7 Success Tips From Experienced Home Remodelers
The choices you make when you start a home remodel can help shape the success of your project. Planning ahead, getting a contract, communicating with the contractor and staying organized can help ensure that your remodel will go your way. Without proper organization or good communication, misunderstandings and changes can slow progress and create stress.
At Litchfield Builders, we help educate homeowners about their responsibilities and what they can do to ensure a smooth home improvement project. We’ve been in business for over 20 years, and we know what it takes to make your home remodel a success.
Planning a remodel? With our free checklist, you'll be sure every detail is accounted for before you begin construction.
Know what you want before starting your remodel. “You’ll end up making the same decisions, but you’ll know what they’re going to be and what they’re going to cost ahead of time,” explains Ridley Wills, founder of the Wills Co., a design-build firm in Nashville.
Make a List of Goals
What do you hope to accomplish with your remodel? Your remodel goals will change the focus of your remodel and could even dramatically change the look and functionality of your home’s renovation. For example, a homeowner who wants to improve their home’s energy efficiency may focus on installing new fixtures and appliances that use less energy and natural resources. By contrast, a homeowner who wants to boost their home’s property value before selling may choose to make improvements with low cost and high ROI.
In the weeks leading up to your remodel, look at pictures of modern homes, and visit showrooms. Collect photos from magazines and start a scrapbook of ideas. Keep this with you when you meet with contractors, so you’ll have something to point to when you’re discussing your ideas.
Insist On A Detailed Contract
The construction contract is a document that homeowners and contractors can refer back to for clarification and quick reference. The how, what, why and where of the job should be listed in the contract. “The contract needs the right address, a start date, a completion date, and a detail of what is and is not going to be done,” says Rosie Romero, founder of Legacy Custom Builders in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The contract should also touch upon important subjects such as, who is responsible for clean up? What should the homeowner do to prepare for the job? What is the process for a change order? Having these things in writing can prevent miscommunications that lead to problems between homeowners and contractors.
Often, the estimated cost will be less than the final cost of the job. After beginning a job, it’s common for contractors to discover structural problems or code violations that need repairs before the work can go forward. To ensure these changes will fit in your budget, “Always allow yourself a 20% or 30% buffer on top of every final bid, because you never come under budget for any renovation. A great way to keep budgets tight is to set an unachievable low-budget target which forces the contractor (and you) to get creative on how you can cut costs to meet that number,” says Engelo Rumora of List'n Sell Realty.
Communication Is Key
Communication is critical when it comes to completing a home remodel. To ensure that your project goes as you want it to, find out from the beginning who is your point of contact on the job site. Many general contractors prefer homeowners to communicate directly with the person in charge of the site, instead of employees or subcontractors.
"Let the company supervisor or project lead person know if anything is unsatisfactory so they can deal with the issue," says Jeff Hurst, a Certified Remodeler (CR) and president of Hurst Total Home, Inc., in Kettering, Ohio. "The contractor may not be aware that something is not OK with the owner."
By when do you need your home remodel to be finished? What are the most important milestones in your home remodel? These are questions that you and your contractor should go over together. Your contractor can tell you what to expect at every step of the way. If you have a deadline, communicate that with your contractor.
“Homeowners should add into the contractor's standard contract clear timetables for completion of each step of the job. In order to ensure that the contractor adheres to the timetable, a penalty for not meeting the schedule needs to be defined,” says Michael Polk, of Polk Properties.
Be A Good Client
You’ll be spending quite a lot of time with your contractor over the next few weeks or months, and some of the decisions that you’ll have to make may be stressful. Establish a good rapport with your contractor to help make the process easier.
"The perfect clients are easy to get along with, honest, and have an appreciation for what we do," says Anthony Wilder, founder of Anthony Wilder Design/Build in Bethesda, Maryland.
As already mentioned in the first tip, do your research. Why? Researching in advance helps minimize the number of changes you’ll have to make midway through the job. These changes, called “change orders” can increase the price of your remodel (sometimes dramatically), and can also slow down progress. Depending on the nature of the changes, it may be hard for your contractor to catch up after the work has slowed.
“The biggest mistake most people make with home improvements is proper preparation. You can save heartache and financial pain by spending more time planning and researching everything. Omissions, city code surprises, materials prone to price fluctuation, assuming subcontractors will show up every day are common blunders. Little things count: Touch the materials you plan to use. Finally, minimize what you change midstream, as that's often the source of the biggest budget busters,” says Kevin Hawkins from WAV Group, Inc.
If you must change your order midway through, work with your contractor to find the least expensive and most efficient way to make those changes. Keep in mind that the time and expense that your changes cause may be disproportionate to the cost of the new material. Often changes that happen midway through the job require contractors to double back and undo progress, which can have a big impact on the project.
Contact Litchfield Builders
Are you planning a remodel in the come year? Tell us about your plans in the box below! We'd love to hear about what you've been doing to plan for your project. At Litchfield Builders, we help homeowners to remodel their property when the time comes. We give advice when it's needed, and are always happy to answer questions from curious homeowners.
If you're planning a remodel soon, it's important to plan ahead, be prepared, communicate with your contractor and maintain a good rapport with your home remodelers. To find out more about how to plan a remodel or how to get started with a residential home improvement project, contact Litchfield Builders for a consultation. You can also download our free publication, 3 Phases to Planning a Home Remodel.
About Kevin Ahern
Kevin is the Co-Founder of Litchfield Builders, an award-winning, industry leader with a reputation for managing projects others shy away from. They are known for their high-quality work, customer service, and reliability and though still relatively small in size, Litchfield Builders now competes with some of the areas largest firms in both the residential and commercial arenas.