Planning Your Project




Finding inspiration in design and styles of other homes gets you one step closer to envisioning what your dream home could look like.
Where can you find inspiration? Many homeowners research books, magazines or the Internet to get inspired. A good place to start is the Gallery of NARI member projects.

Visit the NARI Gallery for more project inspiration.

If you put in the time to research and build a list of what you like—with pictures— you will have a better sense of which professional can help you achieve your goals.

Reasons to remodel

  • You want to make your home more comfortable and attractive.

  • Your family is expanding, and you need more room.

  • Your home is outdated, and you want to make the style more current.

  • Your home is not functional for your lifestyle.

  • Your home is in need of repair.

Whatever the reason, think carefully about you dislike the most about your home, and what improvement to your home will help you overcome those challenges.

Think to the future

Envision your life 5, 10, 20 years from now. Think about:

  • Family dynamics and how they will expand or contract.

  • How you want to address changes to your family’s physical capabilities over time.

  • Your finances and how much you’re comfortable saving to pay for your remodel— and how that will change over time.

  • The impact of the remodel on the environment or your energy usage.

  • Natural disasters and how aspects of your remodel could reduce damage.

  • Your neighborhood and comparable property values.

  • Technology and the role it plays in your everyday life.

  • Needs versus wants; wants versus desires

  • Where to save costs and where extra costs will pay off over the long-term.



Cost of remodeling

One of the most important aspects to remodeling is knowing—and controlling—your budget. There are so many variables that go into determining the cost of a project. Here are a few things that will affect the cost of remodeling:

Size and scope of your project

Project cost will vary depending on your location, the size of the room, and what features or options you choose. However, square footage alone is not the indicator of cost; kitchens and bathrooms may be smaller but require appliances, plumbing and electrical features.

Structural changes

Changing the structure of your home typically will cost more because it requires additional design and engineering work. 

Product selections

Your choice in products will determine the cost of the project. There are many different levels of product quality as well as price ranges. Talk to your contractor about various options to meet your overall goal.

Age of the infrastructure

The age and condition of your home must be considered. Structural issues more than likely will have a great impact on cost.

Craftsmanship and quality

Like other areas of life, you get what you pay for—a high-quality craftsman and custom workmanship will cost more.


Visit the NARI’s project gallery for a better understanding of what you can get at various price points. 

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Types of remodeling professionals

There are many types of professionals who can help you accomplish your remodel. And, within those types come variations of specialties, experience, education, certifications, industry knowledge and quality of work.

As a result, finding the right professional can be the most challenging part of the remodeling process. Armed with information about types of professionals and their qualifications, you will be more confident about your hiring decision and more satisfied with the remodeling experience.

The General Contractor: Many home improvement projects do not require professional design services and can best be handled by the experienced remodeling contractor whose knowledge of materials and methods has been gained by years on the job. Again, be sure to deal with a professional. Even though the job may be relatively small, its successful completion is important to you. Small jobs also need careful planning and attention to detail. General contractors are also the right choice for your project if you have had your project designed by an architect or designer and you now need someone to manage the construction of those designs.

For design services, your options include:

The Architect: Major remodeling projects require construction drawings for the purposes of defining a contract and procuring permits. In cases where your professional remodeler does not provide design services, you may wish to seek the assistance of a professionally trained architect. It is best to work with an architect experienced in remodeling-he or she will be more sensitive to the special challenges that remodeling presents. Architects are licensed by the state and have formal education and experience. They have overall knowledge of design; however, many architects do not accept smaller projects.

The Designer: Another option to obtain those construction drawings is to hire a certified or licensed designer. Designers may have expertise in specific areas of the home such as kitchens, interiors, baths, space design, etc. They often specialize in particular types of projects and may be the best choice for a targeted remodeling project.

The Design/Build Contractor: If you prefer to hire only one company for design and construction services, your best bet may be to hire a design/build firm. Design/build is a concept developed to benefit the remodeling homeowner by providing both quality design and construction services within the same general contracting company. A design/build contractor will be able to see your project through from start to finish, keeping design, engineering and budget in mind. Some design/build firms have architects on staff, others use certified designers.




