Have you heard rumors of that magical place where renovations run smooth? Your home could be that place. Renovations of an existing home have many challenges and require planning and expertise. By following the right plan your project could avoid many pitfalls.

If you want professional results, seek professional guidance – Good architects, designers and contractors are valuable assets to your project. Yes, they will add to the initial cost of the project, but can save you money and aggravation in the long run. Their experience will help you find design pitfalls early that can cause budget and timeline problems later. So how do you find a good architect, interior designer, remodeler or contractor? The best ways are through word of mouth and referrals, also through trade organizations such as the National Association of the Remodel Industry (www.NARI.org), American Institute of Architects (www.AIA.org), and The American Society of Interior Designers (www.ASID.org). Talk to your friends to see if they recently completed a remodeling project. They may be able to recommend a good architect, interior designer, remodeler or contractor. Also ask if they were satisfied with the quality of the work they received.

Plan, research and plan some more – Most complex remodeling projects will require the services of a design professional. Part of their job will be to develop the project scope of work and specifications. This is like the list of ingredients and recipe to your favorite dish. The wrong ingredients can ruin the dish. Like any major project, proper planning is the key to success. Take the time early in the project to spend the quality time needed to make informed decisions ahead of time. Be sure to adequately review bids from contractors and don’t select a contractor just because they are the lowest cost provider, it shouldn’t be a contest of who can cut the most corners to do it the cheapest! Do your homework. Choose the design materials carefully to avoid costly changes later.

Decisions, and choices – Using custom cabinetry, millwork, or other products and installation methods can quickly drive the costs up of your renovation. This is one of the areas where you can exercise a great deal of control over the costs. A glass tile installation will see costs for both labor and material double or triple over a standard ceramic tile install. Some elements of the project will need to be site specific and possibly customized. But some product categories – such as windows, doors and cabinetry – offer a wide variety of standard or semi-custom choices. Adding your own trim or embellishments later may make these standard choices look customized.

The while you’re at it effect – “While you’re at it” are the words that can kill your budget, and your schedule. It is very easy to start looking around your home and adding a couple small tasks here and there. And soon you will have work going on all over home. Resist the urge to grow your project, unless it’s not possible, plan for those to take place after the completion of the current project. If your remodeling projects stick to the original plan, most will finish on time and within budget.