Most homeowners do some type of remodeling. Remodeling projects also vary greatly from small (painting a room), and medium (updating the cabinets in your kitchen), to very large (like building a new room or finishing the basement).
Set your goals.
Why are you remodeling? Do you need more space or do you just want a newer kitchen? Are you hoping to increase the value of your home?
Most homeowners remodel because they want to enjoy living in the remodeled or expanded home and are not concerned about the impact on its resale value. However, if you're remodeling to increase the resale value of your home, be sure to look at the homes in your neighborhood. A remodeling project that is not consistent with other homes in the neighborhood may not increase the resale value of your home, although it may increase your own enjoyment in living there.
Talk to a real estate agent. They can help you determine which improvements could make your house easy to sell.
Decide who will do the work.
Some homeowners enjoy do-it-yourself projects, while others hire contractors. You could save a lot of money doing smaller projects yourself, but be sure you know exactly what the project involves before you decide.
Benefits of Doing It Yourself:
Budget: Can be less expensive than hiring a contractor.
Mid-remodeling changes: You may have more flexibility.
Personal enjoyment: Many homeowners find it satisfying to work on their own.
Security: Many contractors are new businesses, may not be well qualified and may be under-capitalized or under-insured. If there are problems with the project, you may have little or no legal recourse.
Benefits of Hiring a Contractor:
Size of the project: Big projects are sometimes too complicated for a do-it-yourselfer and require a specialist.
Plumbing, electrical, and carpentry work: Can include substantial tasks and may require a contractor.
Building to code: Contractors are professionals who understand local codes. You don't want to jeopardize your safety or the safety of your home or get hit with a fine later for failing to follow local building codes.
Permits and inspections: Contractors often take care of the paperwork for you.
Time constraints: Improvements can sometimes take less time with contractors.
If you decide to hire a contractor, get references - and call them to ask what was done and whether they were happy with the work. Ask your friends and neighbors who did their work and whether or not they were happy with it. Your real estate agent and the Better Business Bureau are also good places to start your research.
Get at least three estimates from different contractors before deciding on one. Ask questions. Remember, you're hiring them for a job, so interview your contractor [PDF] and make sure the contract they prepare has everything you agreed to in writing.
Make a budget.
If you hire a contractor, he or she will work with you to develop the budget. If you're doing the project yourself, determine the materials you need and price them at several stores. Don't forget items like glue, nails, and screws. And add 10-20% for miscalculations or challenges during the project. Remember, a very detailed budget can reduce financial surprises as your project moves forward.
Keep a punch list.
Keep a "punch list" during the remodeling project. A punch list is a list of items that still need to be addressed before the project can be considered completed. As the project is nearing completion, schedule a walk-through with your contractor and go over the items on the list. Do not make the final payment or sign off on the project until all the items on the punch list are completed to your satisfaction.