What is the due diligence as a homeowner to start my project for a renovation, addition or a new home?What are the steps I need to take as a home owner to make sure I don’t get totally screwed over? That’s the real question.


One of the rules in our house, what I try to teach our kids, is to first start out by taking 100% of the blame or responsibility for the situation. Then work back from there. We try to see things from everyone’s perspective. There is no room for blaming others to have any true success. My theory is blame yourself first, fix you and your actions first and everyone else will fall in line hopefully. That’s what being a leader is all about.

Whether you’re doing a kitchen or bath remodel or building a new home it is imperative you find out the basics before you get started or you will be at the mercy of your team. You need to take on a leadership role in your home project.

Start out with some idea of what you want. I will warn you though you need to be fluid with this. It may need to change based on what you can do with your property and what your budget will allow.

Here are the 5 pieces of the puzzle you need to have a handle on to get what you want.

  • What can I actually do in my land. Take your idea to people who have experience. Meet with a couple contractors. Get their input. They will need a set of plans from you eventually but not yet.
  • Get a survey with an elevation certificate. This is key in Florida with our codes.
  • Don’t just call but visit your local building department and find out any and all constraints that apply to your lot with your survey in hand. Then follow up with an email so you have record. Find out what the set backs are, what is the finished floor height requirement, is your lot nonconforming, will you need a variance for anything you want to do, find out now.
  • Get some initial cost estimates. If no one will help you, then go online and do some real research on the cost of each step, cost of design or architect, cost of permitting, cost of contractor fees, costs of materials- actually go shopping, have an idea of square footage so have a real idea of what you will need.
  • Make a list of all your wants and needs. Sky’s the limit. Your designer will want this. Also collect ideas in Houzz ideabooks or on Pinterest on boards. You can share these later with your designer.

Once you have these pieces of information you will be well armed to choose wisely the best designer and contractor to implement your ideas. You will need a set of house plans if you are changing walls, electrical, plumbing. Cities want to know that your home is up to code. If you go to sell your home with renovations that are undocumented it can hinder the sale. It’s really not that complicated or difficult. Nor is it that much more expensive.

As a home owner, take 100% responsibility for protecting your biggest investment. Know ahead of time what you can afford, what is allowable on your lot. With this information at the start of your project you will be better equipped to hire the right design team and contractor.