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Things to consider before embarking on a home improvement project

posted on July 14, 2017 in Tips and Education

Considerations for home improvementTrying to put together a home improvement project, but not sure where to start? Even if you're confident, it's common for a few details to slip through the cracks during the planning stage and pop up to cause problems later. To help you make the most of your next home improvement project, we've put together a guide detailing the basic home improvement considerations you'll want to nail down.

Renovating a home: Where to startHome improvement budget

Budget and costs

First and foremost, you’ll want to take a look at the financial considerations of your home improvement project: budgeting, price comparisons, and figuring out what sort of return you can expect from your project. Take the time to research local costs. Dig deep—you don’t want to run out of money halfway through your project because you relied on estimates and assumptions instead of hard facts.

Once you’ve ballparked the costs, use your research to create a goal budget for your project. If you have a budget guiding your project, you’ll know in advance whether you can splurge extras like upgraded flooring or hardware. Whether you’re starting with your goals first and developing the budget from there, or setting a hard cap on expenses and figuring out the limitations of your home improvement project under that budgetary restriction, it’s important that you think about money early in the process. Plus, remodeling professionals typically recommend budgeting 10 to 20% extra for unforeseen circumstances.


Licenses, fees and other extra expenses

Depending on local laws, the location of your home, and the nature of the home improvement project you’re undertaking, you may need to take into account various fees, licensing costs, and other tertiary expenses. Building permits are important because they ensure that city inspectors can check your project for potential issues. Check with your city officials for information on what permits are necessary for your remodel. Also consider that many of the professionals you hire may acquire permits on your behalf - so be sure to check with your contractors and subcontractors so you know in advance whether permit or licensing fees are part of their negotiated rate.

Cost vs. value

Any home improvement project should be viewed as an investment in your home. Of course, sometimes value isn’t as tangible or objective as a return that is equal to or greater than what you are putting into your project —if you want to improve your home for reasons beyond the bottom line value of the real estate, then that’s certainly a value worth considering in your equation. To get a rough idea of cost vs. value for many popular home improvement projects, check out this cost vs value calculator from Remodeling Magazine.

Timeline for home improvement projects

Creating a timeline

Estimating a timeline

It shouldn’t be too difficult to put together an estimated timeline for a given home improvement project. With a little research, you should be able to figure out how long a particular project could take. From there, it’s a matter of determining your start date and adding a little leeway for unexpected setbacks and delays. Be realistic about the start date—you can’t force materials to arrive early or rush a contractor with a loaded schedule.

Checking for complications

Once you have a rough timeline in mind, make sure there’s nothing in the time period likely to compromise your plans: holidays, periods of intense weather, vacations taking you out of town. You might be able to schedule around these sorts of events, but it’s important that you think about them in advance instead of being blindsided.

Hiring (and screening) professionals

Hiring professionals for home improvement

Determining who you need

There are two ways to hire professionals to handle a home improvement project: hire a general contractor to figure out the details or figure out the details of who you’ll need then hire subcontractors separately to complete each specific task. The latter may be beneficial and give you more control, but could also be more complicated. Know that if you opt out of hiring a general contractor, you would essentially be filling that role, which can require more of your time.

Types of professionals

Contractor - A contractor is in charge of the construction and may also be the person who seeks out and hires subcontractors for specific jobs, like electrical work or plumbing, carpentry like built-in cabinets, or finishing work like painting.

Architect - If you are changing the layout of your home or moving  or removing walls, consulting an architect may be a good idea. An architect can develop plans that ensure your remodel is structurally sound. If you hire a home improvement firm, they may already have an architect on staff to plan the project before any work is done.

Interior designer - Working with an interior designer can help you determine what you’ll need for your remodel to look polished and complete. An interior designer's job is to ensure that your space is laid out in a way that maximizes your space. Many times, architects and interior designers work together to solve space problems and ensure that your home flows smoothly

Assessing contractors and laborers

We could write an entire article on choosing the right professionals for the job, but to boil it down you’ll want to assess:

  • Professionalism. Appointments should be kept, communication reliable and consistent.
  • Warranties and guarantees. Contractors that don’t stand behind their work may not be worth hiring.
  • References. Honest contractors can offer appropriate references. Ask for references that are similar to the project you are considering.


Do you have any home renovation tips to share or ideas for making home improvement projects go smoothly? Feel free to share in the comments! You can also find out more about home improvement projects by visiting our project page at

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