The home is the gathering place for family and friends. As we enter the month of May, we celebrate this safe place — our home — with National Home Improvement Month! In this economy, more people are choosing to stay in their home and seek out ways to improve upon what they have. Here are five steps that every homeowner should take before the professional breaks ground on their remodel.

1. Research your project. Thorough research will help you to discover a realistic sense of what is involved, such as price, scope of work, return on investment, and new product/material options.

2. Set your budget. Deciding on a realistic budget and arranging finances to support your project is essential. Don’t be afraid to share this with your remodeler; professionals are respectful of a client’s budget and will create a plan around it, not over it.

3. Ask questions. Time and cost are important, but getting the right information requires the right questions. Ask your professional remodeler about their educational background, training, specialties, or past issues with clients. Ask about how the remodeling process will work and get a defined timeline.

4. Keep design in mind. Your design guides the entire project. Think about what you dislike about your current space and the intended use of the new space. Make sure you can articulate specifically what you like about that design when talking to your designer. Professionals don’t recreate a photo; they incorporate accessibility, functionality, ease of modification, style, and value into your design.

5. Create a communication plan. Your remodeler should lay out a communication plan at the beginning of the project. If not, ask them to do so. This plan should clarify roles of everyone involved, communication methods, availability, and frequency of communication that is expected.

As an industry that struggles with a skewed perception of remodeling contractors, these tips serve both the industry and consumers in elevating real professionals from the pack.