Home Remodeling Checklist

Home Remodeling Checklist:

1.  Determine what you would like to accomplish from remodeling your home.  (new kitchen, adding square footage to your home, adding a mother in law suite, etc).  Talk to your local homeowners association and let them know your plans to make sure you are allowed to do what you are planning.  Next, contact your local city government and find out if there are any issues with your plans for your home renovations.  Building setbacks, zoning ordinances and easement locations should be discussed with the city.

2.  Establish preliminary budget for your home renovation.  If you are adding a room to your existing home, you can use $200 per square foot and multiply times the amount of square footage you are adding.  To figure square footage, multiply length time width of the new room.  Example: 12′-x12′ room = 144 square feet.  144 x $200 = $28,800.  That is your ballpark estimate for your new room addition.  Kitchens can range from $15,000 to $35,000 depending on the complexity of your kitchen remodel.  Bathrooms can range from $5,000 to $15,000 depending of the complexity of the bathroom remodel.

3.  Contact your financial institution to find out if you qualify for the amount you came up with in Step 2.  Let the financing institution know that you are in the beginning stages of planning for  a home remodel and want to know if you qualify for the estimated amount.  Finding out your financing options beforehand can save you a lot of wasted time and wishful thinking.

4.  Begin contacting local home remodeling contractors in your area.  Meet with a contractor to go over design options, material options and construction budget.  Get at least 3 competitive bids.  Do you own research on the companies you are considering to hire.  Make sure they are licensed with your local city government, have current insurance, are members of the Better Business Bureau and can provide references of previous clients.

4.  After a design is chosen and materials are selected, you are ready to have the contractors bid the project based on the materials and design you have chosen.  Get at least 3 competitive bids.  Most people get “sticker shock” when they get the construction estimate.  You have a few options:  you can choose to cut back on the square footage you originally wanted or choose some more affordable materials to build your new room addition.

5.  Finance your new home renovation.

6.  After you have been approved for the loan and the loan has funded, you are ready to enter into a contract with the contractor you have chosen.

7.  Apply for building permits.  The local city government will ensure that all requirements have been met in order to issue the proper permits for the job.

7.  Begin construction.  Depending on the complexity of the design and material you have chosen, a home remodel can take anywhere from 4-12 weeks.  Periodic inspections by building inspectors should be expected.  This is to make sure that all construction work is being done to current code requirements.

7.  PUNCH list is a final ‘to do’ list that provides the contractor with an organized method of finishing all the remaining details — and is part of the final payment process. The punch list should be short: one page, 12 – 20 items. The final payment may include a HOLDOUTS of as much as 10% of the contract, withheld by the owner until all items on the punch list have been completed.

8.  Project Completion.  Make sure that all inspections have been passed by your local city government.  A C of O (certificate of occupancy) or a LOC (letter of completion) should be issued by the city.

1.   Renovate or Buy New?
The decision to renovate or buy is based on a number of factors, including type of renovation, cost, neighborhood analysis, market valuation and other issues. See our Article on Home Value for more.

2. What Kind of Home Remodeling Project
Get Some great ideas on what kind of remodeling you are going to complete.
3. Design Your Remodeling Plan
Put your ideas to plan. This may require the help of an architect or you could browse house plans for more ideas.
4. Remodeling Specification Plan
Get all the specifications on your home remodeling down to ensure that every aspect of your project is met to your satisfaction
5. Find Contractor
Take your time when finding the right contractor. A bad contractor will only cost you additional money and more than likely take longer to complete your work due to bad planning.
6. Arrange Financing
Find a financial institution to finance your project. You can also read our article on Financing your home improvements.
7. Start the Project
Get the project started.
8. Inspect Your Project
Once the project has been completed, be sure to check that you are happy with the quality of the work which has been completed BEFORE paying your contractor. It will prove very difficult to get him back onsite to redo or repair any bad work once you have paid him.
9. Decorate Your Project
Decorate your newly completed home renovation project, and enjoy it!


The WISH list is one way to clarify and review the REASONS for doing the project. Identify items your remodel must include, amenities that would be nice if possible, changes or situations you will not allow, and any remaining questions. Keeping a NOTEBOOK will help you to organize your thoughts — clippings, color samples, reference phone numbers, photos, and a record of the project.

