Home Remodeling – Essential Knowledge

General Remodel Checklist




Remodel Checklist

Affiliate Disclaimer

As an affiliate, I may earn a commission for purchases made through links on this site to third parties. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Note: If you came to this post on the remodel checklist through a random search, please click on this parent page or our home page for more context.

Start by Asking Two Key Questions

1: Why am I doing this remodel in the first place?

Your answer to this question is going to shape the entire project and give it purpose. You must clearly identify your motivation to remodel in the first place.

For example, are you a young couple just starting out with a young family, and intending to move on after a while? Do you want to make sure you get your investment back and then some? 

The costs and potential financial returns of a home remodeling project are discussed elsewhere.

Or are you approaching your senior years intending to maximize your enjoyment of the home and include some aging-in-place features without much thought of resale value? In this case, check out our related post on aging in place.

2: Have I lived in the house long enough to know what I want to do with it?

Do I really know what I like and dislike about it? Have I identified its strengths (to maximize) and its weaknesses (to minimize)?

Write your answers down. They will frame your response to the more detailed questions we have set out below. Your answers will go a long way to a successful first meeting with your candidate designers/contractors.

We have developed below a framework around which you will be designing the entire project. 

It takes the form of a wishlist which you will gradually refine to the point at which, with the help of the professionals you select, it becomes a project checklist.

Remodel Wishlist-Checklist


Our purpose here is to address the most important aspects of the remodeling process to help you arrive at a practical end product in a style to suit you and within your budget. 

The emphasis is on you. Our goal is for you to create and fill a space that realizes your vision and relates to your lifestyle.

Preparation for Professionals

Good remodeling contractors or interior designers will not seek to impose their personality, style, and ideas upon their client’s homes. Their purpose should be the opposite. 

They should learn about your tastes and preferences and make the final product all about you. They will certainly make remodel and design suggestions and comments intended to help your thinking, but you will want all design decisions to be yours and for you to be comfortable with them.

Most important of all is for you to have done your own thinking well in advance of your meetings with professionals.

Independence from Professionals

If you develop your wishlist-checklist ahead of time, you will be better prepared to ward off any inclination or attempt by your chosen professionals to impose their own will and preferences on the project.

We offer this wishlist-checklist to help you explore, refine and structure your thoughts and develop a scope of exactly what it is you want to achieve with your remodel project. 

What is listed here, while certainly extensive, is not exhaustive. Nonetheless, it will get you on your way and will probably bring other questions to mind. It should certainly get your creative juices flowing.

This wishlist-checklist is to help you and your interior designer/contractor map out the entire project from start to finish. 

It will also help with the due diligence that is necessary for project planning, budgeting, and execution; and also in anticipating and heading off potential surprises along the way.

Interactive Planning Process

Your responses to the questions in the wishlist-checklist will start an interactive planning process between you and your interior designer/contractor. 

Print this out. Use the right-hand margin for any detailed comment. Otherwise, just indicate your reaction by circling or highlighting words in the text.

No need to answer all questions – just the ones that are important to you. Your interior designer/contractor will want to understand the wants, needs, likes, dislikes, and priorities that will make up your wishlist-checklist. 

This wishlist-checklist is a tool to make this as easy as possible. And what we have here is a brainstorming exercise, not a literary effort.

We have numbered each checklist item for reference.

Use This List with Other Checklists on This SIte

Check these out:

Remodel Checklist

Broad Questions

1: Off the top of your head, what are the three topics that come immediately to mind when you think of your remodel project?

2: Have you worked with a remodeler/designer before? What was your experience? What would you do differently?

3: Are you planning to remodel the entire space (interior/exterior) or partially, such as the kitchen or bathrooms? (We have separate specialized checklists for kitchens and bathrooms.)

4: Do you have a budget in mind?

5: What is your timeline?

6: What do you think will be the effect on your property’s value? Talk to a realtor.

7: How long do you think this will take? Then double your answer.

The Spaces in and Outside the Home – Who Will Use Them & for What?

8: Permanent residence or vacation home (perhaps eventual permanent residence)?

