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14 Quick Tips for Home Improvement Projects

Key Takeaways

  • Planning an important first step of any project, and a home improvement project is no different. Know what you can take on if you plan on doing it yourself.
  • Use your network for recommendations of professionals who can make your project a success.
  • Explore all your options for funding your project and speak to a lending specialist to help find the right solution for your needs.

By Jane Goldman | Citizens Bank staff

Whether you’re taking on a big construction project (like building an addition) or just looking to refresh your downstairs bathroom, it’s easy to get intimidated or overwhelmed — even before you start.

So to help you in your home improvement adventures, we’ve asked homeowners who have been there themselves to share some words of wisdom for first-time home improvers (or as a refresher for the rest of us)!

Set your goal(s)

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Get inspired: A new or remodeled shed can breathe new life into a backyard.

As with any project, smart planning is key to success. Here are some tips homeowners suggest you keep in mind:

  • Do research: Before you plan your project, make sure you do your homework. Figure out what you like, understand the associated costs, and know what kind of timeline it will be. Ask yourself some questions, such as:
    • Is this something you’re ready to take on?
    • Can you actually afford it right now? Which options could help you fund this project?
    • Will it help improve the value of your home or make your life easier?
  • Find inspiration: Pull pictures of what you like from magazines, websites, and catalogues. These samples will help you visualize the project and convey that vision to all parties involved, ensuring alignment.
  • Use online tools: Plenty of online tools are available. Everything from pricing guides to connecting with experts who can give you an estimate, will aid in your due diligence before starting the project.
  • Be realistic about what you can accomplish. Be aware of “scope creep”. This is when the original goal of a project expands while in progress. For example, your dream of painting the dining room starts great with taking the wallpaper off, but you uncover crumbling plaster walls and rotten window sills. You can’t deal with painting until the bones of the room are fixed, so the project has to grow.

Doing it yourself?

“If at some point you don’t ask yourself, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ you’re not doing it right.” – Roland Gau

Get inspired: Use neutral colors to create a background for your favorite bold accent colors.

Homeowners who have taken on improvement projects themselves recommend you consider the following when taking a on a project on your own:

  • Create a list of all steps from start to finish. Then write down everything you need for each step (tools, materials, quantities). Make sure you have everything ready before you start.
  • Buy 10% more than what you need. You don’t want to go back to the store in the middle of a job — or worse — go back to find out the materials you need are now unavailable or that the new items you purchased don’t match the original ones (especially batch-made items)!
  • Don’t leave finishing details to another time. Complete the project 100% and enjoy the sense of accomplishment. Besides, if you don’t finish it now, you’re probably not likely to go back to it.
  • Stay away from shortcuts. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t bother with shortcuts — invest the time and money to do it right the first time.

Find an expert

“It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill.” – Wilbur Wright

Get inspired: Create a welcoming outdoor space where friends and family can gather to create memories.

When seeking out a professional to work on your project, homeowners advise:

  • Use your network. Ask your friends, family, and coworkers for the names of great contractors, interior designers, or other professionals they have used successfully. This is the best way to hire an expert — not only will you have a reliable reference for the quality of their work, but it will also save you time.
  • Get multiple bids. If you can’t find a recommended contractor, then research and get estimates from several well-reviewed vendors. Make sure you get their bids in writing that list what work will be included, what isn’t (for example, does it include demolition and removal of trash), and the time estimated to complete the job. Also, make sure they are insured.
  • Get unique insights. Even though it might take more time, consider getting multiple bids and estimates anyway. It’s not just a good way to educate yourself on the process, it’s also a great way to get unique insights or perspectives that you hadn’t thought of with each conversation and proposal.

Paying for your project

“Some people look for a beautiful place, others make a place beautiful.” – Hazrat Inayat Khan

Get inspired: Update your kitchen with plenty of working space, bright task lighting, and finishes that will make you want to cook every meal at home.

When it comes time to fund your project, you have many options. Below are some useful tips from homeowners:

  • Check your resources. Once you know the cost of the project, you can determine if you need to borrow funds. A credit card can work well for smaller scale projects up to $5,000. If the project is between $5,000 and $20,000, consider a personal loan. If your project is more than $20,000 and you are considering additional projects in the future, you might benefit from a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). If you don’t have equity built up in your home yet, a personal loan is another way to pay for that ugly kitchen you can’t stand. Talk to a lending specialist who can help you weigh the pros and cons of each option so you can make the right decision for you.
  • Pad your budget. Prepare for a 5-15% increase in cost to cover unknowns and changes.
  • Account for extraneous costs. Be prepared for additional expenses caused by the project — for example paying to store your stuff while renovating, the cost of moving supplies, or rent if you actually have to move out — because it all adds up.

More information

Are you looking to take on a home improvement project? The scale of your project will dictate how to best fund the job. Come in for a Citizens Checkup at your nearest branch to get personalized advice on how best to proceed.

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