How to Plan a Remodel in 5 Steps

1. Build a Detailed Home Improvement Project Plan

The first step in a remodeling project is to develop a plan that clearly states the goal for your renovation and includes designing inspiration and an outline of the work that needs to be completed.

Your project plan should also include:

  • Blueprints or sketches of your finished project.
  • A list of needs and wants for your project.
  • Project steps divided into DIY steps and steps that will require a professional.

At this point in planning a home renovation, investigate local zoning regulations and permits. Make sure your neighborhood is zoned for your remodel (some renovations like garage conversions are not allowed everywhere) and find out if you’ll need a permit. If you are completing a project that will change the structure of your home or the use of a room, you will most likely need a permit. Wait to apply for permits until you’ve hired a team and built a project timeline.

When to Start: 6 to 12 months before you’d like to start your project

2. Set a Project Budget

The next step when planning a home renovation is to determine your budget and financing. Your budget should include the costs for permits and building materials, labor costs and the cost of decorations or cosmetic touches.

To build your budget:

  • Decide how much you want to spend and finalize financing. Set aside at least 10% of your budget for unexpected costs.
  • Request cost estimates from professionals.
  • Price out all required materials.

If your cost estimates do not fit in your budget, use your home improvement project plan from step one to eliminate project elements that are a lower priority. Request cost estimates from multiple contractors to find the best option for your budget.

When to Start: 3 to 6 months before starting your project

Read Next: How to Budget for a Home Renovation

3. Hire Contractors

Next in your home project planning, you’ll need to hire your team. Don’t choose your contractors on cost estimates alone. When interviewing and selecting your contractors, also consider:

  • Years of experience: A contractor who’s been doing business for a long time makes them a safer bet than one who is new to the business.
  • Contracting license: Make sure your contractor has gone through all the steps needed to obtain any required certifications specific to their line of work.
  • Certificate of insurance: Contractors should have workers’ compensation and liability insurance for the type of work they perform.
  • References: Request and call references. This is a great way to make sure your contractor isn’t just good on paper.
  • Payment schedule: A reputable contractor won’t ask you to pay the full price upfront, and the Better Business Bureau advises not to. However, it’s important to discuss payment terms before construction begins. In some cases, it’s better to spend a little extra to get someone you’re comfortable working with.

Use this checklist for hiring contractors to complete the process.

If you are hiring multiple contractors for a job, determine who is in charge before the project begins to avoid confusion or slowdown later.

Completing a DIY project? During this step, make sure you have the expertise and support you need to complete the job without hired helped, including confirming the help of friends of family for when you project starts.

When to start: 2 to 3 months before your start date

4. Build a Timeline

Once you have your budget and team in place for your remodeling plan, it’s time to put together your timeline. First, choose a desired start date, or if you’re hoping to have it completed by a specific date, work backward from that date instead. Sit down with your contractors to determine the length of time each portion of the project will take. Discuss which steps of the remodel need to be completed first, how long they will take and which project portions can be completed concurrently.

Additionally, be sure your timeline:

  • Includes time to clean out the project area.
  • Allows for the shipping and delivery of materials.
  • Accounts for any holidays your contractors may take off.

Use a calendar to mark out each step of the project. Set a completion date that includes a few days’ worth of wiggle room for unexpected issues. Confirm with your contractors or team members that the timeline is realistic and keeps you within budget.

When to start: 2 to 3 months before your start date

5. Pack Up and Prepare for Your Home Renovation

Now that your home project planning is nearing an end, it’s time to prep the space and make plans to avoid using the room while it’s under construction.

Whether or not you should live in your home during construction depends on what work is being done. Planning on having major work done to your kitchen? Build a temporary place to cook and eat and remove all your dishes and minor appliances. Renovating the master bedroom? Make new sleeping arrangements and find somewhere to store your furniture. If you’re planning a whole home renovation, you might want to move out completely for a short time.

When to start: Make plans 2 to 3 months before your start date; pack up and move 1 to 2 weeks before your start date.

15. Underestimating psychological stressors

“Any building project in your own home is fraught with power dynamics,” says Irving, who suggests that couples take on a smaller project—building a birdhouse, say—first. Seriously. You might be surprised how different your styles, ideas, and approaches are. “It’s happening in your nest, with your dough,” adds Irving, “in large amounts. If you can’t do a smaller project first, you should at least know that it would be better if you did.”

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Know Your Limits

DIY renos are a great way to save money, have a sense of accomplishment, and involve the entire family, but they can turn disastrous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Know which tasks you can safely tackle, and which should be handled like the pros, like a potentially load-bearing wall, asbestos or lead paint. If you’re feeling unsure, here’s how to find a good contractor to help.

Plan Out Insulation and Drywall

Before the drywall goes up, the insulation must go in. Look at the options for insulation, and plan to use different types for different areas of the house. You'll need it in the walls and attic, and you might be able to do all of it yourself.

Tip

Before you close up the walls, you'll need a second inspection from the electrical inspector (and perhaps the plumbing inspector). They will give you the go-ahead to close up the walls.

You'll close up the walls with drywall: hanging it, mudding it, and sanding it. Drywallers hang sheets of drywall, apply drywall compound, and let the compound dry. After drying, they sand it smooth. Sometimes, they will repeat the process until they achieve a seamless surface. With some practice and patience, you might be able to do this on your own.

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Think About Structural Carpentry

Carpentry that is in support of other work is known as structural carpentry. This can include moving walls, constructing new walls, adding beams to support a greater weight upstairs, punching in new doors (or removing existing doors), adding framing for new construction windows, or significantly enlarging the window openings.

