Step Three: Finding a Remodeler
In our last post about completing a successful remodeling project, we discussed deciding on the process, specifically hiring a design-bid-build or a design-build firm. Whichever route you go, you need to choose your remodeler wisely. It’s said that people spend more time shopping for a car than a remodeler. Considering the cost, both financial and emotional, it’s imperative to invest time in this step.
Get bids from at least three remodelers, making sure they are as specific as possible and that you are comparing “apples to apples.” As discussed previously, some change orders are unforeseen and necessary; however, change orders can also be part of a deceptive bidding practice. Some remodelers intentionally keep their bids low by pricing with low-cost materials and fixtures, knowing that once construction begins, you will find them unacceptable and have little choice but to authorize and pay for upgrades. Ask about the estimating process to select a firm that will give you the most honest, accurate bid without a lot of after-the-fact upgrades.
Get referrals from friends who have remodeled, go to the internet, read local publications, and contact trade organizations (e.g., ORA, NARI, NKBA and the HBA). Visit trade shows and seminars, and definitely check with the state’s Construction Contractors Board. Finally, interview the designer and contractor in person, preferably at their office, and then check their credentials and the references they provide.
Step Two: Decide on the Process
Besides a beautiful, functional home, you want a remodeling process that you’re comfortable with. In this second step to a successful remodel, the big decision is whether you want to hire two entities, a designer and builder, or if you’d prefer to go with a design-build company, which provides both services under one roof.
Let’s say you’re remodeling your kitchen, with the traditional design-bid-build route, you hire a designer or architect, then get multiple bids from general contractors and hire a contractor independently. In my experience, people who choose this direction typically have a particular architect in mind. The client then needs to find a contractor to execute the architect’s design. The biggest drawback here is that the designer/architect and contractor likely won’t have the close working relationship found within a design-build firm, so if the cabinet design, say, is off there could be some wrangling when the builder begins the installation.
With the design-build process, you select and hire one company working as a team, and the only bidding involved is if you choose to get bids from more than one design-build firm. Design is less expensive than when contracted independent of a builder. Furthermore, because the design-build team works together from concept to completion, they can collaborate on workable design solutions that are within your budget.
Other pros of the design-build method? Since the designer works as a team member, you not only know your builder long before construction starts, but also have continuing design support throughout. Most importantly, since the design-build team has an established relationship and process, the transition and ongoing communication between design and construction should be virtually seamless and any surprises along the way more easily resolved.
A home remodel is one of those things that can breed procrastination. Many homeowners, especially the uninitiated, put it off like a long-delayed trip to the dentist. But good things, like a bright, healthy smile, can result from overcoming ill-founded anxieties, making us wonder why we waited so long to get started.
Admittedly, home remodeling can be more involved than scheduling a dental procedure. But in starting the deferred course of dental health or a home remodel, knowing what to expect will boost your confidence in the decision-making process. We’ll be breaking down the steps in five blog posts.
Step One: Do Your Homework
Many people do more research buying a car than considering what they want from a home remodel. But the first, day-dreaming step holds the joy of anticipation. Create an idea file to share with your future designer. Make lists of what you like and don’t like about your current space. Search the internet, rip out pages from magazines, or if you’re doing an exterior project, take photos of homes in the neighborhood. Then prioritize your list, ranking your “must-haves” from your “lottery wish list.”
Not so fun but essential: get a realistic idea of costs. Look at a cost versus value report, like the one put out by Remodelers Magazine, to see how much future return you might expect from your investment. Be realistic about what you’re willing to invest in your home and the results you can expect. Gotta have that custom pebble floor in your shower? Go for it, and adjust your budget accordingly.
Budget for “surprises.” Even with reputable remodelers and the most thorough contracts, unforeseen circumstances might require additional work. (Dry rot and inferior framing, for instance, can be difficult to detect before demolition.) Or maybe you’ll be presented with an opportunity to save some money by spending a little more now rather than later. For instance, you may have decided to reduce your bedroom renovation budget by delaying the closet remodel, only to find it would actually cost less to do it now rather than later. The savvy remodeling client will budget an additional 10 percent for such a contingency.
Your final homework assignment: consider how you are going to pay for the project. Many homeowners pay cash, either by reallocating resources or saving up. Others finance through traditional methods or asking their contractor for advice on financing solutions. Contractors might also break a larger project down into smaller phases for a “pay as you go” approach. If you can’t afford to redo the bathroom of your dreams now, it might only be a delay of months to get what you really want.
A trendy, open floorplan can be tempting when you own a historic home. The space you have may feel too close or dark to be liveable. Before knocking down walls and installing track lighting in your Victorian, take a look at these five simple tips for historic home preservation and design:
Tip #1: Keep the floor plan clean and simple.
There is a certain hierarchy of public and private spaces that houses generally follow. Public spaces (like a front entry) often lead to other public spaces (like a living room or dining room), then to more private spaces (like a bathroom or bedroom).
Don’t remove walls in an attempt to “open up your floor plan” and end up with one giant room. Instead, half walls or columns can be utilized to keep the room open, yet allow a little separation and flow to your floor plan.
Tip #2: Keep the history in your home consistent.
Modernizing your home doesn’t mean you should give an ultra-modern interior to an Arts and Crafts home. You can upgrade your home, change the way the space flows, but keep touches of the original period. A transition from an older home on the outside to a modern interior is jarring and can reduce the home’s value.
Tip #3: Save and reinstall original pieces.
Keeping or reinstalling an original mantel, period-appropriate molding, or intricate knobs can keep the home’s character while allowing you to remodel it in order to match your 21st century needs.
Tip #4: Match the roofline and roof pitch
If you are looking to add on to your historical home, be sure to match the roofline and roof pitch. Changing the pitch or type of roofing makes it very obvious addition was installed. The addition of a dormer can also change your roofline, but when done properly, can look as if it was always there.
Tip #5: Add in your own family history
Don’t just buy pieces that fit with your home’s vintage, find family photos, furniture or quilts that you can use for your home. It’s your house, so bring in your own family history while you make more memories for generations to come.
We specialize in remodeling historic homes right here in Portland. Our services will take your project from design to build. Visit www.craftsmandesign.com today for examples of our award-winning designs.