Whether it’s the home you’re living in or a new purchase, a home renovation is not a project to be taken on lightly. Here are 8 things to consider before investing in the process.

1. Know the difference between renovating and remodeling

Many of us use the terms “renovating” and “remodeling” interchangeably, but there is a difference. Renovating means to restore, and in home improvement terms, it involves basic repair and other cosmetic changes that will improve the aesthetic or function of a home. If you are just changing fixtures, painting walls or updating floors, it’s a renovation project. Remodeling means changing the structure of something, so if you’re planning to blow out walls and redesign a room, you are planning a remodel.

2. Start with budget, a plan and goals

Any good renovation project begins with loads of legwork. Now is the time to figure out what you want done, determine your budget and locate the right professionals to help you accomplish your goals. You may start off thinking, “I just want my living room renovated.” But think how easily that project could stream into the hallway, kitchen, dining room…and before you know it, you’re renovating the whole house. Nip that idea in the bud by setting boundaries and sticking to them.

3. Find (several) contractors

contractors doing work

Here’s what you don’t want – you don’t want to hire the second cousin of your brother’s fiancée’s best friend. There are better ways to go about finding a contractor: talk to people and take notes, get recommendations from home improvement centers, ask your local Chamber of Commerce and do some serious online research. Make sure you interview prospects and take a look at projects they’re currently working to get an idea of what they deliver. Is the jobsite clean? Do their employees seem respectful? Do you like the result? Choosing wisely now could save you from costly mistakes later.

4. Dream big but be realistic

It’s great (and necessary) to have a vision of what you want your renovated home to look like, but beware of letting your dreams get out of control. Say, for example, you’re dreaming of a gourmet kitchen with state-of-the-art appliances and marble counters, or a den that features hardwoods, a stone fireplace and built-in cabinets. Sounds lovely—unless your budget is more Spartan. By all means, tell your contractor about your dreams, then design a plan that allows you to renovate in stages so you can add the more luxurious elements on your wish list in the future.

5. Think long term (renovate for future)

home undergoing renovations

Smart home renovators know they’ll see more return for their investment if they think ahead. What’s the point of renovating a home that will be obsolete in a few years? Consider future-safe investments that will allow you and your home to stand the test of time. For example, you could install smart technology that controls everything from lighting to security to appliances. Consider going green with eco-friendly ideas like painting with low VOC paints, using recycled materials and installing solar energy. Or think adaptability with transitional designs that accommodate the needs of an aging population, like lower counters, easy access drawer knobs or walk-in bathtubs.

6. Move out or live with the dust?

Remember that during your renovation, your home will feel like public property. From carpenters to electricians to building inspectors, you can expect a movable feast of strangers traipsing through your abode. You may wish to find alternate lodging during this time, or, if you still have electricity and water, you could plan to stick it out – but be prepared. If possible, have the workers install heavy-duty plastic over doorways to act as a dust barrier, and cover your furniture and floors with plastic as well. Another life saver is claiming a spot that’s all your own, away from the work zone and off limits to everyone but family. Set up a table with necessities like a coffee pot, microwave, stovetop cooker, laptop and chargers.

7. Remember Fido

It’s a no-brainer that when the renovation begins, you keep little ones out of the way. But don’t forget about your little non-humans – your pets – as well. Not only can dogs, cats and other animals get in the way, but they are also at risk from falling debris. Not to mention that broken glass and nails can injure delicate paws if stepped on. Plus, with workers going in and out all day, doors will be open, leading to increased potential of runaways. Take care of your pets by housing them with a friend or relative, or even boarding them at a safe place. And one more thing: make sure you tell your neighbors about your project, that way they’ll know what all the fuss is about and can be on the lookout in case a pup or kitty goes wandering.

8. Choose new pieces that will complement your new look

When the dust from your home renovation has finally settled, you may want to redecorate. If your style has changed significantly, it might not be visually pleasing to furnish your new space with outdated (at least for you) furniture. If you can’t afford to take the plunge to totally refurnish your new place, consider purchasing accessories and smaller items like accent tables and chairs that will match the architectural style of your new space and reflect your new mood.