9: Will it be used in a rental program?

10: Household Members: How many adults, children, and pets?

11: Any special needs? Counter height, door width, disabled, elderly, very young?

12: Is entertaining important?

13: Our entertaining style is: formal/informal/both

14: How many guests, typically?

15: Entertaining type? Meals, music, games, watching TV, indoor/outdoor, other

16: What cooking facilities are required? Standard/professional?

17: Does more than one person cook at a time?

18: Where do you like to eat meals? Dining table, kitchen table, kitchen counter, family room, other

19: Hobbies to be accommodated? Reading, entertaining, cooking, TV/home theater, music, crafts/sewing, sports, other?

20: Any technology needs? Computers, wireless, DSL/satellite, surround sound, home theater, home security, other?

21: Home Office? Necessary? If so, any special requirements (lighting, soundproofing, computers, Zoom, etc.)? How many people will use it?

22: Homework? Homeschooling? How many kids? Where will they study?

23: Lighting? (Note any locations that need additional lighting): Bedrooms, bathrooms, office, kitchen/nook, living room, family room.

24: Storage needs? Multipurpose furniture, books, closet storage/organizers/garage storage/safes

Exterior Spaces

(Note these choices may be restricted by a Homeowners Association)

25: What exterior features are most important to you: Patio for dining, covered patio, Pool, Spa, Firepit/fireplace, BBQ, Sun deck/private spa, putting green, bar/outdoor kitchen, outdoor dining, fountain/water feature, courtyard garden entry.

26: If these already exist, will you want to change or upgrade?

27: Will you be changing out windows or doors? Repainting?

28: Will you want to make landscape changes?

Interior Spaces

29: What are your room measurements? Draw sketches.

30: Do you want to add balconies, windows, window seats, or patios?

31: Do you prefer higher ceilings (11’ plus) or lower ceilings (8’ to 10’)? Coffers/soffits?

32: Do you want to alter doorway sizes? Higher / wider / lower / narrower

33: Do you want to change/upgrade the front door or entryway?

34: Do you want to display artwork or collections or sports memorabilia? In-wall niches, for example. Does this need special lighting?

35: Man cave? She-shed? (though as far as we know, this is always outside the house)

36: Accessory Dwelling Unit/Granny House?

37: What interior features are important? Wet bar with seating, basic wet bar, dry bar (no sink), refrigerator in the bar, fireplace in the living room or great room or bedroom, whirlpool/soaking tub in the master suite, separated closets in the master suite, guesthouse/casita, other? If they exist, are they to be upgraded, house a home office, or granny?

38: What fireplace treatment do you have in mind: New mantle, surround, hearth?

39: What fireplace fuel? Electric, Ethanol

40: Do you want to add a fireplace, sitting area, or outside patio in the master suite? If they exist, are they to be upgraded?

41: Are there any other amenities that you wish to change/add in the master suite?

42: Do you want to add bedrooms or bathrooms?

43: Do you want to add a “snore room” to keep the peace at night? It could double as a gym or reading room or den.

44: Do you want to enlarge rooms to create additional space?

45: Do you want to move/alter partition walls to create space/light?

46: Would you like to provide extra space for visitors such as a guest or entertainment room, attached suite, or detached casita?

47: Do you want to add: a formal dining room, formal living room, breakfast nook, den or office, air-conditioned storage, home theater, wine room/storage, butler pantry, exercise room, or other? If they exist do you want to change/upgrade them?

48: What will the effect on plumbing and electrical systems be of what you want to do

49: Check our related posts on bathroom and kitchen remodeling specifically.


50: Do you want to change the lighting in your home? How much lighting control do you wish to have? Check out our post on lighting.

51: Do you want to add a central vacuum system?

52: Do you want to install sound systems or other entertainment systems?

53: Do you want to install a security system?

54: Smart home. Do you want to add an automation system? If so, what functions should be automated,

55: Audio/video, lighting, drapes, awnings or sunscreens, security screens, gates?

56: Do you want an Alexa or Google Home smart system?


57: Are “Green” objectives important to you? Will you weigh the cost and benefit?

