Avoid Remodeling Mishaps with This Planning Checklist

Avoid Remodeling Mishaps with This Planning Checklist by Ray Flynn for Northern Lights Home Staging and Design.

Every home remodeling project starts with a vision of the perfect home. But dive into that dream without a plan and, before you know it, you’ll be knee-deep in debt with a half-finished remodel and a home that’s worth less than when you started.

If you want to avoid a home improvement disaster, you need to put as much effort into planning your remodel as you put into picking fixtures and finishes for your dream home. Before you grab the sledgehammer, complete this remodel planning checklist.

6 Steps to Plan Your Home Remodel

Determine Your Budget

The best time to set a budget for your remodel is before you start planning it. Otherwise, it’s too easy to be tempted by premium materials and overspend. Assess your household finances to determine how much cash you can commit to a remodeling project. If financing your remodel, use a loan calculator to see what you can afford based on your desired monthly payment and payoff date.

Prioritize Your Wishlist and Your Home’s Value

Now that you know what you can afford to spend, it’s time to take a hard look at that wishlist you’ve been dreaming up. Cross off any projects that exceed your budget or match it — you’ll want a 20% buffer to cover any unforeseen problems that crop up.

Budget isn’t the only consideration when deciding what to remodel. If you plan to sell someday, prioritize the renovations most likely to increase your home’s appraisal value. According to a guide from Redfin, the right interior upgrades like appliances and flooring are a safe bet. Curb appeal projects such as repainting the front door and adding flower boxes will also help. If you’re wondering whether your project will boost your home’s value, look through the guide to find out.

Avoid Over-Improving

Renovations can improve your home’s value, but only to a limit. If you overimprove your home — that is, push your home’s value beyond your neighborhood’s price range — you’ll have trouble recouping the costs when you sell. Aim to keep your home’s value at or close to the neighborhood average.

Check Zoning and HOA Rules

Depending on where you live, there are restrictions to what you can do with your home. Every city enforces building code requirements, of course, but you may also have to adhere to rules set by your city’s zoning ordinances or your HOA. These mostly apply to changes to the exterior or occupancy status of your home, like installing new siding or converting a garage into an accessory dwelling unit.

Know Which Permits You Need

In general, contractors will tell you when a building permit is required for a remodel, and many procure permits on the homeowner’s behalf. However, there are unscrupulous contractors out there who will skirt legal requirements to save money, so it’s always smart to research permit requirements yourself. Expect to need a building permit for any renovations that involve structural changes but not for strictly cosmetic projects.

Decide Where to Live During Construction

Depending on the extent of the project, it may be possible to live in your home during construction — but don’t expect it to be pleasant. To make living on-site bearable, seal off a construction-free zone with plastic sheeting and turn off your HVAC system to keep dust out. If you won’t have access to the kitchen, equip your living quarters with a microwave, hotplate, and cookware so you’re not stuck dining out for every meal. If living on-site isn’t possible or practical, look into an extended-stay hotel or vacation rental, or bunk up with friends and family.

With these planning steps complete, you’re ready to start interviewing contractors for your home remodel. You’ll be working with your contractors for a while, so choose a company with an outstanding reputation and an understanding of your vision. With a great plan and an even better team by your side, your home remodel will be a great experience.

Written by guest blogger Ray Flynn of the DiyGuys.net. When he’s not working as a civil engineer, Ray Flynn spends his time dreaming up new DIY projects that promote green living. He created his own website, where you can visit him at diyguys.net.


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President- Northern Lights Home Staging and Design Owner- Arctic Paradise Bed and Breakfast Artist- Stained Glass, Jewelry and Alcohol Ink Art Wildlife Biologist Director- Kaleido World Percussion and Dance Company Director- Tavus Dance Company of Alaska Lover of music, art, dance and animals.