How to Create a Home Renovation Binder
Perhaps you purchased a fixer-upper or perhaps you simply want to remodel your existing home. Whatever the reason for taking on a home renovation, just know that this project will inevitably dominate your life over the next few months. However, the time and energy spent creating your dream home will be well worth the effort at the end of the day. Plus, for those who enjoy a creative project, renovating a home is an especially rewarding experience.
As someone who spent nine months remodeling a 2,000 square foot house, I know a few things about what to do and what not to do when taking on a home renovation. In addition to seeking multiple bids and hiring a stellar contractor, I strongly recommend creating your own home renovation binder. Remodeling a home means coordinating and organizing many moving parts. Chances are your contractor won’t be handling every aspect of the renovation. For instance, you may find it’s more affordable to hire your own independent architects, designers, painters and landscaping services. This means, in addition to coordinating projects with your contractor, you’ll be arranging services from outside vendors and subcontractors.
The best way to keep track of tasks during a home renovation is by maintaining an organized home renovation binder. While many prefer to save documents and spreadsheets on their computer, we recommend keeping an old school binder as well. Trust me, this handy binder will be your saving grave in the midst of all the remodeling chaos. For tips on what to keep inside the renovation binder and how to organize it, take a look below.
What will go inside your renovation binder
Inside the binder, there should be room for anything and everything related to your home renovation. If you find the amount of paper documents overwhelming, we recommend creating a second binder to hold all of the separate interior and exterior design notes and samples. However, if you can manage to fit it all inside one binder, then try to do so. Examples of items that may go inside your home renovation binder include:
- Floor plans with elevation details
- Room sketches
- Overview of your project plans
- Contractor estimates
- Exterior landscape architect plans
- Design inspiration photos
- Contracts and proposals from contractors and subcontractors
- A list of vendor contacts
- Information about city regulations/historic district rules, etc
- Manuals and warranties
- Paint samples
- Fabric samples
- Budget details
Where to start
Start by gathering the right supplies. We recommend a large binder that is at least two to three inches thick, tab dividers, tab labels, 3-hole punch and sheet protectors (if you prefer to keep things laminated). Make sure the binder is strong enough to hold paperwork and various fabric and paint samples.
Break binder up into categories using tab dividers
The categories you choose to have in your binder will depend on your preferences and what you need. For instance, not everyone needs a category solely dedicated to the timeline of the project – but some do. Categories to consider including in the home renovation binder include:
In your “Budget” tab, we recommend keeping an ongoing list of all renovation costs. You should also create your own budget for the renovation as well as a prioritized list of your needs and wants. This way, if something ends up costing more than originally estimated, you can reference your list of needs/wants to evaluate where to cut back.
Proposals and contracts
From contractors and subcontractors to architects and interior designers, you may be hiring quite a few businesses to help with the renovation process. We recommend keeping all estimates, bids, official contracts and proposals in this section of the binder. You will likely need to reference these paper items during the process to check on prices and business specifics.
Vendors and subcontractors
Hiring painters, plumbers and electricians? Keep an ongoing list of all vendors and subcontractors used during the renovation process. Make sure to write down their names, addresses, phone numbers, emails and any other contact information available. You can also keep a list of any existing vendors and professionals that service your home such as a pool maintenance company, utility companies, landscaping and lawn care services and security system information.
Interior floor plans
This category should include copies of your current and proposed floor plans with elevations and measurements. You may also want to write out a detailed step-by-step project plan with a list of renovation changes. Be sure to give a copy of this plan to your contractor. Blueprints from your architect and photos of the “before” version of the home are also a good thing to store in this category.
Planning to re-landscape the front and/or backyard? Adding hardscape outside the home? If the answer is “yes” to either of these questions, then keep all paperwork regarding exterior renovations in this binder category. Your landscape architect may give you plans, sketches, photos of plants, etc to keep in the binder as well.
City regulations and requirements
If your renovation involves receiving permission from the city and/or a historic district before beginning construction, we recommend printing a copy of their rules and regulations. Oftentimes, a historic district will include a document about their “Design Review Process” to let homeowners know what they can and can’t do to the outside of the home.
Your contractor should take care of submitting permit applications for you. Many cities allow homeowners to check the status of their permit applications online. Once your request has been approved by the necessary city agencies, you or your contractor will pick up the permit and post it at the jobsite. We recommend making a copy for your records.
If you’re renovating the entire home, then this category may warrant its own binder. However, if you’re only redesigning several rooms, you should be able to fit this category into the home renovation binder. In this section, we recommend keeping paint samples and fabric samples. This is where you should put all those magazine clippings and design notes as well.
Finally, the last category of your home renovation binder should be “Notes.” Under this section, you’ll record and keep all notes you have throughout the process. This may include notes on home design, timeline details and scheduled meetings.
Other tools you’ll need when renovating a home
Consider using these handy tools when renovating a home:
- Pinterest – Looking for design inspiration? Pinterest away! This website allows users to discover and “pin” home ideas and style preferences. We recommend creating Pinterest boards to illustrate your renovation needs. These boards can be shared with interior designers and decorators to assist with the decorating process as well.
- Houzz – Not only can you vet and find local contractors in the area through Houzz, but you can also create ideabooks to share with collaborators. These ideabooks give your contractor visuals to help with the renovation process.
- Evernote – Use this note taking app on your smart phone or computer to keep track of ideas, projects and to-dos throughout the home remodel.
- RoomSketcher – Need a way to visualize floor plans and interior design ideas? Try uploading a blueprint of your home into RoomSketcher. The website will help you visualize your space with 2D and 3D floor plans.
Better Homes & Garden By: Marian White