Home Ownership

The Ultimate Home Renovation Checklist: 3 Steps for Success

Are you ready to drag that old bathroom into the current century? Is it finally time to install the kitchen of your dreams? Or, are you planning to completely transform the old homestead with a major overhaul?

Whatever the case, you’re about to start on a major adventure, and there will probably be some unexpected twists and turns. However, the best adventures always start out with some kind of roadmap in hand, and a clear focus on the goals ahead.

If you’ve never been through a home renovation project before, you may be a little unsure of what steps you need to take first. It can be intimidating to handle all the research, decision-making and scheduling that needs to be done – but having a checklist to work through can make it easier to stay on track (and on budget). Here is our guide:

Step 1: Create an Outline for Your Project

Long before the first hammer falls, you have to decide certain things about your project. This means deciding things like:

  • What necessary repairs and upgrades need to be made to a room? If you’re remodeling the kitchen or bath that hasn’t been touched since the 80s, you definitely want to add a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. 
  • What are your other “must-have” items? If you’re a cook who likes throwing fancy parties, a walk-in pantry and commercial oven might be on the list, while someone with mobility problems may need a walk-in shower in their new bathroom.
  • What’s your timeline? This is very individual. Maybe you don’t really have a set timeline to be finished – or maybe you really want that kitchen redone before your new baby arrives.
  • What’s your budget? This is critical. You need to have some idea of how much you can afford to spend and where the money will come from. While online tools can give you a rough estimate of the average cost of any given renovation, you can’t really talk specifics with a contractor until you have dollar figures in mind.
  • Which contractor do you intend to use? Do your research. Interview more than one and get estimates. Ask around, check Yelp reviews and look at their ratings with the Better Business Bureau before you commit. Always keep in mind, too, that the lowest-priced contractor and the one who is most readily available may not be your best option.

You may do a lot of tweaking with this part of your plan as you continue to explore. For example, prices for materials can change depending on supply and demand, and your timeline may be influenced by both the contractor’s schedule and the scope of the project. The more flexible you are with these details, the easier your project is likely to go.

Step 2: Get Everything Ready for the Renovation Work

The week or so before your project starts may be your most intense, because there’s a lot of prep work that has to be handled. This includes:

  • Renting a storage unit: If you’re lucky, you may be able to simply shift everything from a room under renovation in your garage – but that may be neither possible nor preferred. If you don’t want to climb over a lot of excess stuff while the renovations are going on, it can be useful to get a temporary storage unit or even a portable storage container.
  • Finding places for pets: Renovations can be loud, and a lot of extra people will be in and out. You may need to board your pets with friends, family members, professional sitters or a kennel for a while.
  • Making living arrangements: If you only have one bathroom, living in your home while it’s remodeled over the course of a week will be impossible – so you need to decide if you can stay with friends or rent a hotel. If your renovations are less disruptive, you may still want to carve out some living space that you can stock with all the essentials – so that you don’t have to worry about crossing into the construction zone.

Finally, while it’s not required, you may also want to warn your neighbors about what’s happening. They may appreciate the advance notice about the noise, the number of vehicles and the strange people that may be around.

3. Be Available and Continue to Communicate

Renovation projects usually go wrong when there’s miscommunication or a lack of oversight. With that in mind:

  • Stop by to check the work in progress: If you see that an outlet hasn’t been added where you need it to be, or someone hasn’t put the baseboards back in place, make sure to take note so you can ask your contractor later. Never be afraid to ask questions.
  • Stay in touch with your contractor: Make sure that they have all your contact information and follow-up on any questions as promptly as possible to avoid unnecessary delays.
  • Recognize that delays are inevitable: Renovations rarely go entirely as planned. Materials may get stuck on a boat, and contractors have emergencies. Accept that you may have to adjust your timelines and expectations a little – but stay focused on your end goals.

Don’t let the hammers come out or the demolition to begin until you’re completely comfortable with your plans and your contractor. It’s also wise to keep an eye on the progress that’s being made – and stay in communication with your contractor. If you have any concerns with either the quality of the work, the materials being used or the time something is taking, don’t hesitate to seek clarification.