This post was updated on July 26, 2022.
Turning your home remodeling ideas into reality? Whether you just bought a place that needs a lot of love or you’re finally able to do that makeover you’ve been dreaming about for years, this is a very big deal.
And considering the cost to remodel a house, pre-planning is essential. With all the details to keep straight and conversations to remember, a house makeover can quickly go off the rails.
To help prevent that from happening to you, keep your home renovation ideas on-budget and on-track by using this step-by-step home renovation checklist, developed with input from a seasoned remodeling pro.
WHAT TO EXPECT WITH A HOME REMODELING PROJECT
The following steps will guide you through a home remodeling project, but it helps to prepare for less technical things, as well — like the emotional toll a remodel can take.
Smaller tasks, like painting a room or giving your patio a makeover, may not be as stress-inducing, but to-dos that involve sheetrock can really rock your world.
Here are some ways to keep things as zen as possible:
- Know that things can and will go wrong. You can handle the ups and downs if you have a good plan and trusted resources.
- Learn the art of compromise. Rarely can anyone get everything they want out of a renovation. Limitations can include your home not being able to accommodate your wants or your budget not being able to accommodate them. There’s always middle ground, though, if you look for it.
- Prepare to move out during the renovations. Renovations can be loud, messy, and destructive. Sometimes the best thing you can do is get out of the way. If you’re renovating a significant portion of your house, consider crashing with friends, getting a hotel room, or taking a long vacation. More on this later in the article.
- Notify your neighbors. There’s going to be extra noise and extra people around your home. It’s courteous to let those who live beside you know about the disruption.
- Have a security plan. How will workers go in and out of your house? What happens when they leave every day? Ask yourself if it’s necessary to make extra sets of keys or rely on an alarm system.
WHAT IS THE FIRST THING TO DO WHEN RENOVATING A HOUSE?
Before any work actually starts, you’ll want to do plenty of research and preparation. Not taking the time to define your objectives, research contractors, compare prices on fixtures and features, collect design ideas, etc., can create longer timelines (which, in turn, results in a higher final bill).
It may sound like extra work, but it helps to list out all aspects of your renovation. Write down the steps, collect quotes and estimates, and save any important emails. Make a renovation file, document the process, and don’t forget to keep your eye on the prize.
Now, follow along as we break down our step-by-step home renovation checklist. Note that these steps are a general guide for handling a home renovation. Keep in mind, however, that every house is unique — as is every house project.
STEP 1: PRE-PLANNING FOR YOUR HOME REMODEL
First on the list? We recommend following this four-step process: creating a plan, listing your priorities, setting a budget, and setting a deadline.
Create a Plan
Every grand adventure begins with motivation and a map. Once you’ve considered why you want to embark on your remodeling adventure — it’s a necessary repair, to update a room, to improve accessibility, or just for fun — it’s time to plan how you’re going to get there.
List Your Priorities
With your “why” nailed down, ask what your priorities are. If grandma’s coming to live with you, a zero-entry shower could be non-negotiable. If you’re a private chef, that walk-in cooler is essential. Once you know what you can’t live without, you’ll have a better idea of where the wiggle room is in the budget.
Set a Budget
Imagine having your roof ready for shingles and running out of money. Not a good place to be when a storm brews on the horizon.
“When I ask prospective clients their budgets, about 90% have no idea,” says Jay Gauldin, president, TBS Construction in the greater Roanoke Valley of Virginia. If you’re unable or unwilling to finance this project, know your limit and keep a tight grip on the purse strings. Also, Gauldin recommends padding your budget with 10-25% to cover unexpected surprises. He says to pad for the unforeseen, like water damage found under tile, and for changes in plans, like you want a larger window than you first thought.
When preparing your home for sale, you definitely want to get back what you’ve invested. Use sites like HomeAdvisor to research an average cost when planning a remodeling project. Then check the Remodeling Impact Report published by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). Not only does it show the percentage of value normally recovered from a project, but it also includes a Joy Score — a number from 1 to 10 that rates how much enjoyment homeowners receive from a particular project.
If you’re not planning to sell your home, the Joy Score is an important number to consider. After all, you don’t have to wait until you’re ready to move to enjoy new kitchen cabinets or a spa tub in the bathroom.
Set a Deadline
If you’re working on a specific deadline, it’s important to have this date in mind when interviewing contractors to make sure they can fit you in their schedule. “The contractor should ask when you want the job completed,” says Gauldin, whose contracting company has earned a Best of Houzz Award five times. Even if you’re not in a hurry today, set a deadline. It’ll set the pace for the job and keep everything running smoothly.
When planning a remodeling project, remember there’s an order to things. Maybe the install guy can have his part done within the month, but the plumber is six weeks out. Use a calendar and plot each stage of the job to make sure everything fits together.
STEP 2: FINDING HOME REMODEL INSPIRATION
With budget in hand, dream about what your remodeled space will look like. Have you been to a home improvement store and looked at fixtures, floor coverings, or appliances? Do you know what your style is? Many design experts suggest starting on Pinterest.
Use the Pinterest search engine to look for things like “farmhouse-style kitchens” or “master suite designs.” This image-driven platform delivers photographs linked to websites that you collect and “Pin” to your own virtual bulletin board. Once you collect a few you like, study them for common themes or elements. They’ll help you and your contractor work together to achieve the look of your dreams.
