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6 Steps to a Successful Remodeling Project


Although the word evokes thoughts of soaring entrance ways, magazine-cover kitchens, and half-acre bathrooms, it is also associated with a stressful and disruptive mess in your house. As our homes age, it makes more and more sense to bring things up to date by remodeling. It's more cost effective than moving and is usually far less disruptive. By following a few essential steps, the result can be a pleasurable house project.

The six key steps to the remodeling process are:

1. Collect ideas up front.
2. Plan your design.
3. Carefully select a contractor.
4. Use a clear and complete contract.
5. Work out job logistics up front.
​6. Establish regular communication channels.

Each of these steps is discussed in detail in the following sections:

1. Collect Ideas Up Front
Gather as many appealing ideas as you can. Review home or remodeling oriented books and magazines. There are many books and magazines available at grocery stores, hardware stores, and your local library. Save or photocopy ideas or products that appeal to you. Visit showrooms.At the beginning, don't rule out things that seem difficult or expensive. That can come later. What you want to do is collect as many appealing ideas as you can. It works best if your spouse does the same. As a matter of fact, getting other household members into the act at this stage can help build their enthusiasm for the project as a whole.Try to arrive at a rough budget of how much you are willing and able to spend. At this point, you don't have much pricing information, so the key is to establish your priorities.A design professional can help make sure that the end product is attractive and meets all the objectives for which it is built. As a general rule, the larger the project, the more important it is to have design help.

2. Plan Your Design.
The concept behind this relatively new approach is to integrate the design and construction processes. This approach can eliminate many of the problems people have had with architects in remodeling, and can often result in a less expensive design that is much more practical to build. Just as important is that when all the design and construction is handled by one company, that company is fully accountable for the entire project. This means problems can be addressed directly without a lot of time and energy taken up with finger pointing. These advantages have made the design/build approach extremely popular in recent years. In some cases, a contractor who does remodeling and was always interested in architecture simply starts calling his company a design/build company. At the other end of the spectrum, you might find an architectural company that has decided to subcontract actual construction of the projects they design. Between the two are myriad options.When searching for a company, ask them about their design and construction expertise and find out exactly how the two are integrated. See if their approach makes sense for your project. As always with home services, the key to success is to choose carefully the company best suited for you.

3. Carefully Select a Contractor
By screening a contractor, you document licensing and insurance, ensure that the company has good records with area consumer agencies, and interview a significant number of recent customer references about price, quality, promptness, and other factors. Don't skimp on this process! There will be plenty of price differentials among the reliable companies. Don't make the big mistake of tempting yourself with low-ball bids from contractors who will cut corners. Now, because you are only talking to companies that you've checked out thoroughly, you can switch your focus to issues such as price, compatibility, and design ideas. Explain your ideas and see what the contractor thinks. It's an opportunity to learn additional details about the contractor. Do you feel comfortable with him? Does he listen well? Is he organized?Remember, the company you choose will be practically living in your home during the remodeling project. Inevitably, the prices you are quoted will vary enormously. This is normal. Before you make real comparisons on price, you should make decisions about some of the details of the job. Each contractor will have his own approach and recommendations. It’s important to listen to their advice and the reasoning behind their recommendations and then make decisions about the approach you feel is best. Once you've made the decisions, get each company to amend their estimate to reflect the changes brought about by the decisions.

4. Use a Clear and Complete Contract
A clearly written and complete contract plays an important part in the relationship you establish with a reliable company. Detailed contracts are best, because written agreements are far less susceptible to misunderstandings.

5. Work Out Job Logistics Up Front
To manage this process, it’s best to sit down with your contractor and go over the "ground rules." Your contractor should then be responsible for getting the word to all the assorted workers who will come into your home. Here are some suggestions for your ground rules:1. What are the earliest and latest hours for working?2. What entrance should workers use?3. What entrance should materials come in through?4. Who will have keys to the house?5. Where will tools, equipment, and materials be stored on the job site?6. Where may workers park? Is there a neighbor who will be upset by trucks in front of their              home?7. Are parts of the house "off limits" to workers?8. How will pets be handled?9. Are there household members who normally take daytime naps?10. Music: What type? How loud? Whose equipment? When?11. How clean will the job site be made each day? For weekends? When the job is done?12. May the contractor post a sign in the yard? How big and for how long?13. Which (if any) bathrooms on the job site may workers use?Another thing to consider is temporarily placing some of your more precious furniture, pictures on the walls, and fragile objects into storage while the work goes on. This will help you avoid the all-too-common problems.

6. Establish Regular Communications Channels
​Make arrangements to meet with someone in charge of the job at least once a week. It should be with the same person and it should take place at the job site. Make it a regular part of your routine during the remodeling process.“Change orders,” which are changes to the initial plan as the job progresses, can be problematic, unless they are addressed in the right way. Make sure there is a procedure for agreeing to the adjustment in total costs and payments and for documenting the changes in writing. Remember that additional work orders may move the project completion date.

Remember, it is a good idea to take a couple of breaks during the remodeling job. Get out of the house and go do something fun or visit friends for a couple of days and get your batteries recharged. Remodeling is a challenge, but by following these suggestions you can make it fun!