To save time, money, and stress on your DIY remodel, use these strategic tips. Download our free home renovation template to help you budget.


Home renovations of any size are a huge undertaking. While the process is grueling, the results of a remodel can be well worth the work! Whether planning an entirely DIY home renovation or hiring contractors, there is a lot to organize before starting to keep the project stress-free. Here are six factors to plan upfront to make your DIY home renovation as smooth as possible, including how to use a home renovation template.

Determine Your Scope of Work and Timeline

The first thing you’ll want to do is assess the scope of your remodel. Estimate the size of the renovation and then do a walkthrough of each space. Write down everything that needs to be done in each room, such as drywall repairs or updating electrical wiring.

Start with your dream list — everything you could possibly consider remodeling. It’s much easier to start with a more extensive list and downsize than to plan for a smaller renovation and add more later. Even with a perfectly crafted dream renovation list, you’re bound to find new things to add as time goes on.

Next, you can start to construct a rough home renovation timeline for each project. Now is an excellent time to think about which tasks must be done before others. For example, if you’re doing a complete renovation, A/C duct work gets done first, then plumbing, and lastly, electrical.

Related Article: A Homeowner’s Guide to a Happy Home Addition

In what order should you renovate a house?

The order in which areas to renovate first your home remodel with depend on what renovations you’re completing. Generally speaking, you’ll start with demolition and reconstruction first, followed by electrical, HVAC, mechanical, or plumbing work. From there, you’ll complete walls and then floors. Any cabinetry, such as build-ins or kitchen units, comes next, followed by appliances, furniture, and accessories. 

How do I make a renovation checklist?

The best way to start making a renovation checklist is to brain dump all the projects you’d like to complete. This is your opportunity to put every renovation dream to paper and evaluate it on the whole. Once you have it all written down, review it and start prioritizing projects. Which projects need immediate attention, and which ones can stand to wait? 

Then, you want to list your projects in the order you’d like them completed. This way, you ensure you tend to the most immediate projects first. These projects will have priority in the budget, and you ensure nothing essential gets missed due to budgetary restrictions. 

Now that you know what you want to do, it’s time to figure out how much of the work you’ll be doing yourself versus hiring out.

Happy African American couple analyzing blueprints while communicating with a building contractor in the apartment.

Should You Be Your Own General Contractor?

You need to consider whether to hire a general contractor to oversee and manage the project or if you’ll fill that role yourself. This is where it gets tricky because hiring a general contractor is more expensive than doing it yourself.

One good way to evaluate this decision is to examine the project size and how much money you’re investing. For a larger home renovation, you’ll likely want the oversight of a general contractor if you have the budget.

A general contractor will find subcontractors (such as plumbers, electricians, A/C companies, painters, and other professionals). They will schedule subcontractors in project order. And they are responsible for keeping everyone on track for deadlines.

If you’re highly organized and have a flexible schedule, DIY-ing the general contractor role may be a good option. Contractors usually charge 10% of the total project, so it can be an easy way to save a bit of money.

However, there are benefits to outsourcing the general contractor role. “When you hire a general contractor,” explains home improvement professional Bob Vila, “you are paying for his experience, competence, ability to anticipate problems, and, more than anything, for his willingness to assume final responsibility for the whole job. And he’ll get the permits, do the scheduling, and handle disputes between subs and suppliers.”

Even if you do the project with a general contractor, you’ll still outsource work to other vendors or contractors. Here are a few types of contractors you may need to research:

  • Tile installation
  • Cabinetry
  • Countertop fabricator
  • Electrician
  • Plumber
  • Painter
  • Drywall installation or wall texturing

Pro tip: Ask for recommendations from people in your area for contractors they have used for home renovations.

Interview Contractors and Get Quotes

Once you have a potential list of contractors, interview them and obtain rough quotes for the jobs. If you don’t like a contractor’s personality, don’t hesitate to move on. You’ll have to work closely with this person; if your personalities clash, it could turn ugly

Get at least two quotes to see how drastic the variation in pricing may be from contractor to contractor. If you find a large gap between the two quotes, get a third quote to determine the median standard.

What time of year is best to renovate?

The best time of year to renovate is between May and July. The temperature is just right for contractors as it’s not too hot or cold. Plus, the daylight tends to extend longer during this time, which is also beneficial.  If you’re looking to save money, the winter season tends to be slower for contractors, so it may be less expensive.

Set a Budget

After you have your to-do list and your rough estimates, start building a budget. If you have a budget already set due to the amount you have saved, ensure what you want to do fits within your budget. Since you started with your ultimate dream list, it’s quick and easy to remove projects to realistically fit your budget.

To strategically maximize your budget, ensure you include everything you possibly can when crunching the numbers. “Even though you can’t anticipate every aspect of wielding a drill, the more you’ve got planned beforehand, the more you can alleviate unexpected costs,” explains Megan Johnson from Architectural Digest. Common hidden costs include contractor fees, materials, inspection fees, truck or trailer rentals for hauling, tool rentals, and permits

Home renovations are a lot of work. We’ve created an in-depth home renovation checklist to organize your home renovation effectively. Keep yourself on track with a free download of our Home Renovation Budget Spreadsheet.

When creating a budget, it’s helpful to sit down and go from room to room. Write down everything that is needed, including wall outlets, light switch covers, and door hardware. Include larger items like lighting and plumbing fixtures.

If you’re working with a contractor, you’ll want to fully understand what materials they are providing. Usually, they will be responsible for any building materials. You’ll want to be absolutely sure you understand what you’re responsible for buying before making your budget.

Related Article: Life Stories: 3 Fort Worth Families Remodel and Reminisce

Happy Latin American couple at home budgeting on their laptop

Open a Bank Account for Your Home Renovation

Whether you have saved money for your renovation or are getting a home equity loan, having a dedicated renovation account is helpful. You won’t have to weed through personal transactions versus renovation transactions when you’re trying to balance your budget.

Pro tip: Look into high-yield savings accounts. This lets your money grow while planning and executing your DIY home renovation!

Having a separate bank account is not an excuse to forgo keeping receipts, though. Many home renovation updates can be used as tax deductions. Be sure to speak to your accountant about which updates to your home may be a tax benefit.

Clean, Purge, and Demo

During the demolition phase, the renovation really begins to take shape. Careful planning before you start swinging is a must. Talk to your contractor (if applicable) before beginning to be sure of what, if anything, should remain intact. Pay careful attention to protecting floors, walls, light fixtures, or any other parts of your renovation area not being replaced.

This stage is a good opportunity to clean and purge your space. Take the time now to remove old pots and pans or worn-out curtains. Then, you can fill your new space with only the items you love. If parting with old belongings sounds intimidating, we have some valuable tips on how to be happier with less.

Let the Renovation Begin

Now that you’ve planned, budgeted, and contracted out at least part of the work, it’s time to begin. Though there may be stressful times, enjoy the process of achieving your newly renovated space. Don’t forget to download our free home renovation budget template.


Updated on 5/22/23 from an article originally published 3/21/17.

About the Authors

Kate Fann

Kate Fann is an established SEO content writer with 10 years of experience, taking a specialized focus on home-related content. She has a Master's of Marketing degree from Southern New Hampshire University and her work has been featured in publications such as Angi, Broadband Now, and Love What Matters. Kate takes a keen interest in all things home from design and decor to remodeling and cleaning hacks.

Madison Wetherill

Arizona based food blogger passionate about hospitality and community around the table. Madison shares easy recipes to inspire others to get in the kitchen and learn that cooking can be a fun part of every day life.

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