The first step in any home improvement project is planning. If you are a homeowner, you probably already have an idea of an improvement you would like to make in your home. That idea is the first step in making your home improvement plan. Once you have your idea in mind, decide on your objectives: exactly what you want the improvement to do for your home and how you want it to look. Knowing these objectives ahead of time will help you figure out what kind of work will be involved and the types of materials that are needed. To estimate the cost of your improvement project, make a rough sketch of the area or structure you are improving and then measure the dimensions of the area. Next, make a list of the materials you will need, including quantity and size where applicable. By using a mail-order catalog for home hardware and decorator materials, you can look up the prices of items on your list. Catalog prices are generally the same or lower than prices at local dealers. A good formula for estimating the labor expense for a project is sixty to seventy-five percent of the materials cost. Once you have your idea, objectives, sketch, list of materials, and a cost estimate, you'll be able to discuss your plans intelligently with contractors and suppliers. For more information on interior improvements, contact an expert in home improvement.