Home improvement is a never-ending process that can be very rewarding and expensive. Before you begin any project it’s recommended that you make a list of all the improvements you’d like to make, both indoors and out. Then prioritize the list based upon importance, cost, and estimated time to complete.
The reason that you should take this approach is that once you begin one project you’ll find that it may lead to dozens of other projects you probably would’ve started first had you made a list, and not to mention those hidden unexpected repairs.
Once you open “Pandora’s Box” there’s no turning back.
If you don’t pre-plan and prioritize your home improvement projects, you may find yourself in a situation where you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.
For example, let’s say that you wanted to remodel your kitchen, but didn’t properly research the cost involved and just started going on a demolition frenzy and ripping all the cabinets, countertops, sink, and faucet out. Then you get a rude awakening when you go to purchase replacements and find out that it’s going to cost you $30,000.
In that example, that whole disaster could’ve been avoided by slowing down enough to do some simple research. That research would’ve revealed that a kitchen remodel is one of the most expensive home improvement projects a homeowner could make.
Poor planning could easily turn your home into a bottomless money pit.
Since the level of difficulty when it comes to home improvement projects can range from Easy to Extremely Challenging, you must decide whether you can do it yourself (DIY) or hire a professional contractor.
Doing the project yourself can save you a lot of money in labor costs.
Keep in mind that home improvement can be like a complex puzzle with interlocking pieces that must fit together in the right order.
Like we mentioned earlier, planning is the key to home improvement success. So, it is absolutely necessary for you to be clear about your goals, and to develop a comprehensive plan for achieving them.
Planning allows you to work on and complete the projects that you can afford first, which will allow you to build momentum, enjoy the process, and be proud of the end results.
Here are a few preliminary questions that you can ask yourself to determine whether or not you should do the project or hire contractors:
Is a building permit needed?
Some of your home improvement projects may involve structural adjustments or elaborate re-workings of your home’s current electrical circuits and plumbing system.
Those jobs are perhaps among the most difficult and can be dangerous.
Making mistakes with your electrical and plumbing systems can be extremely costly.
Electricians and plumbers are not cheap.
Before you start any project, be certain to contact your city’s Community Development Department to get information on building regulations and requirements, because some projects require a building permit.
This building permit guarantees that your home improvement projects meet certain building codes for safety reasons, which means that only those who are qualified can perform the work.
Am I capable of doing this home improvement project myself?
Before you purchase a single screw to start a project, be honest and ask yourself whether or not you believe you can start and finish it.
This is not the time to be arrogant and overconfident, because no one is good at everything.
For example; let’s say that you want to add ceiling fans to multiple rooms in your home. First of all, you’ll need to know how to properly run electrical wiring, add wall switches, have the strength to lift and mount the fans. All of this without causing an electrical fire from improper wiring, preventing getting shocked, and without the fans falling down from the ceiling, which can possibly bodily injury.
Just by thinking each project through to figure out everything needed, will tell you whether or not you should do the project yourself or hire a contractor.
If you do decide to take on a project with which you’re not experienced, there are plenty of ways to educate yourself on the How To.
You could watch DIY videos on the Internet (Free and Paid), read DIY Books, attend in-store demonstrations at the big home improvement establishments, or even ask friends and family for help.
Do I have a list of the best contractors?
For your projects that require contractors, you should create a list of multiple contractors for each project.
For example; let’s say that you have a project in which you need an electrical contractor to install “Bucket Lights” in the ceiling of your loft. You’d simply put together a list of at least 5 highly rated electricians. Chances are you’re NOT going to use them all, but it’s good to have options, especially for scheduling conflicts.
Good contractors are extremely busy and you’ll typically have to be placed on some type of waiting list.
Who wants to wait when they’re ready to get their home improvement project completed?
Having a list of contractors can prevent you from putting your projects on hold because if one is not available, there’s a good chance that another contractor is.
When possible, always hire a contractor that specializes in the project you need to be completed, because you don’t want anyone experimenting on your dime.
Tips For Picking A Highly Rated Contractor:
- Search review sites for 4 & 5 star rated contractors
- Ask family, friends, & co-workers for recommendations
- Ask local home improvement stores for referrals
Keys to Proper Planning
We’ve already stressed the importance of planning your home improvement projects to avoid disaster.
