So! You’re ready to make the call, secure a contractor and get that remodel going that you’ve been ruminating about for years. It is an overwhelming task, so here are some tips that will help in a process that is a bit daunting and almost always overwhelming.
Just about every homeowner I’ve ever met who has built or remodeled has shared a story that includes these words : “if I knew then, what I know now, I never would have done it this way...”
You must realize going in at the start that it will Always cost more than you think, take longer than you want, and assume Nothing! There will be tile that is uneven making electrical outlets hard to put in, floors that end up with strange thresholds or a window dying into a beam making window treatments impossible!
After 20 years, I have seen it all, so here we go:
Know your budget going in, and make sure there’s wiggle room for unforeseen issues once you open up those walls. Do not use HGTV as a guide for renovation costs!
Always get an estimate in writing from your contractor. Again, they cannot predict unexpected issues, but a reputable contractor will have the experience and knowledge to give you a rough estimate on the scope of work. If they say “who knows?” Walk away! They can easily advise the hourly rates of their trades to help put together the budget.
There is typically a dollar price per square foot to build/ renovate and it’s based on using low, mid or high-end materials, so that is another way to gauge how much it will cost. Based on the room, a kitchen vs. an entry, you can find great calculators online to help you research typical costs for renovations based on the room.
Remember to factor in costs if you will need to move out/ rent a place, if the remodel is extensive.
Hire a general contractor vs. separate trades. A good contractor will coordinate the trades expertly to keep the project moving and productive for all involved.
Hire a designer if that is not your skill set. A designer will ensure the aesthetic is beautiful and functional. At Terra Firma Home, we assist in the minutiae of details like choosing hardware, lighting, plumbing, finish details, color, scale texture and balance. A designer is also an excellent resource for expertise in kitchens and baths. These are big investments in a remodel or build and getting the design right is worth every penny. I have assisted in more new builds and renovations than I can count, and when we design first, then create the scope of work, it always goes well. I once did a whole home remodel in Seattle, and with the help of 3-d renderings, and all material selections made in advance, the contractor was delighted with the plans, and it was a perfect remote execution!
Hire an architect if it is a big job. They can render the space for you, make sure codes and building requirements are met, and provide a workable set of documents for your contractor to get right to work! I am currently working with my favorite architect on new builds and the creative collaboration has been amazing! We are a solid team between the client, the architect, the contractor and me.
Take time to get the best contractor you can, and wait if you need to. Building is stressful and can be a big invasion into your family life, so make sure you feel the relationship is strong with excellent communication.
Understand specialty materials require special installers. For example, cement tiles are beautiful but thicker than standard tiles, this can create uneven thresholds if it is not viewed and planned for in advance.
Limit your shopping choices to your favorite stores or brands, use the expertise of our local stores, and even if you are interested in some higher end or more unusual items, many local dealers will get the product for you happily. For example, local plumbing supply stores will put together all the parts, making sure you’ve ordered all the proper pipes, valves or couplings. This is far better than trying to put it all into a shopping cart online. And, you get the pleasure of working with real people, not an automated phone system when there is a problem!
SAMPLES are everything! Order samples of your metal finishes, paint colors, wallpaper, flooring, countertops, etc. You need to lay it all out and see it together IN PERSON. I have never done a project without my tote full of samples to bring to the job site. The trades appreciate seeing the real deal as well! Do not rely on internet pictures for quality of finishes.
Splurge where you can, things like flooring, lighting, quality plumbing fixtures, and countertops are always items you won’t regret spending extra dollars in the long run.
Make sure to have a full layout/ drawing of your space with furnishings. And remember, kids grow up fast, so design kid friendly spaces with lots of flexibility, and don’t install lower height bath countertops in their baths or other juvenile built-ins. Just use a footstool when they are little!
Analyze the space for aging in place if you are considering your home your forever space.
I think space planning is one of the most important elements of all. I have seen beautiful homes designed only to be called after they are built, and then worked with the client struggling to figure out where to put a sofa, or the master headboard! This is the area we analyze the most.
Remember, you are investing in your space. Do not design the space for future homeowners. For example if you would prefer a stacking laundry in the master bedroom, vs a bath tub (and you never take baths) then do it!
Gone are the days of laundry needing to be out in the garage with long walks of toting bins up and downstairs with the advent of compact laundry systems. So really think about the function of your home, where you can add, and where to subtract if the budget is growing beyond your comfort zone.
One idea to consider when remodeling is adding in one element that is beautiful to the home and unexpected. For example, instead of typical closet doors, add in a pair of antique doors. Instead of all custom-built cabinets in the kitchen, add in a furniture piece to store your dishes. It’s these small touches that can pack in the personality without adding to the cost. I really enjoy the hunt to add in personal and unique touches into a new space.
My last PRO TIPS:
Here are my tips for your best bang when considering your home improvements:
- Buy the best, most durable flooring you can afford. Consider your lifestyle if there are children or pets.
- Curb appeal counts. Remember to design your entry and front door vision as the first impression of your space.
- Brightness always wins. Higher ceilings, bigger windows, bigger doors will never be a bad thing!
- Insulation, A/C and heating upgrades are not exciting to talk about but are worthy upgrades that will be appreciated quietly in their own way!
- The valley housing market is a bit crazy as I write this, there are far more buyers than homes, so if you are staying put, or moving into a home that needs help, I hope you’ll use these tips as you start your big adventure!