You want to transform your space into your dream home but don’t know how to begin. Our step-by-step home renovation checklist explains the process and all the pieces you’ll need to consider when renovating. With the DFW housing market booming and showing no signs of slowing down, home renovations have become popular for those wanting to improve their existing homes.
It becomes overwhelming when you get into the details, no matter how small your project is. It can be stressful and time-consuming, with seemingly endless costs and decisions to make. Even when you hire a professional contractor, a solid step-by-step home renovation checklist will help you stay organized and on budget and keep you informed about the progress, upcoming steps, and what to expect as your project moves forward. It also ensures that nothing is overlooked during the process.
Before you pick up the tool, use these tips to develop a detailed, step-by-step home renovation checklist and make informed decisions along the way.
1. Identify and Set Your Goals
The first step in any home renovation project is identifying your goals. You should know what you wish to achieve with the project and why.
- Are you renovating for purely aesthetic purposes?
- Do you need more space or an updated layout (for functionality)?
- Are you looking to increase your home’s value for a future resale?
- Or a combination of all three?
List down your motives for renovating, with the problems you would like to solve and the desired outcomes. It will guide your decision and keep you focused on what’s important. If you’re renovating to stay in your current home, the changes you make now should still service your needs a few years down the road, particularly if you have a growing family.
If you are renovating for profit, there are areas to focus on that provide a higher return on investment (ROI). So, for this one, you will need some research. Reach out to a local real estate dealer and find out what sort of homes are sought after in your locality and what features they are looking for that could stand as selling points.
You are limited to certain options when restoring an old property to preserve its original features. Make a note of these limitations as you set your goals. Remember that old homes often hide major structural defects. In that case, set aside a significant portion of your budget to address any surprises that may arise.
2. Create a Detailed Home Renovation Plan
You have to identify what you wish to achieve, but how do you get there? A detailed plan will help you stay on track, even when unexpected issues arise. The plan outlines the following:
Work that needs to be done:
Gather design ideas and inspiration for how you envision your space to look. Decide which elements are essential and what you can compromise on (more on that later). Consider hiring a professional designer or architect to help with the planning process.
Allocate a specific budget to each phase of the renovation, including contingency funds for unexpected expenses, materials, labor permits, or any other miscellaneous fees. Research the costs of materials and labor in your area and get multiple quotes from contractors to compare.
Set realistic expectations and deadlines for each phase of the renovation. A timeline helps you manage your expectations and avoid delays. For example, if you are renovating a kitchen and need to order materials, take into account any delivery times for those materials when creating your timeline.
“There’s no other way to make sure it’s the right path forward other than by doing as much planning as possible, putting as much thought into it as possible, and talking to several experts to get the appropriate amount of feedback and information to make the best decision for yourself, in hopes you’re moving toward the right path” Jon Grauman, Principal | Grauman Rosenfeld Group.
3. Establishing a Budget
The cost is usually many people’s primary concern when planning home renovations. Unless you have an unlimited budget, you need to keep an eye on prices and stay within your means. It’s easy to get carried away by the excitement of creating your dream home, but you must be realistic and practical about what you can afford. Consider the following when establishing a budget:
- The scale of the project and the extent of renovations needed
- Cost of materials and labor in your area
- Any hidden or unexpected costs that may arise, such as structural issues
- Concession of luxuries and prioritizing necessary updates over aesthetic ones
By setting a budget, you can prioritize the most critical aspects of your renovation and make informed decisions when it comes to spending. A detailed breakdown of costs will also help you track expenses and avoid overspending.
That said, it is important to remember that construction inevitably comes with unexpected costs (slippage) and challenges. For example, renovating an old home may uncover structural issues that were not initially visible, or remodeling a bathroom might reveal some plumbing problems. Having a contingency fund within your budget can help cover these unexpected expenses.
Your budget should include an extra 10-30% of the actual quote you receive from contractors. If the project goes as planned, great. If you need the funds by any chance, you won’t have to scramble or take out a loan or end up with an unfinished home. And if you do not use the extra cash, then it’s a welcome bonus for your savings!
