Exterior Remodeling Guide for Beginners

Exterior Remodeling Guide for Beginners

Exterior remodeling can be a challenge for beginners.  TV renovation shows make remodeling look so quick and easy, but for those new to the process, it can be a different story. You hear about newbies experiencing nightmares with cost overruns, shoddy work and shady contractors. But it doesn’t have to be like that for beginners.

The key to successful exterior remodeling is in planning. It begins with a common question: “I want to renovate my house, so where do I start?” Knowing how to start a renovation and exterior remodel of your house begins with having a clear vision of what you want to achieve, understanding the renovation process and contracting with a reputable company that produces quality work.

There’s a lot to do before signing an exterior renovation contract, though. You’ll often hear the term “due diligence” used in business investments and transactions. That simply means you’ve done your homework and understand where your best value lies. It’s the same principle used in remodeling the exterior of a house. You identify the priorities that will deliver your best renovation value, then plan how to achieve them.

It’s a tremendous help for remodeling beginners to have a clear guide. Having a resource to walk you through the necessary steps to take before starting an exterior remodeling project is more important than having a how-to manual on doing the actual construction work. More beginners get themselves in renovation trouble from failing to properly plan than any other cause. The good news for beginners is that’s totally preventable.

Have a clear vision when remodeling your house

Have a Clear Vision

So where do I start remodeling a home? What to do first when remodeling a house is to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. You also need a clear vision of why you want to renovate your exterior. There are many reasons that can motivate you to renovate your exterior. They might include:

  • Maintenance or repair: You might experience a leaky roof or the wind’s torn your siding You might just want to be preemptive in renovating your exterior before damage happens. Either way, you need to get on it before things get worse.
  • Outdated appearance: Perhaps your home is older and reflects an out-of-date style. You want to freshen it with a modern appearance. That might entail new windows or doors. New gutters, trim or even some shutters are small items with big value. How about stone veneer?
  • Family dynamics: There might have been only two of you when you moved in, but now your family additions require extra space. You might renovate to include extra room. You might want to include a deck or maybe a porch.
  • Eco-friendliness: If your home’s exterior is suffering heat loss or gain, you probably want to reduce your energy costs by remodeling. Energy-efficient products offer significant savings by consuming fewer resources, which is good for the environment. There also can be tax advantages to this renovation angle.
  • Marketability: Nothing sells a home like curb appeal. You can greatly improve your marketability by remodeling your home’s exterior. This may bring a higher sale price by making your home more attractive.

No matter what your motive for remodeling the exterior of your house, you must have a clear vision of your goals. Once you clearly know your overall purpose, it’s time to get on with the planning process. A step-by-step priority layout will guide you through the planning.

The Exterior Remodeling Planning Process

There’s an old saying that goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” It’s true. But it’s so easy to succeed when you properly plan out your renovation process. You need to have that vision of where you’ll end up before you start any physical renovations. The two biggest failures beginners suffer that shatter remodeling dreams is failing to be realistic in their expectations and not setting an accurate budget. Both of these flaws lead to bad contracts and potentially disastrous work.

The first thing to do when remodeling a house is to make a list. You have to be honest with yourself about what you want to achieve and if you can actually afford it. Include these three groups in your list:

  • Must-have priorities: These items are the core of your vision. Without them, the project is senseless. That could include having your windows replaced, or you might prioritize your doors, siding or roof. You may just want to focus your attention on a fresh coat of paint on the walls and trim.
  • Like-to-haves: Think about what you’d like to have added during your remodeling, but can live without for the time being. For example, a new roof might be a must-have item, but you’d like to get the gutters and downspouts replaced while you’re at it. But if the budget won’t allow, you should strike those items from the list and save them for later.
  • Dream items: If you can extend your finances, don’t be afraid of dream items like adding a portico. Are stone veneer accents too much to ask? How about window header accents to go along with capped trim or screening in that porch? Let yourself dream, but keep reality in mind.

Make a list of priorities with your remodel

Now that you know your exact remodeling purpose and have narrowed down your necessities, it’s time to get specific about money. Unrealistic financial ability is a disaster waiting to happen. Begin by knowing your purchasing limits and your capability of handling that financial load. Do this before going any further in starting designs, picking products and especially before contacting contractors.

You’re sure to have some picture of what renovation funds you have, but you may not be sure of what’s available. Talk to your financial institution and ask where your limits are. That’s not just your borrowing power if you need a loan. It’s also about your debt-service ratio and if you can handle extra payments.

You also need to take a hard look at value. At this point, ask yourself if you really need to proceed. You might be in an immediate situation where your roof has to be redone. But maybe you can put off cosmetic remodeling until you’ve saved extra money or cleared other debt. Something to consider, though, is current economic trends. It might be to your advantage to go ahead and renovate this year before prices rise and an upcycle restricts labor and material supplies.

