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5 Steps to Ensure a Successful Remodel

ELIMINATE THE UNKNOWNS WITH PROPER PLANNING AND ENJOY THE PROCESS!

Article by Jessica Avignone

Photography by Jessica Avignone

So, you’ve been staring at the inside of your home for months, maybe even years, and compiling a list of things you’d like update. Maybe you have an outdated kitchen, there was a water leak in the hall bath, or you need more space for your expanding family. These are all great reasons to reinvest in your most important purchase, your home.


Although you may be anxious to get started, avoid the temptation to just dive right in without a proper plan in place. This will likely be a sizable expense, and any remodel is disruptive, so don’t cost yourself more time or money then you need to. We’ve all heard the horror stories of budgets blown, timeless extended, or worse. Many of these issues can be avoided with proper planning and honest communication.


Selecting the right team to work with, taking the time to design with budget in mind, and trusting the process are all critical parts of a successful remodel.  Here are five important steps to help you get there…

1.    Choose the right design professional. To create a proper plan and detailed scope of work you will need to hire either an architect, or an interior designer, and sometimes both. Don’t let this scare you, these professionals help you create a roadmap of the entire project, and properly document specifications so you can get an accurate price from a contractor. Without this information, the GC will be forced the ‘guess’ what your vision is, and guessing is bad for your bank account. Starting a construction project without a proper set of plans is like taking a road trip with no GPS, and just hoping you’ll end up somewhere fun. There are costs involved with hiring designers, but a good design professional will save their client the money spent on design fees, and then some by designing and selecting materials with budget in mind. Remember, they have access to resources and knowledge that you don’t and can value engineer (lower the cost by using different materials) the project without sacrificing the look.  Designers also use technology to enhance the design process. Software like CAD, Revit, or ArchiCAD can communicate the design intent, and help clients visualize the project before it’s built. Check out this video to see how JTA Interiors creates 3D virtual walk-throughs and interactive models…

2.    Create a plan. After selecting the right designer/architect, it’s time to start putting ideas to paper. The proper documentation means everything when the process goes into construction phase, so details are key. There are several methods designers use to document their work. If the remodel is mostly cosmetic, and detailed drawings aren’t needed, some prefer to create a ‘spec book’ with images and specification information for each room. If your project will require the moving of walls and fixtures, or adding square footage to the house, you will need a full set of construction drawings and most likely, a permit. Permitting requirements are different in every municipality, so be sure to research these requirements and be aware of what level of detail will be needed to complete the job. Regardless of the scope of the project, a designer will need time to work with you, evaluate your needs, and present options. You should allow anywhere from 4 weeks to several months for design time, depending on the size of the project. This may come as a shock, but taking the time to properly plan now is much easier than trying to make these decisions during construction, when your house is torn apart.

3.    Interview Contractors.. Most general contractors are brought into the process once the design and documentation are complete, and all materials have been selected. This gives the GC the information they need to properly price the job. Beware of contractors willing to give you a ‘price’ without this information, because remember, they would be guessing. Having an accurate price, provided by a licensed contractor is imperative to a successful outcome. Make sure the estimate is dated and detailed. Ask how long the estimate is good for, as the price of materials and labor frequently fluctuates. Make sure each line item is broken out on the estimate clearly. For example, there should be a line item for each category, itemized by material and labor. Don’t sign a contract with lump sums…it leaves too many questions on the table. Keep in mind that not all contractors give free estimates. This is ok…most likely, they put the estimating fee into the cost of the job if they are hired, and it ensures they will take their time, truly evaluate the design drawings, and give you an accurate quote.

4.    Review your budget and adjust if needed. The cost of materials and labor vary quite a bit depending on where you live, and even the time of year you plan to build. If the number you received from your contractor is over your budget, don’t worry. Construction always seems to cost more then the homeowner expects, especially if this is their first major construction project. A good designer and contractor will work with you to ‘value engineer’ your project to get the price down closer to your anticipated budget. Tweaking the design and substituting materials for less expansive options can have a dramatic impact on the over all cost of the job. Although changes to the design at this stage of the game are helpful and can save money, changes implemented after construction starts costs money and wastes time.  That’s why this step is critical. Take the time now to carefully review the numbers and compare them with your project wish list. Changing the design on the computer is much faster and less expensive then changing it in the field. Think of a construction project like an engine. Modifications to one component will affect the functionality of all the other parts. Post construction changes can create a snow ball effect resulting in delays, and increased costs. Be disciplined enough to finalize the design during this step, and it will make for a much smoother and economic construction phase.

5.    Hold a pre-construction meeting. Ok, you’ve done the work, you’ve properly planed and designed a space that fits your needs and your budget. You have your permit, and you’ve evaluated and hired a trusted general contractor…you are ready! The next thing to do is to schedule a pre-construction meeting with your GC, a select group of subcontractors, and your designer/architect. This meeting is very important and sets the tone for the whole construction process. It’s an opportunity for you to ask questions, and for everyone to evaluate the drawings again. You will want to walk through the plans page by page, and make sure everyone on the team understands the design specifications, and construction schedule.


By the time all these steps are complete, you will have a comprehensive design plan, an accurate cost to build the job, and a schedule for construction completion. Do not enter any project without all three of these elements. The planning process can be lengthy, but each step you take will put you closer to starting your project with a clear vision of what’s to come. The investment of time on the front end means your entire construction team – design professional, contractor and you – can start the project on the same page with a clearly articulated plan of attack.

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