Devil’s dilemma: Renovate all at once, or in steps?

Special to The Times

Question: We want to do several upgrades to our house, including the kitchen, the master bathroom and a new deck. Should we have them all done at the same time, or would it be easier on my family to have them done one at a time?

Answer: I’ve seen projects tackled both ways. Many homeowners who undertake a massive, all-encompassing remodel say it was the right thing to do, although others who tackle projects one at a time report they actually enjoy the experience.

If you like the process of remodeling, of working with contractors and craftsmen, of tweaking each project to perfection, and you approach it like a hobby, you might like to take it one adventure at a time. I call these people serial remodelers.


But I suspect most people want to plow through, get it done, get the workers out of there and get the dust cleaned up.

However, if you’ve never had remodeling work done to your home, you might be ill-equipped to handle three large projects at once. Try having one small project done so you can experience the chaos that ensues.

Maybe you could have a skylight or a bay window installed or some doors replaced. After you get a taste of it, you might decide to go forward with the next project. Or if you get migraines, you might choose to move to a rental down the street and get the whole job done at once. More than one family I’ve interviewed has said they will “never again” live in the house during a major kitchen remodel.

For a contractor’s perspective, I asked Alon Toker, president of Mega Builders ( in Chatsworth, what advice he would give.

Contractor’s answer: Certainly a more comprehensive project would take a toll on a family, whether the family remains in place or finds temporary housing elsewhere. After all, moving out is also stressful.

Still, I think you should opt to get it all done in a single swoop, or you could lose momentum. In my experience, no one is less likely to undertake a remodeling project than someone who has just completed one.


It makes financial sense as well. Generally speaking, it is more cost effective to bundle all your project’s objectives into a single undertaking.

Here’s why: A construction project progresses trade by trade, from the “rough” stages to the “finish” work. For example, tile work should go in before the last coat of paint but after the cabinets are in. The electrician will wire the open walls during the rough stage and return toward the project’s completion to install light fixtures and trim.

Breaking up a home-remodeling project by room or by any other arbitrary criteria undermines this natural and efficient progression. As a result, crews will work on rough items and then do finish work only to return to address additional rough items in a different location of the house. Total project time and cost will increase as a result.

Given travel time, daily setup and breakdown times (bringing materials from the truck, collecting tools, daily cleanup of the job site), the one-at-a-time process creates waste. This also means higher time-related costs, such as for supervision, overhead and temporary facilities.

I suggest you get all the pain out of the way and enjoy your new and improved home.

Submit remodeling questions to Kathy Price-Robinson at, or send to Real Estate Section, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. First St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.