Remodeling Real Talk: 10 Steps to Tackling Your Next Project

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From the August 2014 edition

Whether you’re taking on a half-bath remodel or totally gutting your kitchen, home renovations can be overwhelming—especially for a first-timer. We talked to the pros about where to start and how to plan, as well as the basic steps to follow as you take on your dream project.

1. Do your research

The first step to any home renovation project is to “do your homework,” says Laura Watson of The Cleary Co. She suggests using a cost vs. value report to compare costs of popular remodeling projects in any region. It’s important to have an idea of typical costs and trends. “Some people will say they want to totally gut their master bathroom, and they have $10,000 to do it. There’s just no way,” she adds.

2. Know your budget

Once you have an idea of what’s realistic, establish a firm budget. “Sometimes it depends on the neighborhood,” Watson says. “You don’t want to spend too much that you price yourself out.”

3. Get inspired

Before you enter the design phase, you need to have an idea of how you want the space to look. Watson suggests idea-share website Houzz (like Pinterest for the home) to compile design ideas and share them with friends, family and eventually your designer or contractor.

4. Find an expert

For a comprehensive catalog of remodelers, designers and contractors in the area, look to the local chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). In order to qualify for membership, businesses must have satisfactory records with the Better Business Bureau and be properly licensed and insured. “Consumers can feel confident the homework has been done already,” says Shari Bates, NARI of Central Ohio executive director.

5. Cover your bases

It’s important to confirm whether your project requires any special variances or approval from the city in which you live. This is especially important for additions, Watson says. And if it makes you feel more at ease, have an attorney look over contract documents before you agree to them, suggests Justin Collamore of Collamore Built Residential Design and Construction. “It can add time to the process, but it can definitely make someone feel more comfortable, too,” he says.

6. Take time to design

Spending time on a design makes the project go smoother, the budget stay truer and the timeline go faster, Collamore says. “A lot of people don’t want to take the time [during the design process],” he says. “They don’t like to hear it might take two to three months to work through a design, and they want the bathroom done in two months.”

7. Set priorities

Everyone has their must-haves. Collamore suggests deciding what these are up front and vocalizing them. “Maybe it’s a splurge on a nice whirlpool tub. Talk about your priorities,” he says.

8. Be flexible

While it’s crucial to stick as closely to the original plan as possible, people should realize “there will be some changes” throughout the process, Collamore says, whether it’s a style of cabinetry that doesn’t fit quite right or termite damage that’s gone undetected.

9. Communicate

Communicating with your remodeler is key. “Keep that line of communication open,” Watson says. “There will be a lot of stress. There will be people in and out of the home.” It’s important everyone involved understands your level of tolerance.

10. Keep your eye on the prize 

There will be noise. There will be dust. There will be more people in your home than you’d like for longer than you care to have them there. As Collamore puts it: “Just think about the end result.”