Should You Remodel Your Home?

If you're considering a remodel, it can be a little intimidating choosing a design, hiring a contractor, and sticking to a budget. Let's dive into some of the common challenges many homeowners face before pulling the plug on a remodel, and how to get comfortable with the idea of remodeling. You're ahead of most homeowners if you have a clear design vision. Gathering design inspiration from a variety of sources several months before you plan to start your project will help you define your specific style. Be sure to share your ideas with your designer or contractor. Preparing inspiration boards will give your designer a head start in helping you find materials that work with your vision and budget.

If you have no idea what you want or even what you like, you may need to rely on your interior designer heavily to show you options. Sometimes it's hard to find a starting point, and some clients like almost everything or almost nothing. When this happens, and you're having a hard time finding a good starting point, I'd always suggest browsing through inspirational resources. 

Crate and share inspirational social -boards with your designer. A good designer will interject your ideas with what they glean as your style, something to make the space uniquely yours. These resources are great at narrowing your specific taste. Assuming your design is obtainable on your budget, your designer may present several material options for you to consider. When I work with a homeowner, I will start with a color palette that's consistent with other areas of their house or rooms remodeled or rooms they enjoy being in. If the whole house is grey, I likely won't present a beige color palette, unless specifically asks for one. Pulling from other rooms will help the designer find inspiration. If there is no adjoining room to draw from, or the project is part of a more considerable full-house renovation, the designer may want to look at items in the house that will stay. She may look at the artwork, furniture, or even a paint color. Your designer will need to base the design on something that inspires the homeowner. Work with them to provide a starting point. If you're not able to find any inspiration on your own, visit the design or contractors' website. There, you will able to see their recent work. Maybe you'll find a room that you like and want to replicate. If you do, half the battle is over, as the designer will already know what materials went into the space and what they cost.

Materials of construction are the "things" that make a space beautiful or useful. They can range from affordable design options to very costly. If you have your eye on a marble but have no idea what tiling the floors and walls in marble will cost, you may or may not be ready for the estimate.

For this reason, it's essential to have a realistic design and budget goals. Syncing your plan and budget will help you get a design you love. Having a handle on your budget before you start the process will be helpful. If you want to remodel your entire kitchen and you have a budget of $2500, you'll likely be disappointed. It's crutial to have realistic expectations when it comes to remodeling and what you can afford. A good designer will research materials and attempt to find the best materials for your budget. If you have ample space, the materials will be more than that of a smaller space. Not all materials are created equal, but many look similar. As an example, you may want porcelain tile, but ceramic may be in alignment with your budget. There are many porcelain and ceramic tiles with today's technology that resemble real marble for a fraction of the cost. Choosing different materials may allow you the look you want but stay within the budget you need. One of the most important things you can do for yourself and your peace of mind during a renovation is to hire a quality contractor. Like with anything, there are good and bad trade professionals. 


I've always believed you get what you pay for. I have seen it time and time again, where a customer will opt for the cheapest bid and live to regret it. Quality work takes time, and a good contractor will not work inexpensively. They are worth their weight in gold. The group I work with documents their work with a daily editorial journal. Anyone can go to the website and see the status of a project. A full documentation of before and every aspect of the "after" is available online. It's fun to watch the stages of a renovation transform before your eyes. Do your research. Talk with homeowners that have experience with the contractor you're considering hiring. Check online reviews; people are generally sincere when it comes to their experience in a review. 

Be wary of anonymous reviews. Anonymous reviews are generally either the competition writing something negative about the company to try to lower their competitive ranking or a company not doing so well trying to write there own. Either way, I take all anonymous reviews very lightly, especially if they're only positive or derogatory. My experience suggests that people that have hired a contractor to do work are proud of their room transformation.  


See if one of the past homeowners will let you walk through their house. While this may seem invasive, many homeowners that have just undergone a successful renovation are very proud of their home and want to show it off. It's more common than you may think. A contractor will never want to overwhelm a past client, so this tactic should only be exercised when you're serious about hiring this designer or contractor.

The bidding process can be taxing. Some contractors will provide you with one number in a box, while others will outline every detail. Depending on what you're looking for and the depth of your project, you may want to ask the contractor to break out the materials and labor separately. Depending on how you're wired, and how the contractor submits estimates. Hopefully, the two of you will be on the same page regarding pricing. I will not break down each line. Here's why. In the day and age of Amazon, anyone can look at a line product item and say, "I can find that cheaper." When I work with a homeowner that wants to take on purchasing materials, I will clearly define the front-end which materials they will supply and which ones I will provide. Inevitably the homeowner will not buy enough materials, the right type of materials, the parts that go with the materials (to make it work), as well a laundry list of other issues that go hand in hand with homeowners buying their materials. It's ALWAYS best to let the contractor do what they do best and supply the projects for the job. In fairness, I will mark up my materials ever so slightly, typically 8-11%. My time was running around town, picking up materials from all over costs time away from the job. The markup never amounts to much, but it helps to cover my time and expenses to pick up the materials. If I quote a job and each item is accounted for with a price, I spend more time attempting to show the customer the difference between my commercial level quality products with trusted trade vendors and a no-name online vendor. I've been known to adopt a policy with a homeowner that is wanting to supply materials to request they buy everything. I will provide a precise list of what's needed and ask them to deliver the materials to the job site. I will provide the labor to install. This can work well with a knowledgeable, construction savvy homeowner that feels they can buy materials at my pricing or someone that doesn't want to pay the material markup fee. When I bid a project, I am clear as to the scope of work, the materials included, any materials that are excluded for any reason. Say the customer is remodeling a guest bathroom but wants to leave the existing bathtub. That would be detailed in the "excluded" column. I always tell my clients that if it is not on the quote, it is not part of the quote. I go so far as to list in the materials section screws and nails. I won't list how many and I won't price out each nail or screw, but I will detail in my supply list that I have accounted for them. This eliminates all confusion down the road.

One thing that you can expect with any renovation is unexpected. Clients and contractors never want to plan for bad news. Building in a contingency budget is always smart. If the inevitable rears its ugly head, mold, insect damage, lousy electrical, poorly run or out of date plumbing, water damage, etc. it's good for all parties to know in advance what's included and what isn't. If I had to identify the most significant challenges from a designer/contractor POV, it's that most homeowners think their homes are perfect and that everything behind the wall is also in great shape. If that were the case, they wouldn't be remodeling in the first place. While the surface, vanity part of a house can become dated, so can the plumbing and electrical. At the end of the day, once the decision has been made to undergo a remodeling project, be firm but fair when choosing a budget. Choose materials that support the budget you have, make sure the contractor you choose is reliable, have favorable work history documented with reviews, or talk directly to a homeowner that's worked with your designer or contractor. Be clear about your expectations, get the job in writing, and have a clear expectation as to who is doing what. Make sure the project is quoted in a way that you're comfortable with making sure the scope and budget are detailed to avoid all ambiguity. If in doubt, ask questions, refine the communication until you have the answers you want in writing. Often times, I will submit a bid and have a series of follow up emails that offer final clarification of the project. At your design kick-off meeting, make sure the proposal has been updated to include all the points that were defined along the way to make sure everyone is on the same page. Communication is absolutely the key to a successful remodel.

Insured & General Contractor License #AEC7352

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