Many of these projects can be undertaken by an enterprising DIYer, but some projects, such as enlarging window openings, might call for a contractor's expertise.

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

22. Not getting everyone on the same page

“If you are purchasing appliances, lighting, and other items for a renovation, print out all your specs and/or installation instructions,” says Chiappone. “I put them in a binder for the contractor and the subs and keep onsite so everyone has access to these docs.” Bonus tip: “If you were to ever sell or rent your property, this is a valuable tool.”

2. Don’t enlist friends and family to help you if they aren’t experienced:

In order to save money many homeowners think of hiring or asking their friends and family to help. This can lead to costly mistakes, injury, and damage to important elements in your home. While friends and family can be used for moving belongings, furniture, cleaning and other household “chores” – only let experienced family and friends assist with your home renovation.

MargJohnsonVA/ Twenty20

MargJohnsonVA/ Twenty20

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6. Don’t underestimate the power of pictures when hiring a contractor

If you choose not to do the all of the remodeling project yourself and you hire a professional contractor – communication and conveying your intent is essential. Photographs that you find on Freshome, your favorite magazine or ones that you collect from house ware brochures will help tremendously. Many homeowners forget that contractors will need an idea of exactly what result you’d like in your remodeling job – don’t rely on just your verbal explanation and their interpretation to get the results you are seeking.

Establish Mission Control

There’s nothing more frustrating than being in the middle of a job when you can’t find the tool you need. Before you begin your remodel, reserve an area of your home to act as mission control to keep all your tools, materials, manuals and checklists in one place. Plus: Tips for Getting Your Garage Clean and Organized

Make the site safe, then clear it

‘Making the site safe and secure is your next priority, followed by any clearance or demolition work,’ says Michael Holmes. ‘Health and safety is the responsibility of the building owner, so a risk assessment and method statement for demolition, which includes dealing with hazardous waste, is essential. A hazardous waste survey is also necessary to look for asbestos and other risks.’

When it comes to getting rid of trash and debris, don’t simply set it out on the curb or haul it to the dump — not only is that environmentally unfriendly, but you might miss out on making money from unwanted fixtures and fittings. A salvage yard may agree to pay for old materials and include removal as part of the deal. Additionally, certain hazardous materials will need special disposal. 

  • Salvage anything that you can use such as old sinks or bathtubs which can be cleaned up and re-enameled if need be.
  • Sell things that are in good condition, but not needed — salvage yards will take anything from old windows to spare roof tiles.
  • Take things that can be used by someone else to a local Goodwill or Salvation Army, or an organization helping people furnish their homes.
  • Only toss things that are damaged beyond repair. This reduces your environmental impact.

(Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

5. Research builder’s risk insurance

For large construction projects, you may want to consider builder’s risk insurance, primarily to cover property loss due to natural disasters, theft, and vandalism. And check your homeowner’s policy first to see what they will cover and then decide if you need any additional coverage.

But if you are doing a small-scale remodel or remodeling the interior of your home, feel free to skip to step 6.

Is it cheaper to renovate or build a new home?

This depends on the scale of your renovation and what and where your new house would be. If you just want to upgrade a room or two, replace some flooring, or maybe paint a few walls, definitely consider renovating your current home.

But, if your house has some problems with its foundation, sewer, electrical, or plumbing, those costs can add up quickly. Add them to a full kitchen and bathroom renovation, paint, siding, roof, windows, and flooring, and a new house doesn’t sound like a bad option now, does it?

But this will heavily depend on where you live. Housing prices vary across cities; buying a house in rural Utah will be much less expensive than purchasing a house in Miami, Florida.

If you’re in a state with an expensive housing market, you may want to consider hanging onto your home and doing a renovation. Also check out this list for 50 housing markets that have declined throughout 2019. If you live in one of these cities, consider remodeling your home rather than selling it.

Step 2: Demolition

Once you have your plan in place and you’ve chosen

Once you have your plan in place and you’ve chosen your contractor, it’s time for demolition to start.

To make way for the new, the old has to be cleared out first. This involves not only demolition but also debris disposal, so you will likely need to rent a large roll-off dumpster to handle the waste.

A dumpster is ideal for keeping a project moving efficiently because you can remove debris from your home as it’s demolished.

This will minimize risks and mess during your demolition project and enable you to finish it as quickly, safely, and smoothly as possible.

If you decide to do any of the demolition work yourself, exercise caution and follow all safety precautions.

Demolition can be very dangerous, especially when performed haphazardly.

Finishing and decorating

Decorating is the part of a project that people most look forward to. This is where you really get to put your stamp on your home and make it yours.

‘Where we had heavy and rough work at the earlier stages, now we have lighter, more precise work where care needs to be taken not to damage finishes and to install items level, straight and in-line,’ says Hugo Tugman. 

Staircases and baseboards can be put in, floor finishes can be laid, tiles can be applied, and the decorating work can begin.

‘You can save money on expensive floor finishes by not installing it underneath kitchen units and islands, but it can prove a false economy if you later decide to change the layout,’ warns Michael Holmes. ‘Either way, baseboards are always best installed after hard floor finishes.’

The color schemes you choose depends on whether this is a home for life or a project you plan to sell in a few years. ‘I find it is best to stick to a quality, classic design over passing interior trends – less is definitely more,’ says Sarah Beeny. 

‘Think longevity when choosing a design. If you’re creating your own home, luxury items can always be addressed at a later date, so look at creating a strong canvas to build upon over the coming years.’

For more decorating ideas, check out:

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