A home renovation can involve something as simple as replacing a damaged wall or something as complicated as redoing an entire kitchen. Regardless of your project’s size, you need reliable ways to organize, budget, and stay on track.

Keep a Journal That Tracks Every Step of Your Renovation

Starting a project journal is the more effective thing you can do to organize your renovation project. The journal should include every quote, invoice, and idea you get. If you want to compare recent building trends, add a page to your journal about what you like and dislike about the ideas.

Ideally, you should have a binder that lets you add and remove pages when you want. That way, one spot can hold everything from contractor quotes to modular sofa prices.

You might think that some things do not belong in the binder. When in doubt, just add it. You can always take out unnecessary documents later.

Think Through Your Budget to Include Every Expense

Many people underestimate how much home renovation projects will cost. They do not think through the project to include every expense, so they’re shocked when they realize that they need to spend hundreds or thousands more than expected.

Take time to think through every step of the project. Don’t miss even the smallest detail. For example, the budget for a kitchen renovation should include items like:

  • Cleaning supplies
  • Disposal costs (dumpster rental, landfill fees, etc.)
  • Hardware (faucets, cabinet doorknobs, hinges, etc.)
  • Adhesives
  • Tools (buying or renting)

Note that this list doesn’t even include some of the biggest expenses, such as appliances, cabinets, and flooring. You probably already knew that you would have to pay for those things. It’s the little things that add up and surprise you.

Determine Whether You Will Hire a Contractor for the Project

DIY home renovations can help you save a lot of money. They also take a lot of time. Also, you should only attempt a renovation project when you know that you have the skills required to do it well. If you have never installed cabinets, you do not want to experiment on your kitchen. One mistake could cost you thousands of dollars.

More likely than not, you will need to hire contractors for some aspects of your project. Even if you plan to do the bulk of the work, consider hiring an expert for things like:

  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Ductwork
  • Flooring

If you have any doubts about any job, hire someone to do the work. Of course, you should vet each contractor to make sure you choose a reliable company with plenty of experience.

Get Everything in Writing

As you talk to suppliers, contractors, and other people helping with your project, you will probably collect a lot of verbal promises. What someone says on the phone doesn’t mean much. You need to get their guarantees in writing. Without a written price quote, a contractor can change your cost at the last minute.

You can also ask companies to sign contractors that force them to follow a schedule. It makes sense for contractors and other companies to add some flexibility to their schedules. Encountering an unexpected problem could easily add another day or two to the job. You can ask them to sign a contract without being unreasonable. Negotiate to reach terms that everyone can accept.

Only Pay for Work the Contractor Finishes

Are you still worried that your contractor won’t get the work done on time or follow your budget? You’ve probably heard a lot of horror stories about companies that extend their projects by weeks and end up charge significantly more than they quoted. Those are real things that happen, so take steps to protect yourself from them.

One thing you can do is agree to only pay for work the contractor completes. You might divide the project into four segments. When the contractor finishes the first stage, they get paid the first installment. After finishing the second segment, they get the second payment. And so on.

You will need to pay for some materials upfront. Don’t let anyone convince you to pay for more than 10% of the project’s expected cost.

Other ways to keep contractors motivated include:

  • Avoiding allowances that let contractors choose more expensive materials than you want to pay for.
  • Establish good communication by visiting the renovation site often, talking to the foreman, and staying in touch with the contractor via text. You’re the boss, so prepare to manage the project.
  • Show appreciation for work done well.
  • Providing refreshments, such as cold drinks on hot days or warm drinks on cold days.


Every home improvement project comes with its fair share of headaches. Following these tips will make the process as predictable as possible.