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Remodeling ~ Tips to Make It All Easier

From goal-setting to having a "big meeting," here are some ideas to make the process of improving your home a little bit easier on you.

If 2012 holds a remodeling project for your home, congratulations! I know that with that excitement comes stress, many decisions, unknown expenses, more stress and more decisions. I have a few tips to make the process easier on you and thus reduce your stress. Sounds good, right?

I recently completed a kitchen remodel in my home. It wrapped up last week, so I’m including some before and after pictures and the lessons I learned along the way (some after the fact)! So here are my tips for getting your next remodeling project started and moving smoothly.

Set Goals
Before you begin talking to contractors, architects or designers, make a list of the goal(s) of your remodeling project. Here's an example:

Goal—enlarge kitchen eat-in area
Goal—finish a basement to include a guest room, bathroom and play space for the kids
Goal—add more light to a room via natural night and lighting

If you know what’s driving the project, it will help you stay on track. (It’s easy to get off track and off budget when you begin the process and the good ideas start flying!)

Make a List
Make a list of your must-haves and the function of the room (for example, space for two people to cook in the kitchen, a professional gas range, seating for 5–8). This is different for every person, but it’s what makes your project and house yours. Don’t edit yourself here because you think it can’t be done—you’ll be surprised what solutions the professionals can come up with.

Research
Now comes the fun part! Spend some time looking at photos of the room you are remodeling for ideas on how to best address the space. Photos are also great for selecting finishing details or viewing color and material combinations. Photos are wonderful for sharing with the professionals you hire to work on your room. A picture is worth 1,000 words in this case! I recommend checking out houzz.com for ideas—you can start your own virtual idea file on their site and easily share it with your service providers.

Ask and Listen
Talk to your friends who have recently completed a remodel. Find out what went wrong, what they wish they did differently and what made the project easier. Take notes. I’ll share this kitchen reno tip with you: set a up a well-stocked temporary kitchen so you can still eat in during your renovation (but also budget for going out to eat).

Establish a Budget
Now comes the not-so-fun-part—establishing a budget. Decide what you can spend on this project and then find out what that budget can really buy you. Consider materials, plans, contractor and designer costs and a percentage to cover problems that come up, change orders or mistakes. Some of this can be done on your own and some of it will come from meeting with contractors and other providers.

Interview Service Providers
Contact and interview two to three contractors and/or architects that come highly recommended from friends, family or colleagues. Do not underestimate the value of a good connection with the people you hire. You will be spending a lot of time with them and working out issues along the way; you want to work with someone who you have a good vibe with. Ask them for past client references and call their references. Most past clients will invite you to come see their completed project if you’d like. That can be a good step if you are trying to decide between two contractors.

Have a “Big Meeting”
Once you have decided who is going to do the work in your home, have a meeting with everyone involved. This may include your partner, contractor, architect and designer. I suggest this so that everyone involved is on the same page, so that everyone can share ideas, help resolve any challenges and so you can decide who is in charge, who is placing orders and nail down a tentative schedule.

Don’t make your final product selections until you hire your service providers and meet with them to discuss what you want to do. They will most likely have great ideas on how to improve a project. They will also have good resources for materials and other service providers you may need such as a plumber or electrician.

Get Organized
Start a project binder or accordion file. This is necessary to keep all of your contacts, order information and deadlines in one place. Include pockets for samples and a place for all necessary business cards. Keep contracts, receipts and ideas all in one place. This should be something that is easy to take with you when shopping or meeting people at their office.

Be Flexible
As far as the project’s schedule goes, there are some things you will not have control over such as order time for custom cabinets or parts, pieces coming in damaged or incorrect (and needing to be re-ordered, delaying your project) weather, a sick contractor or a family emergency that keeps the electrician away on his scheduled work day. Assume that your project will go over schedule and you will not be disappointed. Don’t confuse this with service providers slacking off on your job. Be firm when you need to be, but understanding and flexible when required.

What tips do you have for making a remodel easier? Please leave a comment—it may help someone else just beginning the process.

Happy renovating!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Geoff Pickett February 06, 2012 at 08:44 PM
www.houzz.com is a great website for visualizing my renovation ideas. thanks for the tip.
Shawn February 07, 2012 at 09:23 PM
A must if you hire contractors is a Specification's book. The Spec book outlines in detail exactly what is expected of the contractor from the materials being used in the project to daily clean up. The Spec book also eliminates common miscommunication between you and the contractor's thus saves you money from change orders.
David Maier February 08, 2012 at 02:00 PM
This is a very good article and good suggestions. I am a remodeling contractor doing business for over 20 years. One of the very important parts of having a remodeling contractor handle a project for you is the timeline. It is vitally important to Homeowners to find out what is the job history of starting and FINISHING a project. It isn't hard to get started - - - It is hard to finish 100%. It is very important to keep money at the end of the project to pay after the punch list is completed. Substantial Completion isn't good enough to protect a homeowner. Only small items should be left for a punch list. I know in my business I usually do 4 payments. The last payment is a small (based on a percentage) amount which will more than cover the punch list costs. This way the Customer has confidence that all of the "little" stuff will get handled. Also, I make a point of starting a project once the materials are in and then KEEPING personnel on the job each day until the project is finished. Hope this is helpful to you in getting a good job handled. Dave Maier Cornerstone Kitchen Bath Remodeling.

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