58: Is heating /cooling adequate?

59: Are there adequate electrical sockets, and telephone/cable outlets?

60: Is lighting adequate? Where does it need to be improved? Do you need more natural light? Would you add solar tubes or skylights?

Note items of interest: energy-efficient air-conditioning systems, energy-efficient appliances, indoor air quality items such as low VOC (volatile organic compound) in paint, lumber, and glue, low “E” or dual pane windows, shaded windows, covered entrances, new insulation, duct sealing. If these areas are important, ask your local utility company about a Home Energy Audit.


61: What effect, mood, or atmosphere are you seeking to evoke? casual, formal / defined, spacious, clean lines, warm/cozy, open/light/airy, elegant, sophisticated, lived in, welcoming, romantic, contemporary

62: In what style? Tuscan, Beach Cottage, Old World, Mediterranean, Country Cottage, Art Deco, French Country, Asian, Tropical, Early American, Mission style, Southwestern, Modern minimalist, Chinese, Mexican, European classical, American country, Modern avant-garde, other.

63: Does bringing indoors outdoors or vice versa appeal?

64: Color and tone preferences: lighter / darker, whites, blacks, burgundies, pinks, greens, teal, orange, reds, blues, yellows, peaches, grays. Warm colors, cool colors, subtle, bright, neutral, earth tones, bold, pastel, and other.

65: Colors you like and dislike

66: Hard materials you like: This would be tile, granite, etc

67: Hard materials you dislike.

68: Flooring/accent preferences: wood (hardwood, cork, bamboo), vinyl, carpet, laminate, marble, natural stone, stamped/etched concrete, ceramic tile, Saltillo tile, combination, and others.

69: Counter/vanity preferences: granite, quartz, marble, tile, wood, or other.

70: Window treatment preferences: custom draperies, blinds (verticals/horizontals/roll), sheers, Bermuda shutters, curtains in fabrics, metal, wood, security, and other

71: Door hardware preferences: knobs /levers/pulls, bronze, chrome, brushed nickel, other

72: Cabinet preferences: styles are numerous. Are there any you like? Do you want dovetail-built drawers, self/soft closing drawers/cabinets? Consider roll-out storage cabinets and lazy susans.

71: Do you have magazine clippings, photos, and websites that illustrate your likes or dislikes? For inspiration, we suggest www.houzz.com and www.pinterest.com.

Extraneous Factors – Beware of Hidden Costs and Aggravations

We have pretty much covered the initial brainstorming you need to do in approaching your remodel project itself. However, there are extraneous factors that, if not addressed at the outset, can give rise to unexpected costs and aggravation because they may not even raise their ugly heads until you are well into the project. However, forewarned is forearmed and you need to be aware of them before going into your discussions with your contractor.

In no particular order, these are the most important:

You may need to move out for a while: you may need to vacate entirely for a while, depending on the extent of the project or the type of work going on. For example, your bathrooms might be out of commission for a time. Or it could be that you only need to move some furniture out into temporary storage.

Meals out: If your kitchen is out of action for an extended period, you may need to do a lot of eating out. That can get expensive.

Pet boarding: To keep your pets safe or out of the way it may be necessary to board them. Yet another expense to account for.

Your own schedule: you may need to arrange meetings with the contractor during your own work or business hours. This could even cost you money that needs to be accounted for.

Change orders: this is probably the biggest (controllable) hidden cost and springs from a lack of initial planning and an inadequate agreed-upon scope of work. Basically, a change of mind on your part will cost you money. If there are to be change orders (sometimes they are unavoidable), be sure that you understand from your contractor how they are to be calculated.

Structural surprises: It may be that once the drywall is taken down and the structure of the home is exposed, it may be that you need to make a structural change to achieve your desired design.

Code requirements: building standards are constantly changing and while your home may have been “up to code” when it was built, this may no longer be the case. So this could be an added expense, especially if your project requires building department approvals.

