renovation-prep
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Renovating your house is an adventure, one that can easily go off the rails. There are a mind-boggling number of wrong turns homeowners can take, from going over budget, to hiring a shady contractor, to just realizing that the quartz counters or paint color they picked are so wrong—after the work is done.

So if you want to make sure your renovation turns out all right, it’s essential you be prepared. Here are eight things you should do before embarking on any major home improvement project to avoid a whole bunch of headaches and regrets.

1. Know what you like

Oh that part’s easy, right? You want a totally new kitchen. But what exactly does that mean? You have to narrow down whether that’s just cosmetic (e.g., new cupboards, counters, and appliances) or structural (e.g., reconfiguring your space or knocking down a wall).

“I suggest my clients spend time browsing Pinterest, flipping through home decorating magazines, and watching design shows on TV to assemble a ‘visual wish list,’ which helps them get a handle on their design direction,” says Barbara Mount of Barbara Mount Designs and Windermere Realty Group, in Lake Oswego, OR. This is a particularly crucial exercise to get couples, whose tastes could be wildly different, on the same design page.

2. Run the numbers

There’s a reason we call it a “dream house”: It might not exist in real life—at least within the parameters of our budget! So before you get too attached to single-slab counters or spendy light fixtures, take a stroll down the aisles of your local design center to start pricing materials and labor.

3. Do a reality check

You might be wildly off base on what’s feasible in home renovation. For example, a project that might seem simple, such as adding a laundry room upstairs, can easily become a budget buster when you realize you have to configure complicated plumbing because of the location you chose. Having a consultation with an architect or a contractor can give you some insight into which projects will be workable—and which you might want to abandon before you even get started.

4. Decide to DIY or go pro

For all but the simplest jobs—or if you’re extremely handy (and patient)—using a professional contractor is the way to go. And even…