With over 5 years of home improvement projects under our belts, something that we inevitably often get asked about is how to plan a project.
It’s not an easy question to answer – I feel like I could probably write a blog just dedicated to that by now! Of course, a lot of it will come down to experience and the more projects and home improvement jobs you plan, the easier and more precise it will get, but there are a few things you can do to make it easier.
A lot will depend on the scale of your project. Are you planning a huge home extension, a new bathroom or “just” to refurbish your living room. Are you doing a lot of the work yourself or are you getting tradesmen in? What kind of timescale do you have in mind? And what budget do you have?
All of these things will influence the way you plan your project, but ultimately knowing as much as possible about the project you’re going to undertake will make planning it easier.
For us, the only way to achieve a result we know we’ll be happy with is to put some time and effort into the most important stage of any project – Planning.
I feel like I should warn you, as this is a super long post, but as we like to plan our projects in detail, it only seemed right to share a super detailed post on how to do it, too.
This is our guide on how to plan a home improvement project:
Before we even start to consider what will actually work in our space, we start by collecting a bunch of inspirational images. At this point, it doesn’t matter if they will work in your space or even if they’re the same type of room!
It’s just about collecting images that you find inspiring and that represent the overall look and feel that you’d like to achieve. We like to look at magazines, showrooms, other people’s home and of course Pinterest for this. (You can see our bathroom inspiration board here.)
After collecting a bunch of images, it’s time to start thinking about your space. There’s no point planning a huge kitchen island if your room is too small, planning a huge extension if your plot is too small and you’re probably not going to manage to install a walk-in shower and a bath in a tiny bathroom like ours. So, the next step is to measure and draw your space.
You’ll need to know dimensions of your room, location of doors, windows and services (especially if you’re planning a kitchen or bathroom) and it’s a good idea at this point to make notes of any architectural features and building issues that your room may have.
You don’t have to use any fancy software or even be great at drawing, just a few lines will be more than enough.
Tip: Use checked paper to help you draw a straight line and try to keep it roughly to scale (something like 10 boxes are 1 meter).
Now that you have a plan with all measurements & details of your room as well as a bunch of inspiration for what you’d like your room to look like it’s time to get down to business.
Take another look at your images and sort them out. Be radical. There’s no point hanging onto pictures of things that you now know that your room is too small for. Decide on what you really want and consider what is possible in your space.
If you can, try to draw a more detailed plan of your space that’s to scale. Again it doesn’t have to be fancy, but having a drawing will help you to plan your space.
Tip: We’d suggest using a scale of 1:20 (5 cm on your drawing represent 1 metre in real life) – which will be large enough for you to add notes.
Once you’ve narrowed down your design choices it’s time to start planning your project. It’s not about copying someone else’s home or design from a magazine, it’s all about planning what works for your particular space, situation and budget.
Start to look at materials, fixtures and fittings. Creating a specific mood board will help you design a room that’s more coherent and has the overall look you’d like to achieve.
Make a list of everything that you need for the room. We really do mean everything! The only way to know how much your project will cost is by including every last detail. Trust me, it’s the little things that tend to add up.
Our list for the bathroom looks like this.
- Toilet & Toilet Seat (with all fixtures and fittings) | Toilet frame | Noise Reduction Set | Flush plate
- Washbasin | Washbasin tap | Fixings | Waste trap
- Bath | Bath support (if needed) | Bath taps
- Shower rail and fixtures | Shower curtain rail | Shower curtain or screen
- Radiator | Underfloor heating | Thermostat
- Fixtures & Fittings – Hooks, Mirror, Toilet Roll Holder, Towel Rail
- Tiles – Wall & Floor
- Paint – Walls & Floor
- Lighting – Ceiling Lights, Mirror Lighting
- Light Switches & Sockets, extractor fan
As you can see, we have grouped items that belong together. Our toilet for instance consists of the toilet, the toilet seat, the frame to hold the toilet (it’s wall hung), the flush plate and the noise reduction set.
Tip: If you’re planning a more involved project like a bathroom and you’re not sure of all of the items that you will need, it’s a good idea to get a few quotes from bathroom companies. The quote should be fairly detailed and give you an overview of everything you will need.
Now that you know exactly what you want it’s time to get into detail. I know that having such a detailed list seems slightly obsessive, but having a list with everything on it helps you keep track of where you’re up to, makes it easy to tick boxes and stay on top of costs.
We have an Excel list with every item in it which also includes details to the product, product number, dimensions and of course the price. It’s a great way to keep track of everything and you can tick boxes of things that have been ordered, tick jobs that have been completed and will always be able to see what is still left to do and source. Now is also a good time to double-check the dimensions of the products you’ve chosen and make sure that they’ll fit in your room.
You’ll probably notice that we’ve really not talked about money or budgets yet. Whilst it’s good to have an idea of what you want to spend on your project, we don’t actually finalise a budget till we have a clearer idea of what it is we’d like to achieve and have researched the costs for our ideal room in step number 5.
When gathering inspiration, don’t take a budget into account at all. This may sound weird, but we find that the best way to plan is by choosing your ideal solution – you never know, it may be in budget!
If what you’ve planned turns out to be too expensive, you can still revisit your design, decide what’s most important to you, source alternatives and start to make compromises.
#7 Cost & Adjust
With your detailed list of items and products that you will need for your project, you can now start to work out what your dream project will actually cost. You will almost certainly decide that you will want (and have) to make a few changes to your original dream plans in order for your project to come in on budget. There shouldn’t be any nasty surprises later on though, as you’ve taken the time to write every last detail down.
Overall this step is all about jumping back and forth. Deciding what areas you’d be happy to compromise on, what items you can’t live without and which products you can exchange for something to bring your project in on budget. It’s also always good to add a 10% contingency to your budget. This should help cover any unexpected costs. Don’t forget that things like delivery charges, etc can add up, too.
Now that you have a detailed drawing and list of all products, it’s time to schedule the work. Timescales will depend on how much work you’re going to be doing yourself, delivery times and of course the amount of work that needs doing.
We already wrote a post a while ago about how we actually scheduled projects (you can read it here), so I won’t go into too much detail now. Basically it’s a matter of writing everything down, then sorting all jobs into the order they have to happen in and allowing a certain amount of time for each task to be completed.
As with the budget, you should allow some extra time for unforeseen circumstances. Things do have a tendency to take longer than you think they will!
I know that it seems like a lot of work, but you’ll have to do it all sooner or later and getting everything planned out before you start any work will make it so much easier to keep things on track and on budget later on. Now it’s just a matter of actually doing the work. Having a super-detailed list and plan to refer back to will make things much smoother during the time the project is being carried out.
How do you plan your projects? Do you have any tips on how to plan a home improvement project? Do you have a super-detailed list as we do? Or do you prefer to just get on with things and see what happens? Do you have any tips for staying on time and on a budget?