Once you’ve determined a realistic budget, you’ll need to clarify exactly what work can happen and when. You may also need to ask yourself some tough questions about what you really need versus what you simply want.  This will help you identify the true intention of the project and lay out important ground rules. It can even help with scheduling and determining what work happens when. 
Consider turning two standard windows into an opening for beautiful French or sliding glass doors. Full-view glass doors really brighten up the space and a light and airy room is always more attractive. Also, with a view of the outdoors, the room will feel much larger. Another bonus is that modern doors are energy-efficient, cutting down on heating and cooling costs. That means more cash in your pocket now and a financial bonus should you decide to sell.

Improving your home is a solid investment at any level — but if you have up to three thousand dollars to spend, a great place to start is by upgrading either the kitchen or bath. Either room is a good choice and you don't have to do a complete floor-to-ceiling remodel to reap financial benefits. In fact, modest kitchen or bath updates can be your best bet for a big return, netting, on average, an 80-85 percent return.
While it goes without saying that any project needs a budget to keep costs in check, it's not always an easy task to find the balance between your dream designs and the amount in you've allotted for a project. This is why it is essential to get a true understanding of pricing, both with materials and labor, so you can gauge expectations accordingly. 

Inspect prior work. When you talk to potential contractors, ask them for examples of work they have done that is similar to what you want. Find out if it is possible to contact previous clients and to inspect the work that was done for them. You will also want to ask the client if the project was finished on time, if they were satisfied with the work, and if there were any unexpected costs added during the project.
Want an energy-saving appliance, but can’t shell out the money for it right away? Beware of paying for it with credit, because the cost of your interest payments will undo the money you’re saving on utilities. But if you do have the cash for an energy-saving appliance, you’ll eventually see the return on your investment after years of lower utility bills.
One last tip about hiring skilled labor is to try to arrange your project for the off-season, which is usually after the holidays and before summer, but varies by region. Professionals are often busy with larger jobs in the summer, and many aren’t able or willing to take on smaller jobs at this time. I had trouble finding a mason in the summer, and getting an electrician to call me back was the worst! Another advantage of waiting until the off-season is that you may potentially be able to get a better price if they need the work.

One of a room's most neglected spaces, the ceiling, makes up one-sixth of a room's total area. Updating your home's ceilings will net a lot of bang for the buck while adding architectural interest. First, if you still have popcorn ceilings, hire a contractor to scrape them smooth. To add a sophisticated custom look to a smooth ceiling, install crown molding or box beams for a coffered look. Ceiling millwork, an attractive feature prevalent in older homes, is rarely found in newer construction. Adding small touches like these will help your home stand out from the pack.
Home renovations have been some of the most exciting, but also most trying times in my life. My biggest advice is to just know yourself and what you’re cut out for, and don’t get in over your head, budget-wise. No beautiful home is worth the anxiety that comes along with consumer debt! If you have the extra money, it’s worth saving yourself the stress and hiring out the work, as long as you found someone good and trustworthy—otherwise it may equal even more stress! Sometimes homebuilding also equates to character building, and I’m talking about personal growth here, not investment growth. But the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
However, you may choose to add a clause in your cost-plus remodeling contract that pays a bonus if the contractor completes the project early or under budget. This is more an incentive than a show of appreciation, and can be a percentage of estimated money saved or a flat fee, perhaps $500 to $1,000 for a major project like a large kitchen remodel.
I hesitated to add this to the list, because sometimes helping hurts, if you know what I mean! The same thing goes for doing it yourself. If you end up messing things up and have to hire someone to come fix it, then you’ve added expense to your project rather than saving money. But if you have electrician friends who’ve offered to help, or someone who has laid flooring in their home and has the equipment and experience, definitely take the help! But be judicious with who you allow to help, and make sure you communicate whether or not financial compensation is expected in exchange. Trading professional services is one way everybody wins in this type of scenario.
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Consider installing a whole-house fan. They're a great alternative to air conditioning because they use only one-tenth the electricity of air conditioners, saving you money. Whole-house fans are considered a "green" home improvement, which is a popular selling feature with today's homebuyers. As the cost of electricity continues to skyrocket, green energy alternatives will only gain in popularity.
We used a hole saw to cut into the drywall between every stud, which should be placed every 16″ on center, but you should check with a stud finer first. You can rent blowers at hardware rental places, and then we bought some curved PVC pipe pieces to connect the blower to the holes we drilled. Then we dumped the shredded insulation we had bought into the blower and just blew it in! Pretty simple. The trickiest part was just patching all the drywall, but I’m sure you can find some drywall patching tutorials on YouTube. 🙂
Figure out your entire budget. Don’t forget things like eating out more than usual if you are doing a kitchen remodel or hotel expenses if you will have to move out of your home during any of the work. Decide if you need to split the project into phases based on how the budget is shaping up. If the contractor arranges financing for the remodeling work, be sure you understand all aspects of the terms, especially you are taking out a second mortgage on your home as security. You may want to ask about putting an arbitration clause into your contract in case of any dispute between you and your contractor.
This might not save you money up front, but it certainly will in the long run! If you know you’ll be happy with patterned tiles covering most of your open-concept kitchen, then feel free to take that plunge. But removing tile, repairing walls, and replacing tile can be a big project, so if you’re not sure you can live with something so bold and permanent, make a safer choice you’ll be happy with for years to come. Obviously we’re seeing a lot of subway tile in kitchens these days, but to be fair, it’s a classic material that will age well, and it also provides a nice neutral backdrop for other easily changed trendy items like a candy colored stand mixer, pink painted walls, or a basket-style pendant light.
It really helped when you said that getting an efficient lighting design can help eliminate shadows on faces. That was a common problem we have in our bathroom before. It was too dark and my husband easily gets cuts when shaving. With this bathroom improvement project, I’d be sure to get help from a professional so we can remedy this lighting issue. Thanks for the very helpful tip!
Once you’ve determined a realistic budget, you’ll need to clarify exactly what work can happen and when. You may also need to ask yourself some tough questions about what you really need versus what you simply want.  This will help you identify the true intention of the project and lay out important ground rules. It can even help with scheduling and determining what work happens when. 
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