A Renovation Checklist

Renovating a home? Sweeten’s checklist explains the process, from pre-planning to the punch list

View of a room in the middle of a gut renovation

You’ve decided to renovate after assessing your home and how you want to live in it. But where do you start if you want to renovate? From pre-planning to punch list, Sweeten breaks down the process with a renovation checklist. You’ll find the basics of the renovation process, along with tips and tricks to a successful project.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and secure payments—for free.

Renovating a house checklist: Pre-renovation

1. Set your home renovation goals and determine your budget

Write down what’s motivating your renovation. List the problems you’d like to solve, and how you’ll feel when your renovation is successful.

Assess your budget – Make sure you know what you want to spend and what you have budgeted for the project.

  • Answer – What’s motivating my renovation? An example of emotional motivation might be, “My kitchen feels old and cramped. Instead, I want my kitchen to fit my personality and lifestyle.” 
  • Answer – What problems do I want to solve? Technical motivations could be, “The kitchen is laid out poorly, falling apart, and hard to cook in.”
  • Answer – What does a successful renovation feel like? Your response might be something like, “Success is a beautiful, organized kitchen with more storage and work surfaces.” Or, “A reconfigured layout gave us better flow between spaces and maximized the square footage.” 

2. Identify your renovation “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves”

    Make a full list of tasks, from the floor to the ceiling. Determine your “must-haves”; they are the reasons you are renovating. These are the items that must be checked off your renovation checklist before the project is considered complete.

    Then, write a “nice-to-have” list. These are items that you’re willing to give up if there are budget constraints. (Also, understand that sometimes in order to fit a “must-have,” you might have to give up a “nice-to-have.”)

    3. Select your renovation team

    • If you are knocking down walls, moving plumbing or gas lines, or doing work on a landmark property, you’ll need to hire an architect as well as a general contractor. Your Sweeten contractor can recommend architects if their services are needed.
    • Schedule site visits with a shortlist of professionals you like best 
    • Review bids and reduce cost if necessary by letting go of items not on your “must-have” list

    Sweeten’s guide Who do I hire for my renovation? can help you determine which experts you’ll need.

    4. Communication and paperwork

    • Determine a communication plan with your contractor—mode and frequency—and include it in your contract.
    • Review payment methods and schedule milestones tied to payments. Include these in your contract.
    • Set a 10%–20% cushion in the budget for unknowns.
    • Check your building’s alteration agreement if you live in an apartment; see what the renovation “rules” are.
    • Update your home insurance policy.

      5. Practical considerations

      • Consider moving out during a renovation if you have children or if anyone in the household has health or mobility issues.
      • If you’re staying, give some thought to where you will cook, eat, shower, and sleep.
      • Minimize the mess: cover furniture and shelves; use plastic wrap to contain dust from entering the rest of the home; use humidifiers to keep dust from spreading. 

      Renovating a house checklist: During the renovation

      6. Schedule and conduct calendar check-ins with your contractor

      • Set aside a least 5 hours/week as early in the process as possible. Coordinate with your contractor to order fixtures, appliances, and other materials. Be aware of items with long lead times. 
      • Get ready for A LOT of detailed questions on such things as electrical outlet locations, height of shower head and lighting, the direction doors should swing open, etc.

      7. Compile your renovation punch list

      Million Dollar Contractor Stephen Fanuka has great advice for final walk-throughs: “At the end of the reno, place a notepad in each renovated space. Don’t communicate with your contractor for two weeks. During that time, live in the space and jot down anything you notice needs adjusting or fixing. That’s your punch list.” Your contractor should come back and review the punch list with you. Their team will then address the outstanding items on the punch list.

      Home renovation good-to-knows

      Understand there may be delays

      • Whether it’s an issue with the building, a permit hold-up, or materials not arriving on time, delays are a reality. This post discusses common renovation delays and how to prepare for them.
      • Be flexible with contingency plans and work with your contractor to understand the issues and get through the hurdles

      Make your home renovation a success with Sweeten

      • Sweeten contractors are vetted for experience, workmanship, customer reviews, and licenses
      • Sweeten matches contractors to homeowners based on location, budget, expertise, and experience with similar projects
      • Post your project and be matched with 3-5 Sweeten contractors. On average, you should receive at least three contracting bids.
      • Our support team provides guidance, answers questions, explains bids you receive, helps you choose contractors, and resolves issues
      • We offer up to $50,000 of Renovation Financial Protection as a backup to your contractor’s insurance
      • Our service is free. Your Sweeten contractor pays us a small percentage of the contract value.
      • See successful renovation stories from Sweeten homeowners on our blog

      Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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