Planning a Remodeling Project? Here’s Where to Start

Barbara Bellesi Zito
Updated September 9, 2021
A woman picking color for her house’s walls
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Here’s how to stop feeling overwhelmed and get started on a new look for your home

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You’ve been dreaming of remodeling your home for some time now. You watch home improvement shows on a loop. You started a Pinterest board of home design trends. Perhaps you’ve even been to the store to browse paint color samples. If you’re ready to get started on a remodeling project but don’t know where to start, here’s how to do it.

1. Get Clear on Your Project’s Purpose

There are many reasons to remodel a home. What’s yours? Whether it’s to expand your house for your growing family, renovate the bathrooms for better resale value, or simply remodel your favorite room so you can enjoy it even more, make sure you understand why you’re embarking on what could be a lengthy home improvement project. 

When the days, weeks, and even months go by that your home is covered in drop cloths, you’ll want that clear-cut “why” to see you through to the finish line.

2. Make Lists

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Three of them, in fact: your must-have list, your nice-to-have list, and your dream list. All of these will not only get you the results you want, but they will help you stick to your renovation project budget, too (more on that in a moment). Your must-haves are tied back to the first step: Why are you renovating in the first place? 

This list will help you get a good idea of what your budget will need to be—or whether you’ll have to hold off on renovating until you save some extra money. The second list is the nice-to-haves. These features would be a bonus if you could fit them into the space and your budget, but they’re not deal-breakers if you can’t. Lastly, it never hurts to formulate that “if only” wish list, the one that you would check off if money were of no importance. But since it very much is, you will likely use this list for inspiration only.

3. Set a Realistic Budget

Building materials and home improvement services have gone up in price all over. It pays to do your homework, so start pricing items like stone countertops, replacement windows, stainless steel appliances, and more to see how much money things cost. You might find that you can achieve the look you’re going for at various price points. See where you want to spend your money and where you can scale back a bit, especially if you are taking on a large project. Don’t forget to allocate funds in your budget to hire a professional cleaning company to tackle the post-renovation cleaning.

4. Talk to a General Contractor

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Not just one, but several. Keep your budget in mind, but be prepared to be flexible, as many factors can drive up the cost of your home remodel project. A good general contractor will understand both your taste and budget and might provide you with several options based on your budget. If you have flexibility in your timeline, that could be enough to save some money; for example, if you can wait until the off-peak season to get the job done, you might not have to pay top dollar for labor and materials.

5. Enjoy the Experience

When the planning gets stressful, keep in mind that you will (hopefully) love the results. So enjoy the renovation process. Take plenty of pictures so you can have a record of the progress—everyone loves a good before and after! Another good idea is to take notes of what went right or wrong during the remodeling work so that you are well informed for any future home renovations you decide to tackle.

Tackling a large home improvement project can be daunting, but it all starts with an idea and a plan. When you take it step by step, you can avoid some of the stress and focus instead on enjoying the results.

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