Renovation FAQs | What I Did and What I Wish I’d Known

In renovating our 100-year-old Chicago home, it’s been exactly what you would expect… delayed, bumpy, frustrating and worth it. (I mean- the house isn’t done yet, but that’s at least what I keep telling myself.)

Today I’m answering some Renovation FAQs, including what the heck we’re doing and what I wish I’d known going into a major renovation. (PS – You can also checkout my home

J.Nicolette’s Renovation FAQ’s

What made you decide to renovate?

When we moved to Chicago, we had several items that needed to be checked in terms of budget, safety, space, etc.¬† My husband wanted to prioritize a home with a large kitchen since that’s truly our heart of the home. (And his loving wife really wanted a bigger space to cook meals… ūüėČ ) After realizing we couldn’t check those boxes and find a space we loved in the right area, we decided to purchase a house on the lower end of our budget and transform it.

What are you renovating?

On our main floor, we removed a wall to open up the space and gutted our kitchen. (You can see the before and after photos by clicking here.)  We also removed all radiators and installed an HVAC unit. There was also an enclosed porch attached to the kitchen, and we leveled the floor, hung drywall, and widened the entrance to help the room flow better with the rest of the home. This porch turned into our breakfast nook.

Upstairs, we plan to build a master suite, including adding a master bathroom and walk-in closet. The previous owners also enclosed the central stairwell from the dining room to the upstairs and we are reopening it.  When we moved in, the upstairs housed a second kitchen which we will convert into a laundry room.

How did you choose your General Contractor?

We found our contractor through a referral. If you have any friends or contacts who have had positive experiences, then I think referrals are the way to go. Since we were new to the area, we got a referral from our realtor who we loved working with. Having such a great experience with our realtor helped us really respect his opinion, and we knew his network would be pretty solid. I was especially grateful because I’ve heard some crazy horror stories about unreliable GC’s who have gone MIA on their jobs.

Where do you get your design inspiration?

Mostly Pinterest and Houzz.  I also curated a binder of my favorite style elements, including inspirations from designer such as Studio McGee, Studio 912, and  Park & Oak.

What are your top tips?

Over ask questions and clarify everything. This is your house and your money.¬† Once my husband started traveling I found myself as our “project lead” simply because I was the boots on the ground.¬† I quickly became comfortable saying things like, “I don’t know what that is,” and asking “What does that mean?” It’s absolutely critical to understand all elements from the permitting process through the demo and installation. It affects your budget, your timeline and, quite honestly, your state of living/mind if you continue to live in the home.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

Yes. Oh yes.

I could go on and on about the hiccups we faced and how I wished we had educated ourselves¬† more before delving into such a huge project. And honestly, this may seem minimal, but seeking clarification on what all the demo crew was removing would have been SO helpful for us. “Everything on the floor” included all shelves and closet hardware. Afterwards, that was a painful expense to swallow.

Are you going crazy?


How has it been renovating with dogs and a child in the home?

Challenging. Very challenging. The stress was exacerbated because I also work from home so there was no reprieve. We ended up putting the dogs in daycare because it stressed them having workers in the house. As far as having a kiddo, it was as difficult as you can imagine having a child in a construction zone would be. I had to keep eyes on him at all times, and sometimes that wasn’t even enough.

Horror story alert: While the walls were being painted, the painters put a tarp on the floor that covered up all the vent holes the electricians had cut. Poor River went to look out the window one day and found his leg hanging through the floor. It gave us both a pretty good scare.

When are you supposed to be finished?

Let me know if you find out. ha I kid. At this time, we are still waiting on one inspection from the City. Assuming we pass, we’ll be done five weeks from that point.

If you want to read other tips I have on renovating, check out my post: Lessons from a Renovation

Meet Jen

I’ve always had a love affair with creation. Since I was a child, I handmade my gifts or combined toys to design something new. Fast forward twenty years, and I’m still making my gifts every holiday and designing new ways to do things.


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In order to grow my small business, I earn revenue in a few different ways. I publish sponsored posts from time to time, which are always labeled. Sometimes I earn an affiliate commission on the sales of products or business resources I link to. I only feature items I genuinely love and want to share. Thank you for reading and supporting my small business!

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