Confidence & Peace of Mind
How to experience a stress-free remodeling project.
- What are your specific needs?
Pain usually precipitates remodeling. The children have outgrown sharing a bedroom or need a place to hang with friends and out of your hair. The in-laws are moving in. The kitchen is worn, outdated and in need of new appliances or the bathroom is leaking into the first floor.
Occasionally, it can be a reward for a job well done, such as, moving the children through college and out the door as independent citizens and now it’s time for that master suite you’ve been dreaming of with the spa-like bathroom. Whatever the reason for your remodel, take time to discuss and list your specific needs or wants, so they can be articulated to a design professional.
- Receive expert advice from design professionals to fill those needs.
The design professional you will need is dependent upon the project you are considering. If an addition is needed than an architect will probably be your best choice and their drawings necessary for the builder. If you are considering interior renovations within the footprint of your home an interior designer can review the layout of your home and offer the best possible design solution for your needs. This very important step can save you time and money in the long run, so before you decide to move forward with the design in your head, check out a few local interior design experts. Many contractors are Design/Build firms that offer both in one shop. The beauty of a Design/Build firm is that they design to budget with more accuracy, since they are the ones building it.
- Spend Time Planning Your Remodel.
Remodeling your home, most likely your greatest asset, is a critical task. Most families are living in the home while a remodel is progressing and need to plan accordingly for what they may have to live without during the renovation. Knowing the inconvenience in advance can help with the emotional ups and downs during an invasive remodel. For example if the master bathroom is the target, where will the parents get ready before the workday begins? If it’s the hall bath, is there a schedule to make room for the kids to get ready for school? Remodeling can disturb the regular routine of a household and decisions need to be made in advance for handling the change.
Just as important as fixing routine changes, a homeowner needs to choose to remodel during a season that will cause the least amount of stress on the family. Some homeowners prefer summer, when the schedule is less structured or family travels. Other homeowners prefer when the children are in school during the day. Decide what season is best for you and your family.
- Choose a contractor who understands your needs and can articulate them to you.
Communication and chemistry is paramount when you are in relationship with someone. The Contractor/Homeowner relationship is no different. In many cases the remodeling contractor may be in your home from morning till evening, five days a week and there needs to be understanding of the family routine and the contractor’s schedule. Contractors that are customer service conscience will cover all of the little things during the pre-construction meeting, ie: protecting little children & pets, who leaves when and keeping the driveway clear, are there any events coming up that require the home to be available for social gathering, meeting the neighbors and many other important items for a smooth running remodel.
Avoid Surprise Extras
How to keep your remodeling project within budget.
- Make a list of priorities.
If money was no object than priorities wouldn’t be necessary. With most homeowners there is a budget number in mind and a limit as to what investment they will make, especially in regard to overpricing their home for the neighborhood. When you decide on what rooms need remodeling or where an addition needs to be added, you can then decide on the priorities for each room. Do you wish to invest in hardwood floors or will carpeting work for you, just as well? Will you have a full bath with tub or just a walk-in shower? Does the kitchen need to be a gourmet kitchen for the chief cook with all the best appliances or can you settle for the mid-range appliances and go all out on the cabinets and counter tops? These are just a few of the questions that you need to ask yourself, as you determine the priorities for your remodeling project.
- Choose selections carefully.
This is the area many homeowners cause themselves the most “budget pain.” It is understandable that when you sit down with your designer in the showroom and see the many choices that you have available your eye will travel to the most luxurious, the most unique materials and they can also be the most expensive. We aren’t saying you shouldn’t splurge from time to time, after all how often does one remodel? The trick is in determining the priorities. With what selections can you compromise your outstanding taste and what are non-negotiable? What is the cost versus value?
- Keep open communication with your contractor an ask questions.
You will notice the thread that runs through this article has to do with your relationship with your contractor. This is a team project, the contractor, designer/architect and you. If there isn’t open communication and a safe zone for questions and answers than the team isn’t working together and the project will be long and emotionally and perhaps financially draining. In any relationship there is a “clicking” factor. Do you click with a particular contractor? Do they understand your pain and have a solution to alleviate it? Do you understand their process and the intricacies? There must be a comfortable atmosphere between both of you and that means understanding on your end and theirs and the ability to collaborate.
- Require your sign-off with each change made from the contract that will incur cost.
Some contractors call this a change order. Just about every homeowner makes changes, as they are having their home remodeled. Sometimes it’s because there was something unforeseen behind the wall or under the ground; other times it’s because they don’t care for the way something looks even though it was drawn in advance. Whatever the reason for the AWA make sure you discuss the cost with the contractor and have them put it in writing, so you can see it and sign-off. This will prevent disagreements in the future and unexpected surprises that can drive the cost of a project over budget .
