The free tool I wish we used while renovating our house.

In the early spring of 2017, my husband and I moved into our neighbors’ house, which we had just purchased through a private sale. It had the unfinished basement my husband had been searching for and the second bedroom we were going to need in roughly 8 months. A 1950’s brick home, perfect for an idealistic young couple with a baby on the way.

It was three years of legitimate sweat equity, a lot of memories, some tears, and two babies later that we sold. Along the way my husband gutted and rebuilt the kitchen, finished out the basement with a bedroom, office, bath, laundry, storage room and family room.

The first step to a big renovation is a plan.

Having spent 5 years working at various architecture and design firms I was lucky enough to know a designer willing to sit at our kitchen table one Saturday morning, sketching out various floorplans. Next, my husband taught himself SketchUp and built a full model of our existing home (often called as-builts), then he created the full 3D model of our planned updates to the kitchen and the basement. We filed for our permits, collected the first round of supplies and began our long journey.

We planned all along to hire jobs out that required expertise we didn’t have (and didn’t trust ourselves to acquire) – so we would bid those. The process went a bit like this – my husband would research pricing for that service based on our area and size of project. We’d bid it out. We’d be surprised by the price, always much more than we anticipated. We’d hire it out anyways or learn to do it ourselves. With babies and two careers, you can see why it took us three years to finish this renovation.

We sold, closing out permits just weeks before and touching up final pieces our last nights in the house. We closed the door and moved into our next house, a finished home without projects.

The missed step? An accurate budget.

It wasn’t long before we noticed things we’d really prefer to change in our “forever home.” Before you know it, we’re creating spreadsheets of material expenses and talking with architects about site plans.

This time, I started searching for online tools to help us visualize the space and changes we might choose. I came across The Home Renovator. Where were you three years ago!? This tool might get overlooked in the list of pretty room decorator apps available today, but organizing and budgeting for materials you’ll need are critical to a renovation. They even have free worksheets to help you measure and will tell you quantities and tools you will need for your job, and estimated pricing to give you a baseline for bids and negotiating.

The bottom line.

Home renovation projects always seem to cost more than you are expecting – the closer you can get to an accurate budget the more successful (and speedy) your project can be, whether it’s a DIY or a custom hired out job.

You can use the tool for free online here.

Cons: The interface is very plain and the project types are limited.

Pros: Free online tool that helps you identify type of materials needed, quantity and a baseline for pricing out the job.

If you’re considering a home renovation, you might want to talk with a loan officer about a renovation loan, a HELOC or a cash-out refi. We’d be happy to discuss the pros and cons of each with you and take a look at your specific situation to see what options could be best for you. Let’s make your home, your dream home – you can start today.