Home Improvement Construction: Planning Your Home Remodeling Project in Eleven Steps

If you've always purchased existing homes, you probably haven't worked with architects, designers, contractors, building crews, and homeowners architectural committees. Take courage existing homeowners! You hold the purse strings on your home improvement construction and finances. The planning process is the most important part of home renovations.

The Planning Phase of Home Improvement Construction

  1. Create a file of remodeling ideas from magazines, TV shows, software programs, product brochures, home tours, etc.
  2. With graph paper or architectural software, brainstorm with household members.
  3. Have a budget in mind: "What we can do for $25,000?"
  4. Measure rooms, furniture, windows, etc. Keep your drawings to scale.
  5. Allow for doors swinging open, chairs backing out, space around an open oven door, etc.
  6. Have each household member prioritize ideas. If bids are too high, you'll still get the top priorities. Add others in phase two!
  7. Decide whether you need an architect or simply an experienced remodeling contractor.
  8. Get personal referrals for three architects, designers, or contractors. Ask the Better Business Bureau and the Registrar of Contractors for complaints. Inspect each candidate's finished projects.
  9. Notice the promptness of phone calls and appointments, and note the ease of communication. This is crucial. Communicate thoroughly yourself (your rough plans will help immensely.)
  10. Show your prospective bidders your graphed drawing or printout, and written priorities labelled 1, 2, 3.
  11. Have bidders visit your construction site to scope the project and potential problems.
  12. Ask for a ballpark range of fees, or costs per square foot, based on your range of priorities. Mentally allow for changes when the job is under way.
  13. Many architectural software programs will print out a list of construction materials. Offer it.
  14. Make any plan changes that come up when you're interviewing the architects or remodeling companies.
  15. Get the approval of your homeowner's association if you want to implement exterior changes. Interior changes may not even require a building permit.
  16. Finalize your rough drawings or printouts.
  17. Narrow down your architect choices to two, and request bids.
  18. Get bids from three remodeling contractors. Be sure each bid clearly spells out all services and any special instructions.
  19. Agree on a start date, finish date, and penalties for not meeting those dates.
  20. Put on paper that ongoing failure to communicate, especially when crews or subcontractors can't show up, will be reason to cancel the contract. Never forget that you're in charge of the contract and the project, but respect your bidders' expertise.

The planning phase of your project is done. Now, look forward to that exciting day when the first workers and materials arrive!


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