While scouring do-it-yourself blogs, Pinterest, and HGTV shows may have given you a plethora of exciting ideas to tackle once the weather warms up, you have some less fun details to sort through before you’re ready to bring out the sledgehammer or paint cans.
The key to a successful home improvement project is proper planning, from the color you’d like the walls to be to the total budget for each project, the right time frame and whether you’ll need professional help.
Determine your budget
Whether you have a lot or a little money to make improvements, you need to figure out the amount to be able to allocate it accordingly.
If you’re looking to make major renovations on your house with more money than you may have on hand, you have the option of applying for a home equity loan or home equity line of credit. And while HELOCs now face more restrictions as to whether the interest rate is deductible on your taxes due to the passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017, when the money is used for home improvement purposes you still have the benefit of being able to deduct that interest (for up to $750,000 of debt, including your home mortgage) each year. You can also explore other options to fund your home improvement with a reverse mortgage, contractor financing or FHA Title 1 loan, among others.
Get a realistic scope of the project
With your budget in mind, figure out what you want to see completed. Are you going to demo your 1960s kitchen and open it up to your living room? Or are you simply looking to give it a fresh look with newly painted cabinets and cabinet pulls?
Keep a careful eye on how your budget will fare with each task you hope to complete – staying mindful of the cost of materials, equipment, and labor (if you’re not determined to DIY). The bigger the project, the more likely the equipment and labor required will change as well.
Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, says landscape and outdoor living projects will likely require you to introduce more equipment and involved labor. “Machines are critically important if you want to move heavy stuff. A bag of mulch could be 10 pounds, no problem. Well, if you’re moving 50 of them – big problem,” he says.
Once you’ve determined what renovations your budget will allow for, you can go back to those pinned photos of rooms and favorited furnishings. Of course, now you’ll want to keep a close eye on cost and how the materials you opt for affect your budget and the rest of your remodel.
You may have had your eye on granite countertops in your kitchen and bathrooms for the last couple of years, but engineered quartz is not only rising in popularity – it’s also more budget-friendly.
Plus, it’s easier to make engineered quartz work, says Nino Sitchinava, principal economist for home design website Houzz. “You can find it in all shapes and sizes. … It’s just a very easy material to work with, relative to natural stone,” she adds.
Fortunately for the sake of research and your budget, online shopping for materials is becoming more common and accessible. Market information company NPD Group reports the online sales of home improvement products grew 34 percent last year, totaling nearly $20 billion. Products that accompany easy do-it-yourself projects have grown in particular, according to the NPD Group information, including hardware, lighting, storage, air filters, and blinds.
Figure out what you can DIY
Unless you’re an actual contractor, you may expect some projects to be more DIY-friendly than they are in reality. “It’s based on volume and how much you can physically do,” Kiser says.
As you plan out your project, take the time to delve deep into the tasks you want to take on yourself and see if you have the skills required, how long they’ll take and if the time is worth your effort.
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, I can tackle that.’ And then they get into it, and they can’t. It’s suddenly a little more complicated,” Kiser says. While painting, changing cabinet pulls and planting bushes are very DIY-friendly, most electrical work and plumbing should be done by licensed professionals, and a task like installing a complicated tile backsplash will likely look neater with a pro’s experience behind it.
Whether only part of your renovation requires a skilled helping hand or you’d prefer that a pro take on the entire project, call professionals well in advance to get a timeline, description of the work required and quote for the cost. Remodeling projects are popular in spring and summer as well, and calling before the weather warms up will help you reduce the change of missing out on a good contractor that’s booked up for the season.
To avoid being disappointed in your project, it’s always important to follow up on references and interview more than one company. Avoid lowball cost estimates, and seek a project manager that can understand your vision for the space and offer recommendations to capture it best.
Consider alternative options
If your budget or skill set doesn’t match up with what you have in mind for your home renovation, don’t be afraid to change the plan – it’s just best to do so in advance.
Kiser recommends seeking guidance from a contractor you’re interviewing. While labor and equipment costs may make your dream outdoor gourmet kitchen unreachable, a landscape contractor could recommend changes to the location to make the gas and electric hookups less expensive, bringing you back inside your budget.
It’s also important to keep a realistic eye on the space you’re working with – an $80,000 kitchen renovation in a bungalow valued at $150,000 doesn’t make sense. If you’re planning to sell your home in the next couple years, keep your return on investment in mind. Outdoor projects that boost curb appeal are always considered good for ROI, as are kitchen cabinet updates and hardwood floors. But installing an in-ground pool, complete kitchen overhaul or putting an addition on your home likely will not add as much value to your house as you put into the project. You should also delve into trending renovations in your area, which is where you’ll likely see what’s the most valuable investment for your home.
“In bigger kitchens, we’re seeing more cooktops and wall ovens. In smaller kitchens we’re seeing more ranges,” Sitchinava says.
Source: US News & World Report