The National Assn. of the Remodeling Industry suggests following this 10-step program when considering any remodeling project.
Step 1: Assess your current situation. Do you have the funds, time and patience to remodel your home? Does it make sense to remodel or simply move into a larger home?
The American Homeowner Foundation suggests that if you like your present neighborhood, you should look into what improvements you could make for 8% to 10% of your home's value before you seriously consider moving as an alternative to remodeling.
Step 2: Decide how long you intend to stay in your present home. Are you remodeling so you can sell faster or get a higher sales price? Or are you remodeling to create a more comfortable environment for a long-term situation?
The answers to those questions will determine how much money you should spend and the scope of the remodeling project you should undertake.
Step 3: Start defining the areas of the home you want to change. You should have some idea of what the remodeling project will entail before you call a contractor. Cut pictures out of magazines. Make a list of rooms that need to be altered and the reasons for those changes. This information will help speed the design phase of your remodel.
Step 4: Clear plenty of time on your calendar for the project. Do not attempt to remodel your entire kitchen the month before Thanksgiving--it's unrealistic.
You should establish a realistic timetable with your contractor that allows for delays due to weather, supply shortages or other glitches that may occur.
Step 5: Find a reputable contractor. The only way to protect yourself during a remodeling project is to hire a professional contractor. Make sure that you choose a contractor who is insured, licensed (if required in your state) and a member of a professional trade association.
Step 6: Create a budget. Decide how much you can realistically afford for the project before you start. If you are remodeling to sell, your budget should not exceed the increase in sales price of the home that is the result of remodeling.
If you plan on staying in the home for a long time, you should spend a little more to get what you want.
Step 7: Request a comprehensive proposal from your contractor. The proposal should tell you how much the project is going to cost and what types of products will be used. If the proposal comes in above your budget limit, talk to your contractor about other options. Sometimes you can accomplish the same look with other products or design techniques.
Step 8: Get a complete, written contract before the work begins. The contract should cover the description of the project, timetable, payment schedule, types of products, etc., with provisions for the responsibilities of the contractor, subcontractors, change-order procedures, warranties and alternative dispute settlement.
Step 9: Be wary of any contractor who wants a large amount of money upfront. The law says that a contractor cannot charge more than $1,000 up front, or 10% of the total cost of the job, whichever is less. Typical contracts call for partial payments at significant stages in the project.
Step 10: Take a deep breath and keep your perspective. Remodeling can be noisy, time-consuming and disruptive to the normal home environment. It's important to keep your sense of humor and stay focused on the end result, not the process that takes you there.
For more advice, call (800) 440-6274 for a free copy of NARI's the Master Plan for Professional Home Remodeling magazine.
The magazine is filled with tips on how to protect yourself and your home during a remodeling project. It includes everything from questions to ask during a contractor interview to legal pitfalls to avoid before signing a contract.
Callers also can receive a list of NARI contractors in their area.