Remodeling your home — or any part of it — is exciting. And terrifying. There’s a difference between not liking the kitchen you have — and not having any kitchen at all!
I’ve experienced the full spectrum of joy and angst in three major home rebuilds. To help make your renovation more fun than frustrating, keep these tips in mind:
1. Contractors and Designers Do Not Live Inside Your Head
Imagining what your new kitchen, bathroom, bedroom or dining room will look like is great fun. After reading magazines, visiting showrooms, watching home remodeling programs and gleaning inspiration from your friends’ houses, your head is probably exploding with ideas.
But are any of those ideas realistic — outside of a Dr. Seuss book? More important, how do you share your vision with the people you hire?
Create a style book. Clip pages from magazines, take screenshots from your computer and snap photos at design rooms and shows. Add notes to each page to explain what specifically you like about each image.
This will help save you time, heartache — and money — whether you’re renovating one room or an entire house.
2. Tearing Down is Easy, Rebuilding is Hard
The demo team works fast. They can take a kitchen down to its studs in practically no time. This may lead you to think that your remodel will be completed ahead of schedule.
Don’t be fooled. Expect to wait for construction drawings, permits, planning meetings and all manner of time-killers.
And your choices affect the rebuilding process, too. In our new house — and third remodel — we had much more room overall but a smaller kitchen and no playroom. We wanted to add about 3 feet of depth in the kitchen wall (a place for the refrigerator I wanted), but it meant moving a flight of stairs, punching into a wall and living with lower ceiling clearance. It was a choice that took consideration — and time.
One way to limit delays is to keep on top of things. Paperwork gets lost, deliveries get delayed, promises get broken. It’s your home and your money so it’s up to you to keep your project moving along. Don’t wait eight weeks for permits you expected to receive in four — make it a habit to follow up on all segments of your remodel in a timely manner.
3. Hire People You Like as Well as Respect
Choose your renovation team with care. Check out their reputations on websites such as Houzz.com, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and Angie’s List. Check out their websites, talk to former clients, look at their portfolios. Ask questions about time, availability and costs. Perform all due diligence to satisfy yourself that you’re hiring experts.
But don’t stop there. There are a lot of talented interior designers, exceptional architects and trustworthy contractors. Once you narrow your choices based on expertise, spend some time with each to see how well your vision and personalities mesh.
You will be spending a lot of time with the people in charge of remodeling your home. You will get better service — and happier results — if you feel comfortable with your renovation team. The designer who’s getting the most favorable press or is most in demand among your neighbors is not necessarily the best designer for you.
4. Money is ALWAYS an Issue
It doesn’t matter whether you’re spending hundreds — or hundreds of thousands — of dollars to remodel your home. No one likes to hear that their well-planned budget is shot before 75 percent of the project is completed.
Understand your budget limitations before you meet with a designer. Websites such as NARI and HouseLogic provide budget worksheets that will help you reconcile your dream remodel with the one you can afford.
Use this information when talking to your design team. Make sure you understand exactly what you’re getting for money spent. Is your general contractor quoting a price for his services alone or for the work of all of his subcontractors? Does the price include the gold faucets you really want and assume is included in the cost? Or will the luxury finish add thousands more to the total?
The more you know ahead of time, the fewer unpleasant surprises you’ll encounter.
But always anticipate that something will go wrong — and budget for it.
5. Quality is Everything
I grew up pretty taking quality for granted. I opened the same refrigerator door for most of my childhood, for example, and I just trusted that the washing machine would work every time I loaded it. Our house was furnished with plain, everyday brands, the kind you’d find at Sears.
When I was older and was able to afford high-priced appliances, countertops, lighting, faucets and furnishings, I expected better quality as well as more pleasing aesthetics.
This didn’t always happen, and I was shocked to learn that spending 10 times more than average for an oven didn’t mean it worked better — or as well — as a less expensive model.
I learned that asking contractors, designers and homeowners was a good way to get honest, expert opinions. And this is how I came to found Revuu, a website exclusively devoted to sharing real-life experiences of people who buy and use luxury goods.
Revuu.com is free to use and join. You can review any of the products listed on the site or add one or more of your own.
You don’t always get what you pay for. But you should.
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