how do i plan a home renovation

How Do I Plan a Home Renovation? 13 Simple Steps

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This post is all about how do I plan a home renovation.

Welcome back to our two family house!  

We’re currently diving into a gut renovation of the 3rd bedroom in our apartment, so I’ve been in the thick of planning the remodel.  

Which has led me to realize, other folks might be wondering: how do I plan a home renovation?

Here are the steps we take to plan our remodels.  

Part 1: Theoretical

Dream and Scheme

What do you want… and the other important question, why do you want it?  

First, dream a little bit about how you envision the room.  Let your daydreams run wild for a little while, in the no-budget-necessary-Neverland sort of way.  Create a Pinterest board or clip out ideas from catalogs.

Then, come back to planet earth and think about what is practical.  

Right now, we’re gutting a bedroom so that we can reframe a closet and install insulation, among other reasons.  My biggest motivation is so that our toddler will keep warm and our home will be updated to suit the 21st century.  My vision board includes R-15 insulation and a closet with a depth bigger than 15″.

So, ask yourself: what do you want for this remodeling project?


As the daughter of an OSHA and ICRA instructor, I’m happy to insert this necessary paragraph.  

As we mention in How to Prioritize Home Projects, please consider the safety standards of your home.  

Is the electrical up to date?  Plumbing?  Insulation?  (My favorite) Lead paint?  

Particularly if you have an old home, it’s an imperative that you consider the safety of your home and update accordingly.  


I know, it’s a drag.  At this stage, simply consider how much you want to spend on the renovation.  

Are we talking a $10k or a $100k remodel?

Keep your target number in mind as you take on the next few planning steps.

Research Materials

This will happen naturally along with creating your budget.  When you plan a home renovation, dive in to researching materials!  

You will especially want to look up cost and availability.  This will allow you to give and take in your choice of materials.  

Simple example: the dryer you want that costs $800 is on backorder for two months.  A similar model for $850 is available for delivery in two days.  If speed is more important to you than cost or style, you might choose the $850 variety. 

Look Up Lead Times

…especially in the year 2022!!

For example, we started planning our 3rd bedroom renovation in early October.  We realized a sheetrock delivery needs about one day notice.

But the exterior door replacement (yes, in a bedroom… don’t ask) – that will take 3-10 days, depending on supplier delivery schedules.  

As you can see, in order to keep the renovation going in timely fashion, we need to plan our materials way in advance.  

Even our dumpster company wanted a week’s notice.  

Be sure to consider wait times on tiles, appliances, and even your plumber.  It all takes time, especially if you’re ordering materials in this wild post-pandemic bizarre-o world.    

Get Quotes From Contractors

This is my least favorite thing of all, for it takes a bit of patience to gather quotes from contractors.  Some don’t show up, others will show up but not follow up… it’s mind boggling.  

Do your best to get quotes quickly and efficiently.  Follow up if you don’t hear from someone in a week.  After that – they don’t want your job, and you should move on.  

When gathering the quotes for cost, be sure to ask what the company’s schedule looks like!  

For example, for our front stair replacement (see also: Home Curb Appeal Before and After), we were on a 6 week wait list.  We were willing to wait because our mason is just that good.

Make a Detailed Budget

When we plan a home renovation – our home base is always, always to create and follow a detailed budget.  

For details on exactly how, please see Home Renovation Budget – How to Make Your Unsexy Remodel Roadmap.

There we detail exactly how we break down everything from contractors to appliances and materials to décor.  

For example, if we have to buy a box of masks for demo day, we note it on our budget.  If we hire an electrician for $6k, it goes in our budget.

Structure breeds freedom.  Don’t skip your detailed budget when you plan a home renovation!

Create a Loose Schedule

I like to create a general calendar with notes on delivery or contractor arrivals. Here’s an example of what we’re up to right now.

home renovation project plan
We generally renovate on nights and weekends, hence the slow pace.

I usually just go to Wiki Calendar and print out a few months’ worth, so we can jot down loose timelines.

We keep this in a folder marked “Renovations” on our fridge – where we stash receipts, invoices, shopping lists, and yes – our estimated calendar.

Part 2: Do It!

Let’s GET it GOING. Taking these steps will take your “how do I plan a home renovation” from nebulous to concrete in no time!

Order Materials

Whether it’s just paint and trim or you’re planning an open galley kitchen renovation, complete with layout shift and moving plumbing, it’s time to shell out the money and order things for real!  

It’s happening!

And Don’t Forget to Order Your Dumpster.

There’s nothing like a deadline to get things moving.  

When that dumpster backs up into your driveway, I promise you, it becomes real.  

If your project is big enough that you’ll need a dumpster for construction materials, order up!

Take “Before” Pictures 

… and take lots of them.  I never take enough!

Believe it or not, once you see your new shiny room, you might forget what your “before” picture looked like!  

Take a picture from each corner of the room, both vertical and horizontal.  

Oh, and don’t forget the close-ups of the ridiculous things you hate the most!  They’ll be most fun to compare when you’re done with the project. 

home renovation plan
look at that amazing crown moulding! (aka our next demo day victim).

Clean Out

While you’re waiting on deliveries or materials before demo day, get a box or two and empty the stuff out of your house!  

No renovation ever goes smoothly with too much stuff in the house.  

Here is the lowdown on how we cleaned out before our son’s arrival: Decluttering Before Baby – How to Clear House For Good!

You won’t regret spending a few hours cleaning out.  

Get. Rid. Of. Stuff.  

Empty the Room

Now is the time to move out of the room you are renovating.  

When I say “move out,” I mean completely move out, as if the moving truck was pulling up in the morning.  

Box, label, and store everything well out of the way of your remodel.  

Need help with that? Check out How to Move Out Without Losing Your Sanity.

I personally find this to be the most frustrating part of a reno. Where do you put the stuff when you’re working on its room?  

how to plan a home renovation
our mostly-empty room, getting ready for demo day

We’ve been lucky to have a “floater” space (aka our guest room) for a long time, but having a baby quickly put the kibosh on that.  We’ve been maxing out our basement storage (we have no attic) to hold boxes while we renovate.

Prepare Your Family

There are so many variables to this, so please consider it in the context of your household.  

If you have young children, it will be best to keep them out of the house and/or project as much as humanly possible, for safety’s sake.  Same thing goes for pets.  

If necessary, send your family on vacation. (No one has ever sent me on vacation. Why do I keep suggesting this?)

No vacation?  Tape off the room.  

Yes, tape the doors shut.  

Hang up signs to remind people not to enter.  

Like so.

how do i plan a home renovation
Meet Sherry the Scarecrow, guarding our project from entry.

Final Thoughts on How to Plan a Home Renovation

Well, that’s how we plan a home renovation!  The next step after an empty room is to bash and smash during demo day.

Until then, from “dream and scheme” to contractor quotes and cleaning out to ordering your dumpster, these steps should help you approach your home renovation with ease and organization.  

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