Remember, though, that pictures can be deceiving. It helps to see design in person, too, to know how it’ll actually feel and look in real life (Instagram vs. Reality). If you covet any of your friends’ homes, ask them if you can take some pictures to send to your contractor. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.
STEP 3: RESEARCHING AND HIRING PROFESSIONAL HELP
Once you’ve put your dreams on paper, it’s time to look for someone to make them come true. But before you start looking for your home remodeling soulmate, ask yourself which, if any, aspects of this job you can tackle yourself.
According to NARI’s 2022 Remodeling Impact Report, 13% of homeowners contributed some do-it-yourself (DIY) labor to their projects. If this describes you, you’ll want to find a contractor willing to work with and around a DIYer.
The report also showed that 22 percent did the project themselves, 35 percent hired a professional for the entire job, and 28 percent hired the labor but purchased the materials.
Ask for Referrals
Did your friend Janet recently remodel her kitchen? Ask her who did the job. What about your neighbor or co-worker? “Most of our leads come from previous customers,” says Gauldin. If you can’t find someone through people you know, check out the listings on places like HomeAdvisor or the NARI website.
Check Reviews and Credentials
With a list of potential contractors, start your research. Read their websites and look for similar jobs in their portfolio of work. Read the testimonials. See if they’re members of trade organizations like NARI or the National Association of Home Builders — proof they’re invested in their profession, says Gauldin.
Find out if your contractor is licensed for the scope of your project and if they’re insured. Gauldin recommends checking your state’s licensing page online. There, he says, you can find out if they have the proper certifications and if they’ve ever been fined. Use the information you uncovered to pare down your list to two or three contractors you’d like to interview.
Contact two to three choices for estimates. “An estimate will require a site visit,” says Gauldin, “which may or may not include subcontractors.” They should take lots of photos and measurements and then send you a sketch to approve.
“It’s the contractor’s interpretation of what the homeowner wants,” he says. Once you approve the sketch, he can bid the job. “It can take three to six weeks from first visit to quote in hand,” Gauldin says.
It’s a scary proposition to invite a perfect stranger into your home to essentially tear it apart and put it back together again. In addition to checking your contractor’s references, licenses, and insurance information, you want to ask about permits, inspections, how many people to expect in your house, and how to get in touch with him. See our list of key questions to ask a building contractor.
Once you’ve nailed down the design, have a complete list of materials, and an estimate that works within your budget, it’s time to make the hire. Double-check all the details: timeline and details, payment plan, and what to do if you have issues to resolve.
STEP 4: PREPARING FOR HOME REMODELING
Help your job get off to a good start by preparing the space for your remodeling job. You don’t want workers arriving bright and early Monday morning to find the kitchen cabinets they’re removing full of dishes. You also don’t want your belongings damaged or covered with dust and debris.
Rent a Portable Storage Container
At a time like this, all homeowners struggle to find a place to put all the stuff. If you need storage, consider renting a PODS portable container to protect your belongings while keeping them close by. With the unit delivered right to your driveway, there’s no need to rent a truck to haul everything across town. And, if you need something mid-project, just go out to the container and retrieve it any time you want.
Make Living Arrangements
How will you live without your kitchen or bathroom? Will you need to move out for a while? Is staying with relatives a possibility? While your kitchen is torn apart, you can make do with a microwave in the laundry room. There are ways to create a temporary living space within your own home.
Take Before Photos
Major home remodels deserve documenting. Don’t forget to take photos before you start the demolition process.
STEP 5: MAKING THE TRANSFORMATION
You’ve hired your contractor and signed on the dotted line. Now it’s time to begin the transformation from old to new. When it comes to actually getting it done, there are a few things that’ll help put wind in your sails.
Make sure your contractor and principal subs have your contact information. Check the work regularly to halt any mistakes or miscommunications before things get too far.
Delays happen. It rains, for days on end. Trucks break down, with your order inside. Employees get sick, even those on your crew. When you expect delays to happen, and have a good attitude when they do, it makes the job more joyful for everyone.
Make a Punch List
When the job’s about done, if you see little things that could be overlooked, make a list. Review the list with your contractor to make sure they aren’t things he thought you were going to handle. Then, don’t make that final payment until everything is checked off.
|Q: In what order should remodeling tasks be done?|
A: If you’re remodeling a room in your home, start with the ceiling. Let all of that messy material fall onto the floor, then remove your flooring. After that, strip the walls and remove cabinets and/or countertops (if applicable). Then focus on any electrical or plumbing needs. Once the groundwork is done, prep and paint walls, repair and paint the trim, and install new flooring. Then, move your countertops, cabinets, appliances, and other fixtures in place.
STEP 6: STARTING THE CELEBRATION!
Once you move your belongings in from your portable storage container, take photos of the job well done, share them on social media, and post reviews for the contractors. Invite a few friends over to celebrate. Relax and enjoy!
For more home remodeling tips and resources, check out the PODS Blog.
Carol J. Alexander writes about home remodeling and lifestyle topics from her home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Her work has appeared in This Old House, Family Handyman, and Farmer’s Almanac.