A remodeling project involves financial, design and logistics challenges. It can all seem overwhelming. That means it's crucial to have a plan. “The planning and researching phases of a project are the most critical steps in the remodeling process,” according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. “The more knowledgeable and prepared a homeowner is, the more they protect themselves.” TIPS FOR A REMODELING PROJECT • Research your project. This involves looking for photos and information about completed projects you like. Reading about others' experiences can help prepare you for potential challenges and educate you about the time and materials involved. • Plan for the long term. Ask yourself how the project fits with your long-term goals. Are you planning to add to your family? Is there a potential move in your future? Answering these questions will help you make wise decisions about how to use your time and money. • Set your budget. Be realistic, and be sure to include all the materials and labor you will need. Be honest with your contractor about your budget, and ask for his advice about cost-saving measures you can take. • Use advanced search for professionals. Read a remodeler's online reviews and look into licensing, certifications, association memberships and other credentials. Look at the company's online portfolio and see how it interacts with its customers on social media. • Ask the right questions. NARI suggests asking remodelers about their education and training, whether they specialize in a certain type of remodeling and how they handle issues with clients. • Verify your remodeler. Before you choose a remodeler, you want to be sure you've done your homework. See if it's possible to arrange a visit to a current job site. Double check his certifications and licenses with the issuing agencies. • Review contracts word by word. A remodeling contract contains language designed to protect you and the contractor. Be sure to read it thoroughly and ask questons about anything you don't understand. Make sure you know how and when the contractor will be paid, how change orders will be handled, how long the job will take and how additional fees and delays will be handled. • Keep design in mind. Think about how the space will be used and how it could be made more useful. Visit websites to find design ideas and talk to your designer about what you like about a particular design. • Make your selections. Making firm decisions about your project materials plays a huge role in the project being completed on time. Don't always choose the least expensive material. Instead, consider value. Ask that materials be listed in the contract. • Create a communication plan. Communicating with your remodeler and vice versa is key to a project's success. Work out with your remodeler how you will contact her and how often you will be in touch.