remodeling advice

What You Should Know Before You Remodel

Deciding to remodel your home or business is both an exciting and overwhelming decision. You may be excited about the upgrade, but worried about the cost, the time, and the seemingly endless decisions that come with the project. No need to worry, though- by being pragmatic in your approach, you can come out of the project with a beautiful space that you will enjoy for many years to come.

1.     Decide What You Want - This is sometimes the most difficult part of the project for the homeowner. Without trying to envision how to accomplish it, think about why you are considering renovating or adding on to your home. Do you simply need more space for a growing family? Do you feel your home is looking tired and want to make it feel more up-to-date? Maybe the kids have moved out and you want to make better use of their space.

Make a wish list that includes everything you want to change about your house and then prioritize by importance. Usually it helps think through the issues if you categorize the list by room or interior/exterior.

While you are going through this process, start looking through home improvement magazines and tearing out pages of things that appeal to you: room design, appliances, bath fixtures etc. Start file folders or an expanding file to categorize and keep these in. Home design books are often on the bargain counters at book stores. When you find one you like mark the pages that are especially appealing. Pinterest is a great tool to use to do this digitally.

2.     Hire the Right Help - At this stage it is often good to bring in a remodeling company, architect or designer. While there will be costs involved, if you don't have experience with local building codes, structural or other construction issues, you'll save lots of time and money in the long haul by having a professional start to turn both your dreams and needs into reality. One advantage of having a remodeling company at this stage is that you will also start to get some clear ideas of what things will cost. Even when using an architect or designer it helps to get a remodeling company involved early so you can begin to get feedback as to how any design options will impact your budget. Construction costs can be very volatile, so the company that actually does the work will have a better understanding of current prices.

As you start to choose who to work with, remember that this is going to be a long relationship, and that you will be living with the results of their efforts for even longer. Make sure the people you have selected are listening to you, that they understand what your tastes are and what is important to you. Particularly with remodeling, you should find professionals whose work represents a variety of styles and who are comfortable adapting to your tastes, not convincing you to conform to theirs. While hard to quantify, the chemistry between you, your contractor and/or designer is as important as any qualification. 

3.     Control Your Costs - Contrary to what you may hear, you can control your costs during a remodel. The most important part of any remodeling project is advance planning- every part of the project, no matter how minor, that is left undecided "until you get to that point" has the potential to blow your budget. Example: you might think picking out light a light fixture can wait until after you have put up drywall, but what if you find the perfect wall sconce and you wired for a ceiling fixture? What if you planned on wall sconces but now there isn't room to fit the mirror you love in between them? No matter how minor, every decision will impact other parts of the project in sometimes not-so-minor ways. 

A remodeling company, architect or designer can help you figure out all or part of this. If you have decided what you want, but have problems visualizing how your wish list can be implemented, a remodeling company, architect or designer will help turn your dreams into a design. If you already have a good idea of what the design should be, the remodeling company you choose can help get it on paper, in the form of working drawings, and determine how to deal with any structural, code or other issues you may not have thought about.

4.     Keep the Lines of Communication Open - Communication is the key. While it can be dangerous and may not be advisable to be around the work at times, it is certainly your right to inspect the project as it progresses. Ideally you should set up regular meetings with your contractor and use these times to walk through and ask questions or bring up concerns—even the best remodelers can overlook something along the way. Another set of eyes, especially from the people who will be living with the results, is always helpful to make sure things are done according to plan.

It is also best to limit important discussions to your primary contact with the remodeling company. The craft and trades people working on the site may have the best of intentions, but they often don't take the whole picture into account. What may seem like a minor thing to them may have broader implications, and what may seem like a big deal may not be a big deal at all. 

Along the way you may find that something is done exactly as specified, but you still don't like it—it just isn't what you expected once it has taken form. Don't worry. If you find yourself in this situation, bring it up with your contractor. A change order may be required, but the sooner they understand your concern, the more economical the work will be. 

Finally, the work will almost certainly not happen as fast as you would like. Most renovation companies and contractors realize it is in everyone’s best interest to complete work as soon as practical, and you have a right to ask for an explanation if things seem to be moving too slowly. But keep in mind here too that you will be living with and enjoying the results of this effort for a long time to come, so plan on more time than you think, and don't let things get rushed at the expense of quality.