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Home Improvement 101: What You Need to Know

To renovate or not to renovate. And we’re not talking simple weekend home improvement projects like a new paint color in the kids’ room or updating the photo wall.

Renovating kitchens and bathrooms or installing a new roof is serious business. And taking the plunge is a big decision that involves some stress, money, a substantial time commitment, and a fair amount of mess and inconvenience along the way.

The moral of the story? Take a hard look at why you want to renovate and make sure you’re committed.

We have a few ideas to help decide whether to take the leap and some home improvement tips to keep in mind once you’ve decided to go for it.

Reasons to renovate your home

Maybe something’s broken. Maybe aesthetics are motivating you. Whatever your reasons for renovating, there are a few considerations that can help you make smart decisions as you begin your home improvement journey.

Safety: If there’s a safety issue with your home, it definitely needs to be addressed—no deliberation or guesswork there. Whether it’s electrical, mold, the foundation, or roof leaks, these projects can’t be put off. They need to be repaired to ensure the integrity of your home and the safety of your family.

Function: Nothing may be necessarily “broken” in your home, but it could function better. An open layout might better serve your growing family. Or a second bathroom would make life easier for everyone. Maybe a deck would improve the function of your backyard space for both adults and kids. Make sure upgrades increase the value of your home and don’t eat into valuable, needed space.

Efficiency: Sometimes we have to complete upgrades on our homes that aren’t visible—or fun—but necessary to maintain efficiency. Anything from new windows to a new water heater, plumbing upgrades or a new furnace. You’re going to pay for these improvements upfront, but they will help conserve energy, save you money in the long term, and increase the value of your home.

Comfort and Style: Maybe there’s nothing necessarily wrong with your home. You just want to change things up a bit to increase the comfort of your home, make it more enjoyable, and simply make it look better. It just might be time to change out those brown kitchen cabinets installed in the 70s. It’s your space, after all, and there’s nothing wrong with a few cosmetic changes that make your home a sanctuary—as long as it falls within the budget.

Factors to consider before beginning a home renovation

So you’ve decided to go for it. Considering the mess, expense, and time commitment that goes along with home renovations and improvements, we suggest taking the time to prepare and consider your wants and needs before you start knocking down walls and tearing out plumbing.

Contractor: Some easy home updates you might be able to do yourself. But save yourself time and headaches and hire a qualified contractor for the projects you can’t do yourself. Check local listings and talk to friends in your community to find the person best qualified to offer the help you need. But often word of mouth works best. Is your neighbor or friend happy with their recent renovation? Find out who they worked with and give them a call.

Expectations: Your ideas and imaginings are a vital impetus for any home renovation project. You more than likely have a Pinterest board, or a book of clippings, filled with inspiration for your home—everything from lighting to paint colors to bathroom ideas. But be realistic. Take your budget, time, and resources into consideration. If you can’t let go of that dream kitchen with the granite countertops, talk to your contractor. Maybe it’s something you can do in stages so you can pay as you go.

Budget: It’s best not to take out loans on simple renovations. So consider what you can actually afford, and start saving if the price tag is slightly out of reach. Do your research. Get estimates. Talk to your contractor. Find out what’s feasible before you launch in. And as you plan, tack on 20 percent extra to any project so you have a cushion for those surprise expenses that always seem to pop up.

Budgeting Pro Tip: Plan on saving 20 percent extra for a project to cover unexpected expenses that may arise.

Study: Talk to friends who have renovated. Search in stores and online for those pieces you can’t live without so you can get the best prices. When meeting with an interior designer or your contractor, you need to come with concrete ideas of what you want to accomplish. This is where you can put those clippings or images from your Pinterest board to good use. The professionals you’ve hired can’t intuit what you want. You need to let them know.

With some planning and forethought, home renovations don’t have to be all headache and no fun. If you’ve done your homework and planned financially, watching projects unfold can be exciting and worthwhile.

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