all the lights.

It’s far more cost-effective to install electrical wiring during the construction phase than after your walls are closed up.

This happened to us: One of our regrets in our last house is that we only used old-fashioned flip switches.

Bottom line: Controlled lighting is a worthwhile upgrade in every remodel: Pony up for dimmers.


8. Spring for a quality thermostat, fire detector, and carbon monoxide alarm.

When you’re spending a lot of time renovating, go all in and modernize the crucial monitoring and safety elements. And do it early on.

This happened to us: The thermostat on our last project was at 68—but turned out to be malfunctioning and blowing an insane amount of heat into the house: Our first bill was for $1,000. We now plan to install a Nest at the start of every remodel.