Home Renovation Checklist

Don't let a hammer anywhere near your house without following these steps.

Illustration of different kinds of paint


  • Make a wish list.

    In one column, put your wants. In the other, your needs. That way, when faced with tough choices down the line, you'll have a clearer picture of your priorities—what has to happen now and what can wait. (A second bathroom upstairs might be a must; a stainless steel Viking range, maybe not so much.)

  • Determine your budget.

    Before you meet with a contractor or an architect, you'll need a ballpark estimate—then both of you will be able to talk honestly about what's possible. (P.S.: It's a good idea to build some padding—at least 10 percent is recommended—into your number, for all those unexpected uh-ohs and might-as-wells that will crop up.)

  • Consult the calendar.

    What is your timeline for the renovation? If you want the living room done for, say, Jenna's graduation party, don't wait until spring to start talking about it. Likewise, you won't want to install a new roof when a New England winter is looming—or schedule any major demolition a month before you host a family reunion.


  • Begin looking for a contractor.

    This isn't the time to crack the Yellow Pages. Ask everyone you know in the area about their experiences, good and bad. You should also consult the websites for the National Association of Remodelers (nari.org) or the National Association of Home Builders (nahb.org); the professionals belonging to these organizations are bound by strict codes of ethics and business practices.

  • Start interviewing contractors.


  • Examine the fine print of the contract.
  • Finalize household arrangements.

    Now that you know when the work will begin, make any additional plans, such as reserving storage space for furnishings or booking a hotel room for the day when the water will be turned off.

  • If possible, carve out an oasis for yourself.

    Select a room that will remain relatively untouched by the chaos and equip it with whatever you might need to keep yourself sane for the duration. (A DVD player, electric teakettle, yoga mat, earplugs, etc.)

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