Ensuring Quality Work
How to live without remodeling regrets.
- Inspect your project as work is being performed.
If you have done your homework and chosen a reputable contractor this should be a breeze. The real purpose in inspecting the work as it progresses is to make sure your design is being constructed and if so, do you like the way things are unfolding? Changes are normal in the remodeling process. We are human and sometimes the contractor may miss something or make an error. Its checks and balances on the part of both parties and can usually be easily remedied at the time it is being built.
- Raise questions should you see something that isn’t as it should be.
This is all a part of the process described above. Communication makes for quick remedies and smoother running projects. We are all human, and so human error must be factored into anything we do. An experienced, reputable contractor will make right whatever is wrong and ensure a happy customer, who is also a referral generator. One of the great things about the construction industry is that people refer friends and family, if they are happy with their contractor and the work performed. The work speaks for itself to anyone who sees it.
- Make changes, if need be, as your remodel is progressing.
The cost will be less than after the project is finished.
How To Review Estimates
How to understand and properly review your estimate.
- Read it, every detail.
If you have a contractor who is detail oriented in the proposal or contract you have a sign that they are careful regarding the details of your project, as its being built. The proposal should have enough details to make you comfortable that the contractor is in tune with the scope of work you desire on your home. If it seems vague than ask for clarification. As you read the work to be done, if there are items missing or additional items you did not express you wanted completed, discuss them with the contractor. The contractor should make clear the need for those items or make the necessary changes to the proposal to reflect the exact work you are requesting. Communication from the onset is the best policy.
- Get clarification with unclear items.
As in the item above, communication regarding anything you do not understand from the beginning is the best way to avoid problems later.
- Make sure all that was discussed is outlined and included.
Take a look at your plans (if required), get familiar with the changes that are proposed and compare it to the scope of work in the estimate. If it looks like everything is covered, you can believe you have a bona fide estimate and can make your decision to move forward with your remodel, choosing one of the qualified contractors you engaged. Never choose a contractor based on pricing alone. This can lead to a bad experience. There are many factors to consider when choosing a contractor and we will outline those below.
- Understand what is excluded.
Sometimes in remodeling there are items that the homeowner assumes are included. One such item may be debris removal. This should be included in the proposal and at the preconstruction meeting the location of the dumpster should be discussed. Permits are another area of assumption and you should make sure your contractor will acquire the necessary permits, for your area. Also a neighborhood with an HOA has its own set of bylaws that must be considered. Make sure the contractor is aware of them. Perhaps painting will be included in the project. Settle in advance whether it is one color throughout or several colors, the type of paint and the number of coats to be applied. Again, communication is the key to any successful remodeling project.
- Discuss options, if the proposed price doesn’t meet your budget.
There are always options.
How To Choose A Contractor
How to decide which relationship fits your lifestyle and need.
- Choose an established contractor with a local headquarters.
This is where you do your due diligence. An established contractor means someone who has been in the building industry for quite a few years. They have an office with staff that can be reached during the normal work day for questions or problems. They have a good reputation for problem solving and have resolved any complaints that might be against them. This contractor should have a good amount of experience in doing your particular remodel. If you are having a second story addition added to your home, a general handyman company might give you a great price for the work to be completed, but do they know what they are doing? Research the extent of work the contractor has done, and check out their website. (If you are having an extensive remodel completed, the contractor you choose should most definitely have a website.)
- Check BBB ratings, their reputation with the local trade association and reviews from online websites.
This is the first line of research. If the BBB has complaints and no resolutions or the local trade association doesn’t have a clue about the contractor, you may want to keep on looking. Opinion websites are a necessary evil and can offer a candid review of the contractor from past clients. Unfortunately, there are always those few who have an ax to grind and will slander a contractor that is unfounded. Weigh out all the reviews and see what the consensus seems to be before making a judgement.
- Request references from past customers.
Any contractor worth their weight will comply with your request for references. When you call these past clients have a list of no more than 3-4 questions ready. You want real answers to your most pertinent questions. Be succinct and call no more than three references to get a good idea, if this contractor is someone you wish to offer your project.
- Review the contract, warrantees, clauses etc.
The last important step prior to sealing the deal is to review the contract with all its warranties and clauses. Most are pretty standard and this is nothing to be concerned about, if you have done your homework in choosing a reputable contractor. Regardless, don’t sign a contract without reading it and if you are unsure pay a legal professional to review it with you.