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How to Start Planning Home Upgrades

Planning a home upgrade can feel overwhelming. From a simple add-on to a total renovation, the process is heavy in detail and requires dedication and patience. If you've never experienced home renovation, you may not know where to start. Here are a few simple steps that can help you organize your thoughts and plans and prepare for the road ahead.

Begin With a Plan

Whether you're thinking about the cost of a pool or the kind of wallpaper you want in the living room, building a detailed project plan will help you prioritize and get started. If your upgrade requires building construction, this step is particularly important because there are many hoops you may need to jump through just to get ready to build. For example, adding or converting a garage may need clearance from your HOA. You'll want to check your local zoning regulations and see what permits you might need. 

Your plan should include the most important steps. You'll need a list of everything you want to accomplish. Divide up the steps by what can be DIY and what will require professionals. Add the sketches or blueprints of the finished product so you can begin with a visual. 

Create a Timeline

Timelines are often changed in construction, but it's important to start with one. Give yourself a range. Having a hard date can certainly be done, but having a finish range can help avoid disappointment and allow for changes to the plan when necessary. 

Use the timeline to note what steps in the plan must be completed first and which can be worked on simultaneously. Use a calendar to display your timeline; it will create a clear and concise vision of what you want and expect. Be sure to include the time needed for shipping, delivery, holidays and cleaning. 

Set a Budget

Setting a budget can be a crucial part of the project. Whether you allow for deviation or set a hard line, it's important to decide from the beginning what you would like to spend. Set aside a small percentage to account for unexpected expenses so you're not surprised during the process. Price out all of your materials and request estimates from the respective vendors and professionals. Don't forget to include labor and permit costs and add a budget for aesthetics and decorative finishing touches at the end. Have this ready at least three months before starting, and if you find your estimates are coming in over budget, refer back to your original plan and see if you can make changes.

Search for Contractors

Hiring a contractor is inarguably the most important part of your process. Do the proper vetting and know exactly what you want and expect. Here are a few important things to do as you start interviewing:

•        ask for references and call them,

•        check proof of insurance and licensing,

•        make sure they offer a payment schedule

•        and look at years of experience.

A good contractor will have workers' compensation and liability insurance, and a bad contractor might as for full payment upfront. Keep in mind that years of experience and a strong reference denote a safer bet. You can find checklists online to help you hire a contractor successfully. Begin the interviewing process at least two to three months prior to the anticipated start date. 

Prepare for Setbacks

Prepare yourself for potential setbacks in the plan. Larger projects will almost guarantee a few issues along the way. It can start as early as a zoning or permit issue and as late as appliance delivery. If you plan to encounter problems along the way and prepare as much as possible, you take away the shock factor and can avoid over-stressing. If you follow the steps in this process, you'll already have money set aside in the budget to accommodate financial setbacks. 

When it comes to home upgrades and renovations, the most important thing to remember is to take care of yourself along the way as well. With a well-thought-out plan, you can alleviate a large amount of stress and worry. The key to a successful project is knowledge and patience.

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