You don’t have to be an expert to keep your remodel under control, but a little knowledge can go a long way. When you take on a large project, make an effort to learn its ins and outs. Although you can’t plan for everything, trying will save you time, money, and worry. Read on for more tips on how to keep your project on track and out of the gutter.

1. Plan Your Project at Least Three Months in Advance

couple lying on floor looking at blueprintsThe best way to keep track of your project is to understand it. Before you bust out the sledgehammers, take the time to understand your project’s process from top to bottom.

Ask yourself a few key questions: What do I want from this remodel? How long do projects like this normally take? What materials do I want? How will I finance the project? Will I hire a contractor?

Answering these questions can and should take time—be thorough.

2. Check, Double-Check, and Triple-Check

If and when you decide to use a contractor, give yourself the time to shop around. Once you’ve gotten a handle on the scope of your project, meet with multiple companies and discuss your ideas.

You should provide them with a detailed account of what you want from your remodel, and in exchange, they should provide you with a detailed bid—in writing—outlining a proposed timeline and price point.

Don’t be dazzled by the lowest offer alone. Make sure to check recent and older references, research the company’s history, and compare details with the other bids you receive. A good contractor can mean the difference between a six-week overhaul and an endless nightmare—be diligent.

3. Don’t Pay All at Once

Big remodels are especially prone to hemorrhaging money if not managed correctly, so make sure to set yourself up to be as in control of your funds as possible.

Some contracting companies will offer an estimate and ask for a back-end payment, meaning you pay once your work has been finished and the final costs have been tallied. However, this course can lead you to a final tally that’s wildly out of your budget.

A good rule of thumb is to set up a payment plan that spans the length of the job. This will keep your workers incentivized to finish their work completely and keep you from making pointless splurges.

4. Give Your Budget Some Wiggle Room

s [close-up of woman's hands writing a checkAn estimate is just that: an estimate. Use your contractor’s bid as a jumping-off point for your financing plan. No matter how good the company, remodels are prone to speed bumps—budget for them.

If you can’t gather money quickly, contractors will move on, which could draw out your project indefinitely. Keep a cushion of between 5 and 20 percent of your original budget so you can keep workers on the job and on schedule.

5. Stay in Constant Contact With Your Contractor

It’s important to be accessible and involved during your upgrade. Make it clear that you’ll need frequent time and budget updates. If possible, try to get itemized supply lists and semiregular walk-throughs to ensure you’re happy with the progress. Make as many decisions yourself as possible so you can maintain control of your vision.

If you’re unhappy with the work or your relationship with your contractor, don’t hesitate to consult other experts, and if need be, move on.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Be Hands-On

Some contractors may suggest you choose from their own supply of materials, fixtures, appliances, and the like. Though convenient, this can inflate your final bill. Don’t be afraid to make your own choices in collaboration with builders. Buying products from wholesale vendors, discount suppliers, and other options can greatly benefit your bottom line.

If anything, do your own research about the cost and quality of the materials you’re offered, so you know how to spot a deal.

7. Stick to the Plan

Once you’ve made your design, budget, and construction plans, stick to them. It can be easy to be swept up in the frenzy of all the options, but this can lead to wasteful spending and a protracted build. Draw out the planning phase, and use that time to make decisions in painstaking detail. You’ll thank yourself later.

Managing a big remodel can seem like a tall order for any homeowner. With time, money, and your comfort on the line, it’s important to be confident that you’re running your renovation well. Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way.