Setting a Budget for Redoing the Outside of Your House

The key to setting a successful remodeling budget is to be detailed and realistic. You know why you’re renovating, and you know what you need, want and dream about. You also know what you can afford. Now it’s time to figure out exactly what your renovations will cost.

Set your budget with line-by-line expenses. You need to break down your anticipated costs in detail. Make these line items your budget checklist. Just like your “must-haves” list, anticipate every expense you might incur during your exterior remodeling project. Some suggestions are:

  • Permits and licensing
  • Utility fees
  • Demolition and waste
  • Landscape disruption
  • Specialty tools and rentals
  • Actual materials
  • Labor costs
  • Management fees
  • Consultant charges
  • Design and drawings
  • Financing costs
  • Unexpected events

Set remodeling budget line by line

Unexpected events are common in remodeling jobs. In fact, they’re so common that veteran contractors expect them to happen. You never know what you’ll find when you pull off old shingles. You might have rotten sheathing that must be replaced. Once your windows are out, you might find water-damaged sills. Removed siding could reveal nearly anything.

Make sure you allow a cost overrun contingency in your remodeling budget. Ten percent is a good rule of thumb. 15 percent is even better. Whatever you allow, it’s vitally important to have wiggle room for inevitable cost overruns. That includes items you’ve overlooked and items that come with the “that’s extra” clauses so many contractors have.

Being diligent and thorough in setting a realistic budget is your best return on time when remodeling. Many cases of cost overruns aren’t truly a matter of going over budget. They’re the result of under-budgeting in the first place. Take your time in planning your process and setting your budget. You’ll be glad you did.

Popular Types of Exterior Remodeling Updates

There are a wide variety of ways to make a worthwhile investment in remodeling the outside of your home, from improving your energy efficiency to upgrading thermal insulation and security.

Efficiency Updates

Exterior remodeling can give you opportunities to improve the overall efficiency of your home. These improvements can range from investing in insulation to installing better windows and more. For example, installing new energy-efficient windows can help you cut back on energy costs.


High-grade windows with large attractive panes can dramatically increase the curb appeal of your home. They allow natural light to brighten your space while affording better energy efficiency. They also grant increased security and provide your home with a modern aesthetic.


Over time, your siding can take serious abuse from weather conditions and become dirty, develop mold or lose its protective coating to corrosion. These issues provide an avenue for pests like termites or ants to invade your home and have the potential to cause health problems, especially if mold is allowed to remain unabated.

Upgraded siding materials like fiber cement or new vinyl can improve the overall longevity of your home.


Your doorways are like the handshake of your home as far as greeting visitors. Upgrading your entryway is a powerful way to upgrade your security, boost your insulation and add a welcoming, decorative touch. A well-made, modern door provides confidence in its security while also matching the color scheme and the feel of your home’s exterior design.

6 Home Remodeling Ideas to Enhance Your House

The appearance and functionality of your house affect the way you live and the property’s potential resale value. Here are six ideas you can use to take your home to the next level of curb appeal and livability.

1. Update Your Paint

A fresh coat of paint can upgrade the curb appeal of your home and bring a new vibe to your property. Whether you want a brighter, more cheery atmosphere or would rather add a touch of contemporary flair to your home’s coloring, choosing the right paint can revitalize its appearance. Remember that homes generally look best when the color matches the architecture. For example, darker paint colors typically match architecture from the Victorian era, while a Tudor home usually has a natural color palette.

2. Add Trim

Bold colored trims on your front door, shutters or trim can take your home’s exterior design to the next level and pair beautifully with a new paint job. Decorative woodwork can also take your home a step further to stand out on the block. It’s key to find trim colors that complement the home’s exterior but also catch the eye and contrast with your main color scheme. Popular examples include crisp white and bold reds and blues.

3. Try out Accents

Many houses have straightforward horizontal lap siding to cover the exterior of the home, but accents can become a significant design opportunity in your exterior remodel. Everything from decorative trims to shingles, panels and board-and-batten siding can mix and match to highlight the best features of your home. Colored panels on anything from upper stories to towers or garages can create a dynamic, eye-catching contrast.

4. Add Lighting

Sconces can provide a decorative feel for the entryways of your home, while accent lights help with security and visibility by providing a way for guests to see at night. If your home has soffits or overhangs, you might install subtle lighting in these areas to define your roofline. Lighting up your home in the evening can also highlight your stylish paint, accents and trim.

5. Update Your Roof

One of the key features affecting the functionality and appearance of your home is your roof. As a roof gets older, it gradually degrades and becomes subject to internal problems like leaks. You might consider replacing your traditional asphalt shingles with architectural roof shingles that add dimension and reflect UV rays for greater energy efficiency.

