So I have been asked on many occasions, what would be my top ten tips for remodeling. After a hard Pilates session (I always do Pilates for inspiration), I decided to jot down my top ten tips and put them out there.
1) Do It Yourself?
Sometimes my clients want to be their own general contractor. They think they can save money. Mama told me you get what you pay for. Thinking you can do it yourself can lead to costs that you may not see coming at you. It can result in compromising decisions on the part of the owner that can corrupt the original design and seriously hamper the quality of the finished product. I've run into all kinds of issues and dumb mistakes done by homeowners, like painting their siding with paint that won't stick or using the wrong size PVC pipe on sprinklers and having the system blow due to too much water pressure. Doing it yourself can lead to big overages if you don't do it right. Now that doesn't mean you can't, which leads us to number two.
2) Consider Doing Some of The Work Yourself
If the bids are higher than expected and too much for you to afford, you might be surprised how much money you can save. I've seen it work by pitching in on parts of the project. But make sure you're not getting into something that's over your head or you don't have time for. Things that come up near the end of the job, such as painting, finish carpentry, etc. are good bets since the other parts aren't dependent on their completion. Some can even be done after the issuance of the final occupancy permit.
3) Do the Right Project
Remodeling is a big deal. Whether or not to do a certain project, and which one to do is a big decision. Even before buying a particular home, some of my clients have a list of remodeling projects that they are considering. In deciding which project to do, weigh your wants. Make a list of Gotta Dos. vs. Want to Dos. Get some remodeling magazines and cut some pictures out to see what kinds of projects other people do, and the solutions they have to problems similar to yours.
4) Design Ahead
You don't want to come up with an additional brilliant idea right after the job is complete. You can reduce the risk by doing some advance research. Read up on design, talk to friends with knowledge and experience with the type of remodeling you're considering, and get suggestions and references from architects and remodelers while you're in the early stages of planning. If you're changing current floor plans get some graph paper or a floor planning kit and play around. Start a file for literature about components and finishes.
5) Be Realistic About the Schedule
I've had clients that come to me with very unrealistic expectations about the time it takes to do a remodel. It doesn't matter if you are doing a powder bath or a large kitchen, you have to go through the same steps with the same sub-contractors. If you are doing a total gut on a kitchen or bath, a minimum of 8 weeks should be allowed and if you are adding in some unique features, special products, or rearranging everything, you should allow more time. I've seen homeowners expecting things to be finished in 2 weeks. Even a simple shower replacement could end up going from a 2-week estimate to a 5-week finish date, due to “unforeseen” factors, like having to replace the wood under the house, because it’s waterlogged from the previous shower (yes, that’s a true story).
6) Check the Remodeler's Credentials
Are they licensed and insured for workers compensation, property and personal liability? If in doubt, ask to see their insurance certificate. Do they belong to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers Council, and/or any of the more specific trade associations in the remodeling sector? That's a sign of commitment to the trade and to professionalism, although not always a guarantee of their competency. There are also many certifications and management training courses that these organization offer to keep their members up to date on the latest products and techniques.
Ask for recent references on similar jobs (employee and subcontractor turnover is often fairly high, so recent jobs are a reliable indicator of their current capability). Check their record with the Better Business Bureau while you're at it. Finally, check their reviews and profiles on remodeleze.com and other directory services.
7) Keep Your Project Within Budget
Whether your budget is large or small, figure out what it is. Have an understanding also of your budget's flexibility (or lack thereof!). Having a budget can be a benefit as well as a limitation because it forces each decision to be considered with an eye to its effect on the overall job. There are gross measures, such as cost per sq. ft., that you can use to determine whether your expectations are in the ballpark or not. Depending on the type of project you are doing this figure can range between $100 - $300 per sq. ft. Often people spend the same amount on remodeling a bathroom as they spent on their last car. Kitchens tend to be anywhere up to 10% of the value of the house. Many people have reported that projects cost one and a half to two times what they expected before starting into the process, so leave plenty of room in your budget for mistakes and unforeseen problems. Trust me, they always come up.
8) Prepare for the inconvenience
For a kitchen remodel, plan a temporary kitchen somewhere in the house with a microwave or hotplate available. Do not plan on sleeping in your bedroom during a master bath remodel. The dust is everywhere in this vicinity of your home and if you leave the furniture in the room during the remodel, cover it with heavy plastic drop cloths to keep the dust out. All clothing should be removed from dressers and other furniture. Empty your closet in a master bath remodel. Again, the dust gets everywhere, in all your clothing, etc. It can creep inside drawers and into plastic bins. If you must leave things in the closet, put items in plastic bins and then cover the bins with plastic drop cloths.
9) Don't Over Improve
This may be of less concern if you plan to remain in the home for a long time, but it's very important if you're remodeling to sell your home. Some remodeling jobs, such as a prudent overhaul of a very dated bath or kitchen, or the addition of a second bath to a one bath home, can return more than 100% of the cost at the sale of the home, and help you sell it faster. However, if you want a different look, you'll probably not recover the investment in a home that is already significantly more valuable than most of the others in the neighborhood.
10) If You Need a Contractor
Check out remodeleze.com for a roster of certified and approved contractors that can come in and easily assist you with just about every remodeling need. You can contact them directly through the remodeleze.com network and see their portfolio of past projects. Everything is online nowadays, so it’s easy to do your homework.