Everyone knows how daunting, a remodel can be. We can all get excited for our “after” pictures, but having a solid plan in place before taking the project head on is essential. Use our 8 steps to tackle a home renovation, and start planning today!
Step 1. To remodel, or not to remodel
Before you get down to business, think about how you use your house. This can significantly change how, where and even if you should start the process. Ask yourself these questions:
“How long do you plan to live in your current home?
Will you get to enjoy the results of your remodeling project?
Will the remodel meet an immediate but temporary need? Or be an investment in your lifestyle?
How old are you? What kind of income do you anticipate in the years ahead?
If you are close to retirement, is now the time to invest in home improvements?
How much chaos can you live with during the renovation process?
Does your house—the floor plan, the garden, the bathrooms, everything—work for you?
Will your home need a lot of updates? Will there be simple ways to update things like energy usage?”
Step 2. Setting a budget
It’s not too hard to figure out what you want to do, but calculating how much you can afford can be lot more difficult.
In general, major upgrades, such as a bathroom remodel or a family-room addition, run $100-$200 per square foot.
Remodeling magazine gives national cost averages for 38 common projects—you’ll find many of those project costs and other good info in Realtor.com’s Cost vs. Value section.
Before seeking bids, determine exactly what you want, right down to the kitchen countertop material and the type of faucet. By specifying these details up front, you ensure that prospective contractors are all pricing the same items.”
Step 3. Plan your perfect project
Starting a remodel is like facing an enormous blank slate. Here’s how to get inspired, get motivated, and get started.
This visual collection site has become the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to design inspiration. There’s a reason—it works. From clever utensil storage to color palettes and striking before-and-after pics, the ideas from DIYers and pros can offer hours of inspiration.
Pop into Porch
This new entry into the field of online home design and remodel resources brings design ideas together on the same site as contractor recommendations. You can check out permit histories for specific projects, get the specifics on how a home project progressed, and maybe hire the same professionals for your house if you take a liking to what a local has done
Look at Magazines
Tried and true glossy magazines offer photo details that some websites might miss. Easily compare physical images that may not have made it onto Pinterest yet.
Ask Your Friends
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Know someone who recently remodeled their kitchen? Ask them about nifty things they installed and they might tip you off to the wonders of knee-triggered faucets or spring-loaded cabinet shelving.
Step 4. Choose your team
The people you select should be problem solvers, good listeners, and budget watchdogs. Ask these questions before you hire.
What are the biggest challenges and attractions of this job?
Do you have a signature style?
Who will design my project?
What project management services do you provide?
How do you charge?
Can you provide three-dimensional drawings?
Will you recommend two or three general contractors?
Step 5. Map out your schedule
Even if you aren’t Type A, living in a construction zone can be difficult. Half the battle is knowing your project timeline.Here are general estimates for the time involved with different projects:
Duration: 3 to 6 months
What it entails: A complete remodel usually means replacing all appliances, cabinets and counters—and installing the backsplash and floors.
Potential pain points: Existing conditions in your home can affect the length of time needed to perform the job. These might include moving ductwork, updating old plumbing or improving electrical wiring to accommodate more appliances.
Duration: 2 to 3 months
What it entails: Bathroom remodels tend to take less time than kitchens. They are smaller and usually don’t need extensive electrical and vent work. Bathroom changes mainly involve plumbing, so spend time researching and hiring good plumbing contractors. Planning well is important to maximize usage of a small space.
Potential pain points: Unintended delays can be created by problems in the floor—and any room below the floor. Because waste plumbing is located in the floor, there is a risk of damage to the room beneath the bathroom. Proceeding carefully is key.
Room addition (such as bedroom)
Duration: 1 to 2 months
What it entails: The planner and contractor have to examine ground conditions and work with any structural and foundation issues.
Potential pain points: A good contractor will build the room outside of your house and complete electrical work in the room before opening the wall between your home and the new room. That way, the construction will be less disruptive to your lifestyle.
Step 6. Get your paperwork in order
Filling out forms may be the least fun part of remodeling your home, but you have to do it. Here’s an overview of what you will need.
Homeowner’s Insurance: Your homeowner’s insurance probably doesn’t cover much if someone gets injured on the remodel job, says HouseLogic. But it helps. And it’s especially vital if you’ve got friends helping with a project, and you aren’t hiring a dedicated professional. Your insurance may go up if you’re expanding your home or adding a pool or hot tub, but it could also dip if you include safety features such as upgraded doors or windows. Industry experts recommend talking to your agent.
Get Everything in Writing: All of it, from initial bids to pay schedules to change orders—if something goes wrong, it’s best to have a written trail in case you need to prove your side before a judge. This also cuts down miscommunication. If you discuss a paint color but a different shade goes on the wall, pointing to an email or note stating the right hue can save the argument over who pays for added time and money for the change.
Step 7. Plan for problems
You can expect equipment breakdowns, supply shortages, and miscommunications with just about everyone when remodeling your home. Keep problems at a minimum.
Have a rock-solid contract: Getting all the details in writing protects you and the contractor. Keeping things professional and making sure everyone is on the same page will set the right tone for the project.
Designate a project point person: Who’s in charge, both from your side and the contractor’s? If you have a concern, whom do you talk to? If parts of the project need the homeowner to sign off, can you and your spouse do it, or is just one of you in charge?
Establish rules for workers: Where can the workers park, grab a smoke, or store their gear? Can they use your lawn because you’re ripping it up after the house is done? Will the city tow a dumpster left by the curb? If your contractor is local, he or she should know the city rules and can provide some guidance.
Brace yourselves: Make a list of all the things that could go wrong and how you would respond. Deliveries at dinnertime … morning showers cut short by early arriving workmen … lingering dust and paint smells … feeding your family dinner without a functioning kitchen …
Schedule down time. You are going to be living in a construction site. The stress of budget overruns and forgotten details—just plan for a detox now. A weekend out of town, a mid-project vacation, a massage, even a 30-minute walk with your phone off: “you” time matters.
Step 8. Keep your project on track
Lose your focus on the project and you may pay for it—literally. Here are seven smart ways to stay on top of the job.
An allowance is a line item in the contractor’s bid for something that’s yet to be determined.
Establish Good Communication
Ask the contractor how he prefers to communicate with you.
Keep a Project Journal
Your project journal is your friend and ally.
Track All Changes in Writing
Your team may encounter unforeseen structural issues, or you may decide to include additional work as the project evolves.
Check the Work
Be proactive about checking your contractor’s work.
Pay Only for Completed Work
Your remodeling contract should establish a series of payments to be made when certain aspects of the job are completed.
Be a Good Customer
One of the best ways to get quality work out of a contractor and construction crew is to make them enjoy working for you.