The planning and research phases of a home improvement project are the most critical steps in the remodeling process. The more knowledgeable and prepared a homeowner is, the more successful they will be in identifying the right contractor, and sourcing the best materials for their remodeling project. A home improvement project is a huge investment of time and money, so making sure it is done right the first time is extremely important. 

Please use this top ten list as a guide when preparing for a home remodeling project or home improvement:

1. Research Your Project – For a good sense of what is involved, such as cost, scope of work, return on investment, and product and/or material options, speak with an architect or designer about your wants and needs for the project. They will be familiar with what can and cannot be done according to local building code,  as well as provide you with projected costs.

2. Plan Your Project Around the Long Term – How long do you plan to stay in your home? How might your family’s needs change over time? Life can change quickly – these questions should be answered early on to ensure your project will fit your lifestyle long after it is completed.

3. Set Your Budget – Deciding on a realistic budget and arranging finances to support your project are essential. The total cost needs to include; the proposed cost for architectural services; any permits, filing fees or fees for controlled inspections; the cost of the contract provided by your contractor, and any sub-contractors that have been hired for specialty work; all products and materials you are responsible to purchase independent of the contract; and lastly, a slush fund for unforeseen expenses that were not included in the contract. Don’t be afraid to share your concerns about your budget with your contractor.  Professionals are respectful of a client’s budget and will create a plan around it, not over it.

4. Use Advanced Searches for Professionals – The online world makes it easy to gather information about the contractors you are considering. Ask friends, family and neighbors for referrals, then spend time researching your short list on line. Professional remodelers take their reputation seriously and hold credentials beyond licensing such as certifications, memberships in trade associations and additional training.

Check on line reviews and social media to see how they have interacted with past clients and peers. Contact both the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (by calling 311) or visit their website at, and call the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any recent consumer complaints made against the contractor.

5. Ask the Right Questions – Ask your professional remodeler about his educational background, or familiarity with specialty materials included in your project. Ask how the project will affect your schedule, and ask what is expected from you in this remodeling process. Lastly, ask how long it will be until they can schedule your project, and how long they anticipate it will take until they are completed. 

6. Verify Your Remodeler – Don’t take their word for it. Check the information given to you such as references,  license numbers, insurance information and certifications by calling those providers to verify. Request a visit to an active client’s jobsite. Make it known that you are checking on the company – a true professional considers that as a positive sign in working with a homeowner.  Ask for a Certificate of Insurance and verify that the contractors and subcontractors he will be using are properly insured and have active licenses.

7. Review Contracts Word By Word – A remodeling contract protects you and your remodeler. Homeownersshould review their contract carefully. Professional remodelers provide contracts to protect themselves, and the limits of their responsibility for your project. Homeowners are not as familiar with the remodeling process and should ask about terms that they don’t understand. Pay attention to details about change orders, payment schedules, additional fees, timelines and responsibilities. If it’s not in the contract, it doesn’t exist.

8. Keep Design in Mind – Your design guides the entire project. Think about what you dislike about your current space and the intended use of the new space. Use websites such as and to gather design ideas. Make sure your designer, architect or contractor understands your needs and what you would like the end product to look like. Professionals may not be able to recreate a photo you have provided, but they can incorporate some of the features, functionality, style and value into your design.

9. Make Your Selections – Deciding on products and materials is a larger process than most imagine. With so many options to choose from, product selections are one of the primary reasons for project timelines to be extended. Base decisions on quality, function, price, style and availability. Try to include your selections in the contract so that there are no surprises, and to keep your budget intact.

10. Create a Communication Plan – A common downfall between contractors and homeowners is the lack of communication between during a home renovation. Your remodeler should lay out a clear communication plan at the beginning of the project, if not, ask them to do so. This plan should clarify the roles of everyone involved, communication methods, and the availability and frequency of communication that is expected.

For helpful tips and guidance with your remodeling project, visit NARI at where homeowners can find useful information about the remodeling process. If you have a question about your remodeling project or a contractor, visit

Lana Seidman, Executive Director – NARI-HIC of Staten Island Inc.

(718) 356-2323