Water and pest damage: if you recently bought the house you will have had a termite report and there should be no surprises here. But if you have been in the house a long time, there could easily be problems you are unaware of and have to be fixed

Wishlist-Checklist Conclusion

The exercise you just went through has really put you ahead of the game in preparing to meet with your professionals. But it is only a start. We do not pretend that this list is completely exhaustive. But it is enough to get started. And, as you work through it, additional thoughts will occur to you.

Don’t forget to go through the kitchen, bathroom, and aging-in-place checklists elsewhere on this site.

But to continue on your road to a successful project, you need to have somewhere to write everything down and collect documents like contracts and warranties, and clippings you have taken from magazines. This goes back to our earlier advice on getting and staying organized.

Your Remodel Project Binder

Early in this Guide, we stressed the importance of writing it all down and putting everything on paper. So now we are going to recommend how to do this.

At the outset, when contemplating a remodel project, we are pretty much in a nervous dream state, that is to say long on ideas and short on coherence. We have stacks of magazine clippings and visions of future interior beauty on one hand while trying to suppress the fear of making decisions and thoughts of a dwindling bank account on the other.

But things finally gel. We have made a decision to go ahead and set money aside or put financing in place. So now we have a serious remodeling project in hand. In other words, we have moved beyond the “thinking about it” stage and are embarking on “doing it.”

Having set the stage, let’s transition from “we” to “you.”

Avoiding Panic

From long experience working with our own clients, we know that right from the decision to “go” it is essential that you take control over your remodeling life. Because otherwise it will take on a life of its own and start to control you. And this will give you a feeling of being out of control. It will cause mild panic. And panic is not a good feeling.

A remodeling project can be fun and exciting but, unless you feel that you have control over it, you will experience a great deal of frustration, stress, and anxiety. This is not good for you nor for your relationships with your contractors and suppliers. Smooth relationships can make for a super successful project.

And don’t forget. While your contractor may be in control of project execution, you need to be in control of your contractor. So you need the tools of control to keep the devil out of all the thousands of details that make up a remodeling project.

As we said before, the only way to get and keep control is: Start organized, stay organized, and keep records!

Project Binder

But how to do it and where to start? It is really simple. There is no magic to this: Just get a Project Binder and work it! By the way, not everything has to be on paper but keep a handy paper reference in your binder for where to find info on your computer. There is a great deal of research you can do online. Bookmark all the helpful sites you find. Including this one, of course!

What to Put in the Project Binder

Put simple subject dividers into the binder so that you can break the project down into manageable pieces or sections. Use 3-ring file dividers, sheet protectors, and plastic pockets. There are no hard and fast subject rules but we suggest:

Ideas Section
  • Your thoughts and inspirations.
  • Magazine clippings
  • URL references to Houzz and Pinterest pages
Planning Section
  • Checklists: you can print ours out. Make notes on them.
  • Sketches
  • Floorplans (some construction drawings are quite bulky and you may need to keep them separately)
  • Design worksheet
  • Product selections and specs
Management Section
  • Budget
  • Estimates
  • Expenditures
  • Invoices & receipts
  • Contractor and supplier-related
  • Project correspondence
  • Insurance
Progress Section
  • Schedules
  • Meeting notes
  • Progress notes
  • To-do and done lists (note done dates)
  • Progress photographs (before and after pix are great to have!)
  • Problem notes and photos (nothing ever runs perfectly, so keep records to be prepared should any dispute arise)
  • Photos
Documents Section
  • Contracts
  • Letters
  • Product manuals
  • Warranties
Miscellaneous Section

This is where your “don’t know where to put it right now; don’t want to think about it but shouldn’t throw it away” stuff belongs. However, if it makes sense, create a new section for it.

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest posts

  • Bathrooms for Seniors

    Bathrooms for Seniors

    Resource page for our eGuide “Bathrooms for Seniors – Bathroom Remodeling for Aging in Place” available on Amazon.

    Read more

  • Kitchens for Seniors

    Kitchens for Seniors

    This is a companion resource page for readers of our eGuide “Kitchens for Seniors – Kitchen Remodeling for Aging in Place.” This eGuide is available on Amazon. This page contains the resource links mentioned in the text of the eGuide. They are listed here so they can be more easily and regularly updated than is…

    Read more