Home renovations can be exciting, gratifying and even life changing. However, they can also be stressful and time consuming.

The best way to ensure that a project goes smoothly is to make a plan. This will help you stay on track, avoid scope creep and make a smoother project experience overall.

Make a Plan

The most crucial thing to do before starting any home renovation is make a plan. This can be as simple as sketching out your vision or using a design software like Edrawsoft to create a visual outline of your project. Getting your plans down on paper will help keep the scope of work under control and prevent overspending.

It’s also important to think strategically about your remodeling goals and prioritize what you want versus need in the renovation. Doing your research ahead of time will help you decide how extensively to renovate and which projects will have the best return on investment when you sell. You may be surprised to learn that not all upgrades will increase your resale value.

When it comes to your budget, it’s critical to be transparent with the team working on your project about what you can and cannot afford to spend. This will prevent a situation where you’re being talked into a costly project by a contractor that doesn’t align with your overall renovation plan.

If you are hiring an interior designer, narrowing down your design preferences ahead of time will help keep the project on track and your costs low. Doing some preliminary research in home decorating magazines, websites, and design shows will give you a handle on your design direction before meeting with a designer.

Another key aspect of planning is determining whether you’ll stay at home during the remodel or find temporary housing. Many families choose to stay in their homes during a renovation, but this can be a stressful and uncomfortable situation when faced with constant dust, noises, and disruptions. It might be a better option to find short-term accommodations with family or friends, especially if you have children in the house who are prone to curiosity and accidental damage during construction.

Break It Down

Breaking large projects down into manageable steps is one of the best ways to stay on track. For brand new projects, it may take a little experimentation to figure out exactly how to do this, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it makes the project feel much smaller and easier to accomplish. It also helps to reward yourself for finishing a task, says Zetlin—and this can be anything from playing a game for a few minutes to watching your favorite show. Knowing that a reward is waiting for you at the end of each step will help keep you motivated to finish on time.

Hire the Right People

Big renovations require a lot of work and time, so you need to find the right people for the job. Make sure you hire a professional who is licensed, insured and experienced in the type of renovation you are undertaking. They will know the best materials to use and be able to answer any questions you may have. Having a budget for the project will also help you avoid any costly mistakes down the line.

Before you meet with a designer, it is helpful to narrow down your design preferences through browsing magazines, websites and design shows. This will prevent you from being talked into the designer’s personal ideas, which could stray from your vision for the renovation. You should also request cost estimates from contractors, and make sure to leave a buffer in your budget for unexpected expenses. Moreover, make sure that the qualities needed in a painter is met.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s one of the most important things to remember for a successful reno. By packing up your possessions and moving them out of the renovation zone, you will protect them from damage, and you will allow the team to work more efficiently. You might even consider renting a storage unit if you have a large amount of belongings.

Don’t Overcomplicate Things

Home renovations can get complicated, and homeowners often make decisions they may later regret. From ignoring prep work to setting unrealistic budgets, there are plenty of mistakes people make that cause project delays and extra expense. But there are also some easy ways to prevent these issues.

Homeowners should try to avoid overcomplicating their projects as much as possible, says Croka. That includes trying to stay away from the house during invasive construction phases if possible. “Living in your own home during a renovation is a major disruption and can lead to mental health dips, as well as loss of privacy and space,” she explains. It’s also helpful for homeowners to talk with their designers and contractors (or have a family meeting if they’re renovating with a spouse or partner) on the front end of things to establish clear expectations.

One way to keep things simple is by making product selections early. “If a homeowner chooses a specific product before construction begins, it can save them time and money by not having to re-select once construction starts,” Wills says.

Also, be sure to hire a professional for any specialized or technical work — such as foundational or electrical work — instead of trying to tackle the task yourself. This can save you money, protect your safety and prevent costly mistakes that may require a professional to fix. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for references from previous clients to help you find a reputable contractor. “You want to be sure you’re working with someone who has a track record of quality work and client satisfaction,” Carson says. “Asking for testimonials can be a great way to gauge how happy other customers were with a remodeler’s work.”

Be Flexible

One of the most common issues homeowners report when doing a renovation is budgeting and financing. It’s difficult to know exactly what you will be dealing with until the project starts. Contractors can’t see through walls or underneath floors, so they won’t always be able to anticipate every electrical, plumbing or pest issue that will arise. A good rule of thumb is to set aside about 20% of your budget for contingencies.

It’s also a good idea to have some cash on hand in case of unforeseen expenses. That will help you avoid having to put your home improvement project on hold or take out a loan. Angi expert Mallory Micetich recommends saving in a dedicated savings account that you can access when you need it, rather than putting money into an emergency fund for this purpose.

Lastly, be prepared to compromise on some of your initial design goals. You may have to pick just a few bigger items that you can’t live without and then build them into your budget appropriately. This will allow you to still have the renovation work that you love, but in a way that is more realistic for your current financial situation.

Finally, be willing to pack up and move out for a bit if necessary. It’s much easier for your renovation team to do their work when they don’t have to deal with clutter and personal belongings. It’s also a great idea to get a storage unit for all your stuff so it stays safe and out of the way during the renovation. This will save you money on the cost of renting a storage space and it’s a much more stress-free solution than living with piles of boxes all over the place in your house.

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