1) PLAN, PLAN, PLAN AND THEN KEEP PLANNING! Before engaging a professional, do your homework. Collect pictures, diagrams, articles, whatever helps communicate the problems, plans, ideas, etc. to the designer. Never consent to begin construction without detailed plans that you understand well and are comfortable with. We recommend the DESIGN-BUILD PROCESS as one of the best ways to ensure a smooth project from concept to completion. READ and LEARN about this state-of-the-art methodology, then begin to interview firms.
2) DON’T TRY TO BE YOUR OWN CONTRACTOR! (or lawyer, doctor, drywall hanger) – the list is long, we all know it, and do it anyway and the stories are fun, except for the victim! You have a life outside the project- so entrust the project to the professional!
3) HIRE THE RIGHT CONTRACTOR! This means a professional, stable and highly recommended firm. Check for licensing, insurance, professional affiliations, peer recognition (awards) and customer satisfaction, preferably determined by visiting the builder’s client’s projects. Then through meetings and discussions, find those who are willing to LISTEN, DESIGN and build what YOU are looking for. Decide on VALUE, not PRICE ALONE! The age old truism especially applies to remodeling: “You get what you pay for “
4) WORK WITH A BUDGET, BUT BE FLEXIBLE! The first budget attempt will just be a starting point. It is extremely difficult to visualize all the costs and pieces of a project initially. So it is crucial that the professional planner/designer works step-by-step with the client to ensure that each selection is factored into the overall budget plan. It is proper to expect the final cost to reflect rational decision-making throughout the selection process. A “secret” retainage of 10%+ is typically recommended for “emergencies”.
5) TAKE THE REMODELING PLUNGE WHEN THE TIMING IS RIGHT! A good contractor will be able to set up a reasonable time frame within which to build and complete your project. Consider the schedule and have the work begin and end at a time when you are not pressured by outside deadlines. For instance, don’t plan your daughter’s wedding reception to be held in the new space on the day the remodel is slated to end!
6) MAKE PRUDENT DECISIONS REGARDING NEIGHBORHOOD AND PROPERTY VALUES. Kitchens, baths, master suites additions- all can add great value to a property, but only if properly conceived within the context of the existing home, as well as the surrounding homes. A professional design concept will take these things into consideration, so make the builder your partner in such decisions.
7) GET IT ALL IN WRITING! Napkin scribbles, sketches, etc. are great in the dream stage, but when the design work begins, get a solid contract. Then, when the construction begins, again get a solid contract. Make sure the agreements include: detailed scope, detailed budget, complete referenced plans, start and finish dates, reasonable payment schedule, change order rules. Don’t forget- good intentions are the cheapest thing on the market!
8) BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND! A remodeling team of Contractor and Client must employ the vision and momentum to encompass not just the dream beginning, but the sober-minded realization of the completed, livable space. Have the end in mind as a driving force from the beginning, and you will soon be living the dream rather than just playing at the idea!