Now that you have identified what type of professional you need for your remodeling project, the next step is to find that individual and verify they are who they say they are.

Finding a professional

Word-of-mouth referrals continue to be the most common way for homeowners to find a local remodeler. These are your best sources for leads:

  • Relatives/friends/neighbors

  • business colleagues

  • lenders

  • real estate agents

  • local material supplier (lumber yards, specialty product providers, etc)

Selecting a reliable, qualified pro

Finding a qualified professional remodeling contractor for your home improvement project doesn't have to be a difficult task. By following these guidelines you will make the selection process easier and be better prepared to make an informed decision that best suits your needs.

Get local

Local remodelers are compelled to perform quality work that satisfies their customers for their business to survive. Local firms can be checked through references  from past customers in your community and  through your local Better Business Bureau .

Get compliant

Another advantage to hiring a local professional who works in your city or town is they will know the local building code and permit requirements. Building codes vary considerably from each jurisdiction and are known to change from year to year. Most structural work or footprint expansions require permits.

Get papers

Many states, but not all, require contractors to be licensed, bonded and/or insured. Contact your state or local licensing agencies to ensure the contractor meets all requirements. Most states require a contractor to carry worker's compensation, property damage and personal liability insurance. Ask for a copy of their license and insurance certificate to make sure that it is current.

Get complaint violations

Check with Better Business Bureau to ensure there are no complaints on record for the contractor. Check to make sure they are a NARI member.

Get comparable estimates

If you solicit estimates from more than one remodeling contractor, be sure they are working off the same scope and quality of work. Discuss variations in prices, and beware of any estimate that is substantially lower than the others.

Get informed

A good remodeling professional educates clients on green remodeling, universal design, lead safety, new products, building technique and trends. Make sure you’re hiring someone who has knowledge and expertise relevant to the remodeling industry.

Check references

If a professional is not offering references, homeowners should ask for them and follow up with a site visit or phone call. 




Communication is key for a remodeling project to be successful. Here are some tips to ensure you’re prepared.

  • Before work begins, ask your remodeling contractor what inconveniences may occur while the project is under way and plan for them accordingly.

  • Be sure your contractor is aware of vacations or special events so that he or she may schedule their job site time appropriately.

  • Consider moving personal property from construction areas and declare all work zones off-limits to children and pets.

  • Be sure your remodeling contractor creates a written change order if your remodeling project is modified while work is being done. Both parties should sign the amendment.

  • Keep a job file, including contract, plans, specifications, invoices, change orders and all correspondence with the contractor.

  • Request a contractor's Affidavit of Final Release be provided to you at the time you make final payment and a final waiver of mechanic's lien. This is your assurance that you will not be liable for any third-party claims for nonpayment of materials or subcontractors.

Most important, keep the lines of communication open between you and the remodeling contractor and the work crew. Ask questions. Let them know what your family schedule is and whether you have pets confined somewhere. Make sure you have specified how—via phone, in-person or via e-mail—and how often you wish to communicate with your remodeling contractor about your project.




By now you have survived through noise, dust and living without some conveniences, and things are finally starting to look normal again. As your vision finally starts to look like a reality and your excitement about your new space reaches a new level, it may be easy to forget the final steps of the remodeling process.

Here are a few things that you will want to keep in mind:

  • Take a moment to walk through your project and make a list of necessary adjustments, known as a punch list. If you’re unsure about something, ask your contractor if that is normal or if he has a suggestion. It’s best that this is brought up during the final stages of the project while your contractor is onsite.

  • Look over the contract again, make sure you have all of your signed permits, receipts, change orders, lien waivers, warranties and manufacturers guides to your products.

  • If new appliances or systems are installed, ask your remodeling contractor if there are any maintenance schedules you should know about.

  • Understand your contractor’s guarantees of quality and warranties. Oftentimes, contractors will provide free repairs up to a certain point—be clear that you know exactly what those guarantees cover and the length of time they are covered.

  • Reward a job well done. As you know, reputation and references are the most credible marketing assets a contractor can have. Offer to assist by having your space photographed, providing a testimonial, or showcasing your home in a remodeled tour.