For the remainder of this guide, we’re going to focus on a few of the keys to proper planning.
Set Your Project Priorities and Expectations
Professional contractors recommend that you break down each project into smaller pieces, and then prioritize them based upon importance.
After you’ve made your prioritized list of projects, you must choose the one that you can realistically complete.
You don’t want to put yourself in a position where you’ve demolished your kitchen (remember the example from earlier?), only to come to the realization that you can’t afford to replace what you ripped out.
Another trap that people fall into is wanting their projects to be completed fast using the highest quality materials for cheap.
When it comes to home improvement, fast, high quality, and cheap don’t belong in the same sentence. Unless you’ve got some serious connections with contractors and material suppliers.
We’re pretty sure you’ve heard this saying, “You Get What You Pay For.”
If you want your home improvement projects completed fast using the finest materials, you’re going to pay a pretty penny to a highly rated contractor.
The only way that you can pull this off is if you’re skilled in the project or know someone who’s willing to do the work for cheap.
Otherwise, either does the work yourself and take a little longer to ensure the project is completed correctly or hire a contractor.
This is why setting your priorities and expectations is a MUST!
Estimate the Overhead Cost
Before starting any project you must determine the total cost to complete it. We recommend that you add additional funds to cover any unexpected surprises that may show up while you’re working on the project.
Establishing a budget not only allows you to accurately anticipate costs but can prevent you from stopping progress halfway through your project due to a lack of funds.
If this happens, you’ll totally throw off your estimated time of completion.
Not to mention, having to live in a home with part of it non-useable, and a potential safety hazard, especially if you have kids and pets.
Estimating the cost of a project is all part of the planning process.
Tips For Estimating Project Cost:
- Get estimates from home improvement stores
- Get estimates from contractors
- Get at least 3 bids from contractors to compare
Knowing the estimated cost will also help you determine if you want to do all of the work yourself, only a portion of it, or hire contractors to handle it all.
Another benefit of getting estimates will give you a clear picture of how much work is actually involved to complete your projects.
This is where having your list of contractors can come in handy. Your list will save you so much time in the planning process and prevent those scheduling conflicts.
Get Help For Specialized Projects
Skills needed to complete projects can be learned. However, the level of difficulty will determine how long each one takes to master.
There are some projects that we recommend you hire professional contractors for such as extensive electrical and plumbing work.
Making a mistake with your electrical and plumbing systems could spell disasters such as fire and water damage.
Getting contractors to repair the damage may cost you thousands of dollars. Once those repairs are made just to get your property back to normal, you’ll then have to hire the contractors that you should’ve in the first place to complete the specialized work (e.g. electrical and plumbing).
There’s nothing wrong with being a do-it-yourselfer, but you must be realistic about what projects you can handle on your own and the ones that call for specialists.
The big takeaway is to hire contractors such as electricians, plumbers, flooring experts, construction, and any other qualified professional needed to take care of specialized projects.
Gather the Necessary Tools and Resources
Before you start any project, be certain that you have gathered all of the tools and resources you’ll need to complete it.
This is where smart planning pays off big time, which we’ve mentioned several times already.
One of the best ways to make sure you don’t forget any resources is to create a spreadsheet using an APP (e.g. MS Excel or Apple Pages) on your computer or mobile device in which you list everything you need for your projects.
If you’re old school, you can simply use pencil and paper to manage your projects.
However, using a Spreadsheet Program allows you to easily manipulate the data versus using pencil and paper.
By knowing what materials you need can help you plan more efficiently.
For example; let’s say that you are replacing your driveway with pavers, and you purchased all of the materials. Then when it can time to remove the concrete, you realized that you didn’t rent a Jack Hammer. Now you have to stop the progress of the project to locate a jackhammer at an equipment rental shop, which may not be available. In this situation, what if all of the jackhammers have been rented out to others long-term? You’ll have to indefinitely postpone your driveway project.
Pre-planning would prevent a situation like that example from happening, which is why we continue to stress its importance.
Another fact that you may want to consider is depending upon what project you’re working on and the materials needed, you may have to wait several weeks for them to arrive after placing your order.