4. Select the Right Materials for Your Project
Materials are usually the most expensive part, taking up about 40-50% of the entire budget. You may have grand ideas, but your budget will determine what is and isn’t possible. You can save money by prioritizing essential materials and compromising on some aesthetic ones, especially if you’re renovating to sell. However, make sure to choose quality materials that will not only improve the appearance of your home but also last long, reducing the need for future repairs or replacements.
When choosing materials, consider their durability, maintenance requirements, and how they fit into your home’s overall design and aesthetic. Research the cost of materials in your area and get quotes from multiple suppliers to ensure you get the best deal.
Lastly, feel free to ask for recommendations from your contractor or designer on materials that meet both your budget and design needs. They have experience working with different materials and can advise on which ones work best for your specific project. Remember, it’s important to strike a balance between cost and quality when it comes to choosing materials for your home renovation.
5. Prioritize and Compromise on Design Elements
You have a budget to stick to and also want to create your dream home. So, how do you find the middle ground? Prioritizing and compromising on design elements is essential in achieving your renovation goals within your budget.
Make a list of “must have” items (non-negotiable design elements) and “nice to have” items (design elements that you’re willing to give up if time and budget don’t allow). It’s important to acknowledge that, at times, to accommodate a “must-have,” you may need to sacrifice a “nice-to-have. That requires open communication with your designer or contractor to determine what is feasible and where you can make adjustments.
Remember, compromising does not mean sacrificing quality. You can still achieve a beautiful and functional space by making smart decisions on design elements. Choose according to which are essential to you while being practical about the ones you can compromise on. The result will be a renovation project that meets both your budget and design vision.
6. Choose Which Projects You’ll Take On First
In addition to setting a realistic timeline, you also need to consider the renovation sequence. Certain tasks may need to be done before others, and as such, planning the order of projects is essential to avoid any delays or setbacks. Experts recommend tackling messy, large-scale projects such as demolition, structural work, and renovations to major systems (e.g., plumbing, electrical) first. This is followed by tasks that require precision and attention to detail, such as tiling or painting.
In some cases, it may be more cost-effective to combine certain projects. For example, if you plan to renovate your kitchen and bathroom, it may be more efficient to complete both projects at the same time as they require similar tradespeople (e.g., plumbers and electricians). Even when tackling multiple projects simultaneously, you should prioritize and plan accordingly to ensure the smooth execution of your renovation plans.
A sample timeline could look like this:
- Week 1-6: Demolition and structural work
- Week 7-8: Electrical, plumbing updates and HVAC
- Week 9: Installing new windows and doors
- Week 10- 11: Insulation and Drywall Installation
- Week 12: Painting
- Week 13-14: Flooring installation
- Week 15-16: Final touches and clean up
7. Enlist the Help of a Professional
Just because you have a step-by-step home renovation checklist, doesn’t mean you don’t need help. Having the right contractor for the project is crucial to the success of your renovation. Reputable contractors are experienced, highly transparent, stay on schedule, respect your home, are courteous of your time and budget, and deliver quality work.
Take the time to research and compare multiple contractors (minimum of three). Talk to previous clients and visit completed projects so you can have a better feel of their workmanship and how they operate. Seek a contractor who responds to your inquiries honestly and patiently, maintains timeliness and effective communication, and has a positive local reputation.
Building a good rapport is also beneficial. Chances are, you’ll face some challenges during the project, so having a good working relationship with your contractor will make problem-solving easier.
Once you have narrowed down your choices, request detailed quotes and contracts from each contractor. These should include all the necessary details, such as the scope of work, materials, timelines, and payment schedules. Carefully review each contract, and don’t hesitate to ask for clarification or negotiations on any terms that are unclear or not aligned with your budget or goals. To assess if a contractor is suitable for your renovation, consider asking these questions:
- How long have you been in business?
- What licensing, insurance, and certifications do you have?
- Do you have a portfolio of completed projects that I can see?
- What is your billing process? Do you offer a payment plan?
- How do you handle unforeseen issues or changes during the project?
- What warranties do you provide for your work and materials?
- Can you provide references from previous clients?
- What is your estimated timeline for my project, and how do you handle delays or setbacks?
- What is the payment schedule for the project, and what are your policies on changes to the scope of work?
