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How to Prioritize Your Home Improvement Projects

Living in the 1920s Expanded American Bungalow, it’s not difficult for our family to identify aspects of the home that require some work.

There’s always something to build, repair, maintain or replace. What is difficult is figuring out where to allocate our family’s limited time and resources. What comes first, windows or doors? What’s more important, waterproofing the basement or replacing a hot water heater?

Few families can afford to do everything at the same time. So, prioritizing is an important element in the home improvement process. Setting goals and objectives from the beginning can spare you and your family unnecessary costs or redo’s along the way.

How to begin putting your home improvement house in order? Check out these handy tips on how to prioritize your home improvement projects. Great ideas for today’s savvy homeowner.


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The Home Improvement Journal

If you don’t have one, get one. Then, take one page and formulate a list of everything that needs to be done. Include both interior and exterior projects, like gardening and landscaping.

A master list of everything that needs to be repaired, maintained or remodeled will put each individual project in a better perspective.

Brainstorm everything that needs to be done. Include your wish list as well. Keep this Home Improvement Journal handy, and upload the information to your home computer.

Putting Your List in Category Order

Some of the items on your master list relate to work performed indoors. Others relate to the exterior of your home. In your Home Improvement Journal, divide the items into the following categories or sections:

  • Interior Home Improvement
  • Exterior Home Improvement
  • Landscaping
  • Other

Rank Each Item for Relative Importance

Looking at your list, you’ll need to give each item a score or ranking, with “1” having the strongest importance to you and your family and “5” having the least importance. Looking at the list, you’ll need to categorize the information in some way so that it’s useful to you and your family.

1 = Very important or major
2 = Somewhat important
3 = Neutral
4 = Somewhat unimportant or minor
5 = Unimportant/Not a priority

Determine Which Items You Will Do Yourself (DIY) and Which Require Professional Services

There are lots of home improvement projects that you can do yourself, like applying oil to a squeaky hinge or repotting a container garden.

Others require that you hire an expert or team of professionals. Indicate for each item who will be needed to do the work.

DIY = Do it yourself
E = Experts
Combo = Some aspects are DIY/Others will require experts

Rank Each Item for Cost

After considering who will do the work, now you’re ready to assess the cost of each item. Looking at your list, assign each item a cost score or ranking, with “1” indicating “most expensive” and “3” representing “least expensive,” such as

1 = Very expensive
2 = Moderate
3 = Least expensive
4 = Unsure

How Much Time is Needed?

For each item, assign a code that indicates the amount of time and effort that you estimate will be needed for the project, such as

1 = Significant time and effort (1 to several months+)
2 = Moderate time and effort (1 month and under)
3 = Low time and effort (1 day or several)

An organized master list and Home Improvement Journal can help you determine what you need to do and what you can realistically take on as an individual or family.

Assigning these rankings and codes can help you sort out what’s most important or pressing, and what you can save for a rainy day. Prioritizing your list of home improvement projects can help you stay on track.

For example, you may think you need to work on landscaping this year when, after developing your master list, you discover that you really need to focus on major systems, like electrical, HVAC or plumbing.

Developing a master list and Home Improvement Journal can take the impulse and emotion out of the home improvement process, reduce the cost of these household projects, and provide a handy home improvement roadmap for the future.

By assigning codes and categories, you can even develop metrics that will sort your projects by cost, importance, and other factors. A spreadsheet, like Excel, can help you sort this information in a way that’s helpful to you and your family.

Additional Resources

Looking for other tips on project planning or selecting a Home Improvement Professional? See the following organizations and websites for information on the home improvement industry, and unionized building and construction trades:

  • National Association of the Remodeling Industry www.nari.org
  • National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) www.necanet.org
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors-National Association (PHCC) www.phccweb.org
  • Building & Construction Trades Department (AFL-CIO) nabtu.org

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