For example; let’s say that you plan to replace the cabinets in your kitchen, we recommend that you pick out and purchase them first. Before you remove your current cabinets, confirm when your new cabinets will be available for pickup or delivery. The last thing that you want to do is begin demolishing your kitchen and then finding out that your cabinets have been placed on backorder for several weeks. Once again, proper planning would’ve prevented this progress-stopping scenario.
So what’s the moral of the story?
Plan and gather all of the tools and resources you’ll need to complete each project!
Create A Project Timeline
Another key component to the planning process is creating a Project Timeline, which is where you establish a Start and an End Date.
Your timeline is just a rough estimate because home improvement projects usually never get done in the time frame that people establish at the beginning because things usually go wrong.
For example; let’s say that you’re changing your living room floors from tile to hardwood. Then you get a call from the installer informing you that they made a mistake in the scheduling and have to move your installation appointment to a later date. That one change can push your End Date out by weeks, especially if you have several projects lined up or working on several projects simultaneously.
When one project comes to a grinding halt, it has a Domino Effect on the others.
Your project timeline must be flexible in order to accommodate changes that may be out of your control.
Set Up Your Systems
In the weeks leading up to your home improvement project, especially one that’s complex in nature, which may require coordinating several contractors, it’s a must that you have your planning dialed in.
Using our kitchen remodeling example; be certain that you contact all of the contractors that will be involved so that you can coordinate everyone’s schedules including your own. If possible, you can even hold a meeting to get everyone together in the same room.
Another benefit to having all of the contractors meet at your home will allow them to see the projects you want to be completed so that they could collaborate with each other and also provide feedback.
Contractors must coordinate in order to avoid getting into each other’s way.
Coordination is necessary because a home improvement project requires specific sequencing of the work that must get completed.
The good news is that some contractors will handle all of the coordination for you and would only require your approval of certain aspects of the project to continue work on it.
If you’re going the DIY route, then you really need to rely heavily on your Project Plan to minimize disruptions, delays, and costly mistakes.
As a Do-It-Yourselfer, you’ll be responsible for coordinating your own projects…
For example, before you demolish anything, you better make certain that you’ll have a rented dumpster available to toss everything into.
And that’s just for starters.
Shortcut Your Remodeling Ideas
No matter what home improvements you plan to make, never operate in a bubble by just winging it.
Why start your designs from scratch when you can simply model those that already exist? There’s no reason to make your projects harder than they need to be or take longer than they have to.
The most successful people model what others do because they understand that it makes no sense to reinvent the wheel.
You don’t have to completely copy someone’s design, but you can draw inspiration from it.
For example, let’s say that you were watching a home improvement show on TV, and you really liked one of the finished basements in that episode. You could get ideas for remodeling your own basement.
Places To Get Home Improvement Ideas:
- Home Improvement TV Shows
- Home Improvement Magazines (physical and digital versions)
- Home Improvement Stores
- Home Improvement Exhibits and Expos
- Family, Friends, and Co-Workers
As you can see, there’s no shortage of where you can get ideas from.
Starting a home improvement project from scratch is like a writer looking at a blank piece of paper or computer screen. Most writers use techniques to get inspiration to use as a starting point instead of starting from scratch.
Why not do the same with your home improvement projects?
Let’s go ahead and wrap this up…
You’ve learned some very simple, but powerful fundamentals in the Beginners Guide To Home Improvement Planning.
Completed projects can bring you an overwhelming amount of joy and satisfaction, but without the proper planning can quickly turn into a nightmare.
Since home improvement is a never-ending process especially if you’re working on your forever home, you better make sure you do everything within your power so that you don’t end up with a Bottomless Money Pit, which is usually the result of poor planning.
No matter how enthusiastic you are about improving your home, do not rush the process.
Take your time by making a list of all the improvements you’d like to make, both indoors and out. Then prioritize the list based upon importance, cost, and estimated time to complete.
Decide whether you’re going to do all of the work yourself, only a portion of it, or hire contractors to handle it all.
If you follow that simple road map, you’ll most likely enjoy the process and get the beautiful end results that you expect and deserve.
Good luck with your next home improvement project!