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Renovation Project Planning - Tips from a Contractor to Get that Remodel Off to a Great Start

Updated on April 7, 2016
A kitchen remodel or makeover can leave you inconvenienced.  Have you planned for it?
A kitchen remodel or makeover can leave you inconvenienced. Have you planned for it?

Renovation Project First Steps

You've probably already decided on the 27 things you'd like to change about your house - maybe you've even narrowed it down to the 7 you can afford and want to tackle - but you just aren't sure where and how to start. I hope the steps below can help you to get started.

Decide how much of the work you want to do.

Planning/Hiring - Depending on the size of the renovation and your level of DIY expertise or desire, there could be a lot of coordination needed to find and hire subcontractors, schedule their work in a logical order, provide the necessary permits, and ensure the materials and prior work are ready from phase to phase. If this sounds like a recipe for migraines, you probably want to start the process by hiring a residential general contractor. They will do most of the legwork for you and help to make sure you've thought of all of the necessary items before getting started. The GC is the person you will likely interface with the most, so make sure to choose someone you have a good rapport with and who does good, quality work.

Design Services - If you know exactly how you want the new space to look and function, you may not need any design help or may prefer to work directly with your contractor. But if you're not sure where to start or want someone to help pull all of your ideas together, you may want to enlist the help of an architect, interior designer, or general contractor who provides design services. Regardless of the level of design help needed, your general contractor can help point you in the right direction of additional services you may need.

DIY - If there is work you want to perform yourself (painting, laying tile, demolition, etc), decide on that early and plan for it upfront. Then do your best to make your work fit into the overall schedule so that no one is held up on their piece of the plan or has to reschedule and cause a delay.

Get a feel for the pricing. Renovation work can vary greatly in price depending on the materials chosen. Do some homework upfront to determine the quality level of materials you prefer to use. A few examples - travertine is more expensive than ceramic tile, but the labor costs are also typically higher as well. Staining versus painting custom built cabinets will cost more because of the higher quality of wood required,as well as the more labor intensive work involved to stain versus paint. The more colors of paint you want to use within the house will increase the labor costs for changing out paint and creating more tape up and prep work. The better prepared you are before starting the process allows the contractor to provide you with more accurate estimates and will create fewer change orders down the road.

Expect Changes and Delays. Most likely you will see/hear of a new idea along the way that will cause you to change your mind and your original plan. Rarely do those new ideas save you money or time. There will be issues uncovered along the way, dangerous old wiring behind the walls, rotting wood in the eaves of the attic, unstable floor joists, that weren't detected in the initial planning. A sub-contractor will be unavailable at the agreed upon date and some things will just take longer than anticipated. Adjust your expectations for a 20% cost and time overrun, and if everything goes according to plan, which it actually frequently does, you'll feel like you saved time and money.

Prepare for the Disruption - If you plan to live in your house during the renovation, plan to not use that room at all (or rooms) for the duration. Kitchens are usually the most disruptive but anything that modifies your daily routine can cause stress if there is not a plan in place. Experiment with new routines before you start in order to find the options you can live with the most comfortably. Is the whole family able to get ready for school or work in the downstairs bath while the master bath is unavailable? Can coffee from the corner deli or instant coffee satisfy that morning caffeine fix? Will a cooler or mini-fridge along with the outdoor grill work for home cooked meals?

Going through a home renovation can definitely create stress or fear, but with the right planning and forethought, it can be one of the most rewarding, creative, and satisfying experiences. So get out those idea books, start some research shopping and give it a shot. To start those ideas flowing, take a look at some transformations at 


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