My sister-in-law Amy Colton is the most organized person I know, having successfully managed everything in town (The Antiques and Garden Show, The Swan Ball, her husband!) but even so when she announced a MAJOR HOME RENOVATION, I wondered about her sanity!
Of course, worries unnecessary. Amy managed a extensive master bedroom, bath, kitchen, laundry room, and office remodel/addition on time and on budget (mostly.) All while living in the house!
In two posts (Before Renovation and During Construction,) she describes her top renovation tips.
Fear not– you can do this too! (all photos “before)
But as Amy says, careful planning, patience, flexibility, and the occasional snacks are essential to the success of your project. And now from Amy–
1-Do Your Research
Careful planning is the key – do your research! This is the most important step of the entire process, as your architect, contractor and/or designer cannot help you if you do not know what you want. Be specific!
Take note of features you like in your friends’ homes, ask friends what they love about their houses, and go to open houses or planned home tours. Talk to experts – we met with our appliance repairman for two hours to find out what he thought were the best appliances and why. Take one of your dinner plates to an appliance store and make sure it fits in the fancy dishwasher drawer you are considering. Measure the depth of the refrigerator to see if the Costco pizza box will fit.
A lot of endless hours browsing the many websites catering to the home and decor industries (I found HOUZZ to be the most user-friendly and helpful). Make a “dream” list – you can always cut back later if it gets too pricey.
Get an accordion file, spiral notebook with pockets and/or large envelope to hold the (endless) bids, invoices, receipts and notes you will have to keep up with throughout the process. I was surprised how often we had to reference them.
3-Grab a Pencil
Make lists and take COPIOUS notes. Before AND during renovation.
4-Measure Twice, Cut Once
Once you have drawn plans, understand what you are getting.
We marked out the plan of our new kitchen with blue tape on the floor of our garage and were surprised how different the space looked than it did on paper. Six inches or even a foot doesn’t seem like much when you look at it on a ruler but it can make the difference between a tight or comfortable space when moving around your kitchen.
It goes without saying that the earlier in the process you catch mistakes or make changes, the easier (read: less expensive) it will be.
5-Prepare a Detailed RFP
The devil is in the details. The more you decide in advance of bidding out your plans, the more accurate your bid will be to the final cost of your project.
If your contractor included pricing for tile on your kitchen counter, you will have a big surprise when he gives you the bill for the honed marble you selected.
So before you put your plans out to bid you should have a full electrical plan in place (can light or fixture, dimmers, 3 way plugs, switch plate covers?), all features of cabinets selected (overlay or inset doors, soft close drawers, pull out drawers in lower cabinets, style of doors), type of flooring (wood, tile or natural stone) and know what appliances and plumbing fixtures you want.
It will help the bidders and you will have a better idea of the true cost of your renovation.
6-Ask About Features
Ask your architect what the pros and cons of a particular feature are if you are wavering about it.
Your architect is there to be your advisor but also may not tell you the downside of something if you have expressed enthusiasm for it. We had conversations about stand-alone vs. built-in bathtubs, tank vs. tankless water heaters, glass front cabinets, counter height and more.
Recycle what you can from your old space to the new.
We put old kitchen windows into a new basement room, kitchen granite was used on the laundry counter and the kitchen double sink was cut in half and the larger piece now serves as our laundry room sink.
8-Question the Bid
When selecting your contractor, be sure you understand exactly what their bid covers (some include appliances, some do not), how inevitable changes are handled (is it a fixed bid or do they add a percentage to new costs) and what their timeframe is (do you want to tie a bonus or a penalty to a completion date?)
Once you have selected your contractor, work with them to make a calendar of dates for the project.
What are the deadlines for making selections such as appliances (cabinets can’t be ordered without appliance specifications), bath and kitchen fixtures, counter tops and paint colors? Note when you will be out of town, when they will be out of town and any holidays when there will be no workers at your house.
Update this calendar periodically as dates (inevitably) change (rain delays, illness of subcontractor, backordered items, etc.). If you are working with a designer, add their dates as well.
10-Gather the Entire Team
If possible, meet with your architect, contractor (and possibly designer too) all together. There are inevitably some issues that require input from the whole team and problems get solved very quickly when they are all looking at something and discussing solutions together! (*this may happen during construction rather than before).
11-Make a Hard Deadline
Using the calendar you and your contractor put together, make plans to host a party or have weekend guests at a reasonable date following the construction.
It helps (everyone, including you!) to have a looming (motivating?) hard deadline and you will be surprised at the energy it generates!
Stay tuned for home renovation tips During Construction in the next post!