A renovation can do amazing things for your home, from increasing its potential resale value to making it an even more delightful place to spend time. Like any serious endeavor, remodeling should always start with smart planning. Whether you are making drastic changes to one particular space, transforming your entire house into your next dream home, or adding on some much needed space, a little due diligence up front will make all the difference for a stress-free renovation.

Based on our many years of experience and feedback from our clientele, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of steps to take for a successful renovation.

Determine your goals & inspiration.

What are your motivating factors for remodeling your home? Do you have a detailed, specific picture of your desired outcome? Knowing what you want, and communicating that vision in as much detail as possible will help you achieve the most out of your remodeling project.

If you are in need of ideas, we recommend searching design magazines, books and websites like Houzz and Pinterest for current trends as well as various styles that meet your design tastes. Visiting with neighbors, friends or family who have recently renovated can also be an inspirational source for gathering ideas. Ask them for their unbiased feedback regarding various features and/or finishes that were used on the project. Their insights can help you decide what’s right for your home.

Set a realistic budget.

Be honest and realistic when determining the budget for your renovation. There are many variables that go into completing a large renovation, and you’ll need to not only factor in the renovation costs – which can vary widely – but also the cost of any architects, interior designers, and new furnishings needed to complete your renovation. Be sure to account for expenses associated with lodging in the event that you will not be occupying your home during the renovation.

Meeting with a professional renovation contractor can help you determine a ball park figure for the total construction costs. Most architects will also be able to provide some rough figures for the renovation, but we always recommend confirming their numbers with a general contractor specializing in this type of work.

Lastly, it is imperative that you include an additional of 5-10% of the total project amount as a contingency budget. All too often home renovations – especially those on older homes – uncover unexpected structural issues that require repairs which can easily lead to budget overruns. Even if you are lucky enough not to need the funds set aside for contingencies, your renovation will be much less stressful for having them available.

Coordinate the financing.

If you are planning to finance your renovation project, please be aware that it typically takes 30-60 days to secure funding. This process frequently takes longer than expected.

A large majority of renovations are financed using home equity loans, construction loans, lines of credit, and personal loans. Personal savings often augment these methods of funding. Experience has shown us that it is vital that you begin the process of securing any type of financing before you hire an architect or general contractor to transform your concepts onto paper. This will confirm how much you can spend on your renovation and will allow the project to get underway without any delays.

A common approach to determining the budget needed for a project goes back to meeting with remodeling professionals to gather ballpark proposals.

Secure architectural plans.

Once your budget has been confirmed with ballpark proposals from contractors and you have coordinated your financing, the next step is to get architectural drawings prepared. These drawings should spell out the construction details of the project.

Whether you work directly with an architect or with a design build renovator that can provide architectural services, having your concepts translated to a set of detailed blueprints will provide an excellent starting point for gathering accurate bids from contractors. Accurate cost projections are important when sticking to your budget. An experienced & qualified architect will listen to your ideas and provide you with suggestions for an aesthetically pleasing design as well as ball park costs for the concepts you would like incorporated. When interviewing design build firms or architects, make sure you are clear with your needs and that they are able to address your concerns and wishes for the final product.

If you plan to work directly with an architect, you will want to confirm that their design is in line with your budget. We often receive architect-prepared blueprints that do not realistically match the budgets for our clients’ projects. In this scenario, the scope of the design exceeds the intended scope of the project – in materials, design elements, size, or some combination of these elements – which translates to higher than expected costs. To avoid the pitfalls of such an “over- designed” project, we strongly recommend that the architect prepare a conceptual sketch or design and have it reviewed by a qualified remodeler to confirm your budget prior to developing the final construction documents.

No matter how you go about developing your remodeling plans, remember that having detailed blueprints and design selections equals fewer change orders once your project gets underway. And having fewer change orders makes it significantly more likely that your project will remain on time and within your budget.

Continue on to Part II: From Finding A Contractor To Commencement