Start a project budget EARLY and review this budget at every step of the process. Before making planning or construction decisions, review the budgetary impact. You may not be able to control all of the cost changes, but you can strive to keep the project within a set RANGE.

Your timetable must include a realistic COMPLETION date, considering time for the design phase, permitting, and the construction phase. Many projects can and need to be phased into several STAGES of construction. A common reason for phasing a project is the lack of funds to complete the entire project at one time.

An independent assessment of the proposed project by a home inspector, contractor, real estate professional, loan officer, designer, or architect will help you decide if the project makes SENSE. This assessment should be made by a party not INVOLVED in any other aspect of the construction.

Hiring a licensed architect or a designer involves careful RESEARCH. Verify their license, reputation, references, previous work experience, and compatibility — with your personality, visual preferences and your approach to problem solving. Ask about fee structures and options, discuss project budgets, skills, and track record of managing the permit process and the design and construction budget.

The preliminary design and schematics are basic drawings without a lot of construction detail. These plans will help you VISUALIZE how the project might look and may identify some of the early problems.

You are now ready for the construction drawings and specifications that show the design, dimensions, sizes, structures, locations, shapes and some of the material selections — DETAILS. Drawings must be clear and complete, and the best drawings are those that conform to well established architectural STANDARDS.

The building permits must be obtained by the OWNER. The designer, architect, contractor or permit specialist can apply on the owner’s behalf. Projects in some jurisdiction can receive a permit in a few days, others require weeks or months of waiting and review. Contact the local building department early in the project for specific conditions, requirements and permit timetables.

Most states require contractors to be LICENSED and bonded, and in many states current records about contractor are on line. Checking references (especially recent ones), financial stability, previous and current work and reputation in the community are necessary steps in the pre-qualifications process. Accepting 1-3 bids from pre-qualified contractors should be enough. You should expect to find a price range not to exceed 20 percent between the lowest and highest bidder. If you are UNSURE of the contractor’s qualifications and reputation, or think that the bid price is too low, then don’t go any further.

Be sure to read and understand the construction contract, bid document, plans, and specifications. Take your time, ask questions, get everything in writing. This is also the time to make any final CHANGES.

Depending upon the specific conditions of a project, numerous insurance policies may or may not provide PROTECTION for loss and liability. Whose policy covers damage to stored material? Who pays if the existing part of the house is damaged during a remodel? Whose policy covers injury to uninvited visitors to the construction site? These and other types of insurance and liability QUESTIONS need to be reviewed by insurance and legal advisors prior to the signing of the contract.

Architects, designers, and even home inspectors may be employed to OVERSEE the construction process. This role can be written into the contracts and follow a scheduled and written process — or the owner may want to bring in an outside expert at critical points in the construction, or as the need arises.

Stay in contact with your CONTRACTOR during the construction process. Try to maintain a middle ground between attention to the work in progress and breathing down the contractor’s neck. Use pre-arranged work review meetings to discuss progress and expectations, any problems or special arrangements and to maintain open communication with your contractor. The general contractor is the construction MANAGER: the organizer, schedular, the supervisor of the crew and sub-contractors, the party responsible to carry out the construction contract. Any problems and concerns about the project must be communicated to the general contractor. The best communication is timely and in writing. PAYING the contractor on time is one of the most important jobs of the client during the construction process. Cash flow is a major concern to all contractors.

A good set of plans and specifications will keep change orders to a minimum. Using the ‘no surprise rule’ is essential:

* a FORMULA for any additional work must be included in the base contract — including hourly and markup rates for any unanticipated work

* any anticipated changes must be IDENTIFIED by all the parties as soon as they are discovered

* all change orders must be in WRITING and signed by the owner and the contractor before the work is done

Take time to review any change order and, if necessary, bring in an outside expert to determine the VALIDITY of the price and the necessity for the change order.

Nearing the end of the process, you will go through a few final phases:


* Most construction will require some CALLBACKS, involving repair of items which were overlooked or not properly installed during the final punch list process. If these are small items, you may be able to make a list over a period of several weeks and have the contractor take care of several items during one service call.

* If the contract contains a one year WARRANTY, then it is a good idea to notify the contractor of any important defects as they occur. A list of any minor defects should be collected for 11 months. After that date this list of these defects should be presented to the contractor with a request that the work be completed during the twelfth month.