Take Your Time Redoing the Exterior of Your House

Time is your remodeling friend. Don’t turn it into your enemy. The more time you take in carefully planning your process, setting a proper budget and sourcing the right materials and renovation contractor, the more successful you’ll be. Ask any remodelers who were once beginners, and they’ll tell you it’s true.

The truth in remodeling is that everything takes longer than you think. Unfortunately, it’s also true that things usually cost more than you anticipate. You can reduce your stress by accounting for time, as well as money. Here are some time management suggestions:

  • Target your renovation season: Unless you live in a climate that’s warm year-round, your renovation will almost always be in spring, summer or fall. Choose when you’d like the project done, then move the calendar back six months and start forming your exterior remodeling plan. Give yourself half a year to plan and use it to decide exactly what you want, source the available materials and shortlist the contractors you’d like to work with.
  • Hire a home inspector: These professionals can be exceptional investments, as they’ll give you an honest and independent opinion of your home’s condition. Inspectors will catch things you won’t as a beginner remodeler. They’re also good sources of solutions and for prioritizing what needs to be done soon, and what can wait.
  • Research your products: A big challenge for beginning remodelers is that there are so many different products and so much information available. TV shows are good sources, but most make it seem too easy. Some credible productions reveal pitfalls, and that’s helpful. The Internet is an excellent tool. Trade shows and exhibitions are informative. So are supply houses and product distributors.

Nothing beats talking with renovation contractors. They’re the real industry experts. Many have years of invaluable experience in remodeling exteriors. Most have seen and solved more problems than you can imagine.

But not all remodeling contractors are equal. Not by any means. Some are reputable professionals who have built remodeling companies that have survived years. They’re successful because they know their business, they know their costs and they know how to work with their clients.

The best use of your planning time is in selecting your renovation contractor. Start early on this, and you’ll be rewarded with minimal stress and a smooth job.

You won't regret spending time to find a good contractor

Selecting a Remodeling Contractor

As a beginning renovator, you’ll never regret the amount of time spent in qualifying and selecting your remodeling contractor. You’re going to spend a lot of future time with them, and you want that relationship to be excellent. Renovators are people like anyone else. They have different skills, experiences and personalities. Here’s what to look for in a contractor who complements you:

  • Experience: Find a remodeling contractor who has the experience to handle your work. That’s vital. You don’t want someone learning on your job and at your expense.
  • Expense: In all likelihood, you’re going to get what you pay for. Be very careful with cheap prices. There’s always a catch attached. Contractors who stay in business have to charge to cover their costs and overheads. They also have to make a profit. Just make sure the contractor is competitive for the service they deliver.
  • References: Don’t rely solely on references a contractor provides you. Do your diligence and check out previous projects. Talk with past clients and see how it went. Things don’t always go smoothly, but it’s how a contractor handles sensitive situations that’s really telling. Another reference source is the renovation contractor’s suppliers and sub-trades. They’ll know exactly what’s going on behind the business scenes.
  • Licensing: This is critical. All renovation contractors should be state-licensed and certified to perform your work. Do not consider someone who hasn’t been officially approved. Make sure your contractor is covered by workers’ compensation insurance and is currently in good standing. Also, make sure your contractor has a local business license and has a registered tax number. If a contractor can’t provide you with these essentials, there’s a high likelihood something will go wrong.
  • Contracts: All reputable remodeling contractors will provide you with a detailed contract that identifies the scope of work, the time frame, the costs and the payment process. Make sure you get it in writing, as verbal contracts are difficult to enforce.
  • Warranty: A professional renovator will stand behind their work. Each contractor will have different terms and conditions, but they’ll be upfront on what they’ll cover and for how long. Good contractors also use quality building materials that are under a manufacturer’s warranty. Spend time researching what a contractor recommends.

Contact Sunshine Contracting for Your Remodeling Project

Sunshine Contracting is a leading remodeling professional serving northern Virginia since 1983. We’ve worked with hundreds of satisfied customers, and often get involved in the renovation project’s early stages. We’re used to working with beginner remodelers and understand the challenges they face.

The renovation experts at Sunshine Contracting help you plan. We work with you to make that list of musts, wants and dreams, and then turn it into a realistic budget before starting. We’re a great source of information. We give you affordable options and alternatives to material choices, as well as all design and permitting requirements.

Sunshine Contracting is your leading provider of all exterior remodeling services. Check out our options for roofs, siding, trim, stone veneer, gutters, windows and doors. We build decks, porches and porticos. We even do screened porches for you. Contact Sunshine Contracting today.

originally published: September 17th, 2017

updated: October 28th, 2022

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