Planning a home renovation can be a daunting task with many moving parts, but proper planning can keep things moving smoothly toward your goal. Before ever reaching out to a contractor, there are several significant decisions to make. Having your priorities worked out and logistics taken care of upfront will lay a solid foundation for a successful renovation.

Know your Goal

When to Start: 12+ months before the renovation

The first decision you have to make is deciding how extensively you are planning to renovate. Knowing your goal will help you make that decision. Are you renovating to raise the resale value or designing your perfect forever home? Consider the neighborhood and which renovations would be a good return on investment and which would be a waste of money for your area. The most beneficial improvements in terms of resale value would be things like updating your home’s curb appeal, fixing the roof, renovating the kitchen, or upgrading your deck.

Make Your Renovation Wishlist

When to Start: 6-12 months before the renovation

If possible, try and live in your house for a while before planning a home renovation. This will help clarify what exactly needs to be changed in the house to make it suit your needs and lifestyle. With larger projects, especially in older homes, waiting can reveal a house’s existing pluses and minuses. Filling in a doorway may make space for a closet, for example, but also block the flow of natural light between rooms. Learn its flow, where the groceries land, where the laundry goes, where the best light it, where the choke points are, and even get a sense of its character. Living in a house and imagining the ways it can be improved as you go about your daily life is the best foundation for planning a renovation.

When you’re ready to set your priorities, spend the time to think about how you really live. Examine how you live and what a typical day looks like for you: How does a gathering look—how many people and how often? Do you watch TV while you cook? Is a fireplace or some other focal point important to you? Is there an outdoor-living aspect that you need? In what ways could technology be used to make your life more comfortable? Spend time thinking about your lifestyle before you start calling contractors.

You may also want to think about aging in place. If you’re planning to live in the home well into your twilight years or you have older family members that may need to live or stay with you at some point, consider ways in which the house could be made more accessible. Simple changes during the renovation process can save you time, money, and frustration down the road.

Consider your Family & Routine

When to Start: 3-6 months before the renovation

Making sure your logistics are sorted out at the beginning of planning a home renovation will make the process much easier for everyone involved. Will you be staying at your home while the renovation takes place, or will you move to a hotel or Airbnb? Your timeline and cost are huge factors when making this decision. Many homeowners opt to stay at home if they can; however, it can be a difficult time to get through. We often recommend clients move into an Airbnb for the duration of their renovation to avoid the stress and disruption to their routine that nearly always accompanies a major renovation.

Don’t forget to check the calendar and decide on your desired start date. The final project timeline will depend on your builder’s availability, but knowing if any dates will affect the timeline on your end is important. Do you need the renovation done by a certain date, such as a holiday or event? Work backward from there but be sure to add an extra few weeks to a month in case of delays. Don’t forget to account for cleanup and moving in furniture and belongings. Consider the weather; an experienced contractor can get the job done, regardless of the time of year but consider when it will be better to be out of your home or be in your home with the utilities out intermittently.

Creating Your Initial Renovation Budget

When to Start: 3-6 months before the renovation

This is going to completely depend on your finances, but it’s critical to know your budget and stick to it. If you’re paying cash for the renovation, this part will be easy, but financing construction and renovations can be complicated. You may want to consider opening a bank account for your home renovation. This way, you can easily separate expenses and keep track of your spending. However, make sure you’re still keeping receipts. Many home upgrades can be used as tax deductions.

Once you’ve settled on a total amount, use your wishlist to plan where you want to spend versus save. Don’t forget to factor in indirect renovation costs that might arise during the renovation, like dining out more or staying in a hotel for a few nights. If there are any fixtures or appliances you know you want, nail them down at this stage, so when you’re making the final budget with your builder, you’ll have some set costs already figured out.

Plan to spend good money on things you touch every day, like door hardware, doors, faucets, appliances, and kitchen cabinets. The tactile experience sends a daily reminder to you and your guests about the solidity and quality of your home. On the other hand, there’s no need to splurge where you can save. Some areas may only need minor cosmetic upgrades to look modern. Consider what types of technology or home automation could improve your life. This is your best opportunity to incorporate built-in tech that will disappear into your décor.

When you work with a reputable contractor, they should have a system for keeping costs, and any changes to expenses, in line with their estimates. Make sure you’re on the same page as your contractor before you start spending. When you start purchasing appliances, lighting, and other items, print out all your specs and/or installation instructions and set them aside in a binder or folder for your team. Also, if you were ever to sell or rent your property, this is a valuable tool to have.

Next Steps

When you have your wishlist, schedule, and budget roughly worked out, it’s time to start researching contractors. Our next blog will be about all the things you need to consider when choosing a contractor for your renovation. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about planning a home renovation or the renovation process.