Remember, your contractor is your partner in this project, so choose someone you can trust and who has your best interest in mind. For DIY projects, ensure you have the expertise and support you need to complete the project safely and effectively. It may be best to leave it to the professionals for more complex tasks and avoid any potential safety hazards or costly mistakes.
8. Permits and Approval
Depending on the scope of your project, you may need to apply for planning permission. In the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, your permit needs vary based on whether your project is a new construction, a remodel, or in the pre-development stage. The permit requirements typically include zoning, building codes, and inspection approvals. You will need to have application forms, construction drawings, reports, and other relevant documentation for all these permits. The city provides a comprehensive list of guidelines, policies, and requirements for reference.
Once you are familiar with all these commercial permits, you can proceed to submit an online application for the projects through the City of Dallas ePlan Portal. This portal allows you to initiate the request, save ongoing applications, complete the necessary documentation, upload paperwork and plans, check the status of existing projects, and make payments.
Once you’ve finished the online submission, City staff will conduct a preliminary review of your request, a process that may take anywhere from 7 to 10 business days. An incomplete or inaccurate submission can prolong the pre-screening and extend the review time for your project.
Navigating the permit process can be overwhelming, especially if you are unfamiliar with it. A contractor can guide you through this process and ensure all necessary permits are obtained.
9. Prepare Your Home for the Big Project Ahead
Before the renovation begins, preparing your home for the upcoming changes is essential. This includes packing away any fragile or valuable items and ensuring a clear path for workers to move around freely while carrying heavy equipment and materials.
It may also be necessary to set up temporary living arrangements if the renovation will impact your daily life significantly. That could mean staying with family or friends, booking a short-term rental, or even renting out a storage unit to store your belongings during the renovation. Often, homeowners choose to stay in a different part of the house or limit access to certain areas during construction.
Additionally, it is crucial to communicate with your neighbors about the upcoming renovation. Let them know about any potential noise, dust, and disruptions during the project. This will help maintain a good relationship with your neighbors and avoid any possible conflicts.
10. Optimizing Your Renovation Space
Consider the logistics of site access:
Determine how your construction team will reach the area they need to renovate. More importantly, assess how the large machinery and construction tools will be brought in and out of your property. Will you need to widen the doorway or remove a fence? Speak to your contractors about their plans.
Organize ongoing Clean-Up Strategies:
Don’t wait until the concrete is piling up on your driveway before you think about clean-up solutions. Consider renting a dumpster or a junk removal service if the project generates a significant amount of debris. Or, haul it away yourself to a local recycling or disposal facility. Communicate with your contractor on their clean-up strategy to avoid any unnecessary delays.
Set Clear Boundaries:
Renovations can be messy and disruptive, but setting clear boundaries with your contractor can help minimize the impact on your daily routine. Determine work hours and areas that can be accessed during those times to ensure a smooth and organized renovation process.
Safety should be a top priority if the project is taking place while you are still living in the house, especially if you have children or pets. Consider setting up barriers or warning signs to keep them away from the construction zone. It may also be necessary to take extra precautions, such as wearing protective gear or covering outlets and wires to prevent accidents.
It’s easy to get caught up in the big picture and forget the small details that can significantly impact your renovation project. Always be proactive and stay organized to ensure a smooth and successful renovation experience.
11. Final Inspections and Project Completion
Once the renovation is complete, your contractor will schedule a final inspection to ensure that all work has been done according to code and meets safety standards. This is an important step as it protects you from any potential liability issues in the future.
If any areas need to be addressed or corrected, your contractor should communicate this with you and make the necessary adjustments before obtaining the final approval.
Once the project has been signed off and all necessary inspections have been completed, you can finally enjoy your newly renovated space. Take the time to appreciate the hard work put into it and make any final touches to truly make it your own.
Embarking on a home renovation project can be exciting, but it also requires careful planning and organization to ensure its success. Our step-by-step home renovation checklist is a flexible guide. There may be more (or fewer) steps depending on the scope and scale of your project. However, by following these general guidelines, you can stay on track and avoid any major pitfalls along the way.
Remember, open communication with your contractor and staying proactive are essential keys to a successful renovation project. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or voice any concerns you may have during the process. It’s your home, and you deserve to have it renovated just the way you want it. Good luck with your project!
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