Home Renovation Projects Part 2: How to Confidently Choose Materials

Picture this:

You’re remodeling your home and you have a pretty good idea of how you want it to look. You pick out the products and materials you like, and your contractor proceeds with demolition.  But when you go to order the first items to be installed, you find out 2 out of the 5 things you’d picked are on backorder for 6-8 weeks and one of them has gone up in price.

When you finally get the project done, you’re thrilled that it looks great… but then suddenly things start to go wrong. It seems that everything – even water glasses – leave stains on your new kitchen counter. The grout in the new shower is crumbling in several places. You just can’t get your new appliances to look clean. And your new hardwood floor is already scratched and dinged.

You tried so hard to plan carefully – where did you go wrong?!

Sounds like a bit of a nightmare, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s an all too familiar experience to many homeowners.

That’s because there’s much more than meets the eye when it comes to selecting materials like flooring, paint, tile and grout, and lighting and plumbing fixtures for your home remodeling project. There are so many options out there for just about every home project that it’s hard to know what to watch out for. Even less experienced home professionals can make selection mistakes that delay the project or put it over budget, or maybe even worse, that doesn’t stand up to the wear and tear of everyday use.

But creating your dream home doesn’t have to turn into a nightmare as long as you learn the ins and outs of picking materials or hire a seasoned professional designer who’ll protect you from making choices you’ll regret.

While the best materials to choose vary from project to project, here’s what you need to take into consideration to make your selections confidently.

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Though it’s far from the only consideration, this is naturally what homeowners tend to put the most thought into. And since you’ll likely be living with your flooring, paint, lighting, cabinets, etc. for awhile, you’ll want to choose what looks good on its own as well as in the context of the entire space.  There needs to be a harmony between all of the materials.

If you’re using something like a fabric for inspiration or if you’re looking to use a “statement” material, such as a patterned wallcovering or a heavily veined stone countertop, select that item first. Then work your way through all the selections starting with what has the most limited color choices to go with the statement item (in the case of a counter that’s probably the backsplash tile, for example. Work your way down the selections, picking paint color last.

It’s a common mistake for homeowners to pick their paint color first, but because there are a million paint colors on the market, you’ll definitely be able to find one to coordinate with that counter and backsplash. On the other hand, it’s not going to be so easy to find a counter and backsplash that go with the paint you chose.

In addition, try to pick materials for your space in a variety of textures. The most beautifully designed rooms usually feature some degree of contrasting textures. They may use sleek glass wall tile alongside a more uneven, natural texture like grasscloth wallpaper. Or pair matte brushed nickel faucets with shiny brass light fixtures. The human eye loves variety and layering textures in your rooms is a perfect way to keep from getting bored with your space’s design.

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Obviously, this is a huge consideration and one that homeowners are keenly aware of. But what you may not know is there’s a trick to getting the most mileage out of your materials budget.

With many projects, you’ll be provided with an “allowance” for materials included in your contractor’s bid. For instance, a bid for renovating your home’s bathrooms may include $4,500 for tile. That number is likely based on what it would cost to buy low- to mid-tier tile for your bathrooms.

Here’s where the trick comes in. For my clients’ projects, I always work to stay within those allowances but I also need to achieve the possible end results for them. In this scenario, rather than sourcing all the tile within that low- to mid-tier price range, I would probably choose a more expensive (i.e. more beautiful!) tile for the master bathroom but a lower priced (yet cheerful) tile for the kids’ bath. It all evens out and we still come in within the allotted tile budget, but with even better end results.

For your projects, consider where it may serve you to splurge and where it’s fine to save and your budget will go farther and your home will pack a bigger style punch.

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This is a consideration that homeowners often compromise on for the sake of appearance – but doing so can prove costly in the end.

Almost every material used in a home renovation – be it a wallcovering, stair treads, a sink faucet, etc. – isn’t just going to be looked at. Whatever you’re choosing, ask yourself, “How will this be used?” Don’t just consider whether it’s going to be walked on, cooked on, sat on, etc. Think about whether or not it will be somewhere where it’s likely to get bumped or touched often (think of the wall just behind the staircase banister, for example, or the floor underneath a rolling desk chair), and if it going to be in a kitchen or bath, how it might respond to stains and exposure to water and steam.

Some selections around a material’s functionality are more obvious than others. For instance, two selections many homeowners don’t recognize the importance of sealants for field tile and grout. There are lifetime sealers that are a bit more expensive than standard ones, but I always recommend them simply because they truly protect the grout from discoloring and chipping, plus they seal the tile itself for much easier cleaning (and who doesn’t want that?!). I also recommend using an epoxy (rather than standard) grout in kitchens and high traffic areas like mudrooms because they last much longer. Just think about how those simple yet little-known choices affect the time and money you won’t have to spend dealing with chipping floor grout or yucky tubs and showers in the future!


Few homeowners realize this can be a problem, but experienced designers like me know what a make-or-break consideration the availability of your materials is for any project.

The scenario you don’t want is one in which your contractor has already started demo of your space before you have your materials in hand. Whether you’re buying from a big box retail store or sourcing trade-only materials through your designer and contractor, most of what you select won’t be ready and waiting for you to bring to the job site on a few days’ notice. You’ll probably have to order most items and – if it’s in stock in the warehouse in the quantity you need – your order might be processed, shipped, and delivered to you within 2-3 weeks at best. More often than you’d expect, however, materials are on backorder, which can mean an even longer delay. Yikes!

In fact, this is a big benefit to starting your project off with an interior designer before you hire anyone else (I talked all about that in this post). As part of your project’s plan, your designer will check the lead-times for each and every item before your project starts so your selections and/or the timing of your project can be adjusted accordingly.

By having that plan in place you can make decisions about whether you want to give up that tile you fell in love with that happens to be on backorder or if it’s worth it to you to start your project later so you can have that beautiful tile – all before any demo starts.

With so much at stake in your renovation project, filtering your materials choices through these considerations will help protect you from making serious mistakes. Instead of regretting your decisions, you can be confident that your project will be nightmare-free and that you’ll enjoy the results for years to come!

Do you need help picking the right materials for your next home renovation project? We’d love to talk with you about helping you make the most of your project in every way. Contact us here and we’ll set up a time to chat.

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