Tips for a Smoothly Finished Renovation

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When done right, renovating your house may be one of your life’s most satisfying and enjoyable experiences. The ultimate result is a more beautiful, significant home equipped with modern comforts that also increase in value. However, particular renovations have the potential to become a significant source of stress and anxiety, if not entire disruptions of your life. After hearing enough horror stories about budget blowouts, shoddy work, and dishonest contractors, many homeowners opt to sell their homes instead of attempting a significant renovation. As I’ve learned through experience, following a few basic rules will make your next remodeling endeavor an exciting and enjoyable experience rather than a stressful and dismal one.

A “remodel plan” is essential before beginning any renovation project, as a business plan is necessary before launching a new venture. Putting your ideas and goals on paper helps you focus on what’s most important, create a realistic budget, and get a bird’s-eye view of what it will take to finish the project successfully and on schedule. Unpleasant surprises, especially financial ones, are universally loathed.

The good news is that you may avoid many of them by simply documenting your remodel’s process from start to finish. There’s a common misconception among homeowners that if they hire a general contractor, they won’t need a plan. No way! Even before you begin interviewing potential general contractors, you’ll need a plan to ensure everyone involved has a shared knowledge of the project’s goals and scope. The option to hire a general contractor will be factored into the planning and decision-making process.

I find it helpful to divide the plan into distinct parts, such as “my vision,” “pre-planning,” “budget considerations,” “defining the scope of the project,” “determining the critical path and timeline,” and so on. Since no plan can guarantee a problem-free execution, you should factor in some wiggle room if something goes awry. For example, your timeline should include a best-case and a “plan b” range of dates. The level of detail in your strategy is up to you. You should expect fewer problems with your project if you have a more detailed plan. A general contractor you employ may add to your plan with additional, more detailed specifications. Remember that this strategy will serve as the basis for your project.

Now is the moment to figure out how to manage the mess and inconvenience a redesign inevitably causes. Think long and hard about what it would be like to go without a kitchen, bathroom, or even half of your house for an extended period. For the period of a kitchen renovation, do you plan to dine out, burden a friend, or cook in the garage? Do you have an extra bathroom that teenagers can use? Considerable enlargement; if outer walls are broken down, how will you cope with intruders, dirt, and noise? Renovation of the outdoor area; no fence surrounding the pool; safety concerns arise. Moving out during construction is an option for some homeowners. However, it requires careful preparation. Who will be in charge of the project, who will be responsible for troubleshooting, and what will happen if a mistake is made and not discovered until much later? More forethought increases the likelihood of avoiding unpleasant, expensive, and stressful surprises later. Some homeowners give up and relocate rather than finish the job.

The next stage is to figure out who will be doing the job and how much it will cost to complete the project. Do you need an engineer or a builder? Do we need to submit a plan to the city for approval before we get started? Is the help of a designer required? Will you act as the general contractor, coordinating the efforts of various subcontractors like plumbers, electricians, tile setters, etc., or will you hire a general contractor to handle all these tasks on your behalf instead? Remodeling costs will increase, but hiring a general contractor will give huge benefits in terms of knowledge gained and time saved. Do you have time to wait for subcontractors if you manage the project yourself or do all the work yourself? You can work with a general contractor who uses an open book process, where fees are based on actual costs with an agreed-upon markup, or a closed book contractor, where you are given a single price for the entire project without any breakdown of the individual components. The contractor typically provides an allowance for tile, carpet, plumbing fixtures, lights, etc., in closed-book bids. I prefer the open-book approach since it gives me more control over the details and helps me to avoid unpleasant surprises.

If you need a permit for your renovation, you might also have to upgrade other aspects of your home. Suppose an older home lacks modern safety features like fire sprinklers, alarms, and pool fences. In that case, the approving agency may insist that you upgrade other parts of the property before permitting you to build. If that’s the case, you’ll need to account for and consider these extra expenses while drawing up your budget. You should have a general sense of the project’s overall budget, estimates from the various trades to execute the work, deadlines for completion, and finishes selected by the time you submit your plans for permits.

Before finalizing my budget, I usually ensure I have at least three quotes from several service providers. Any trustworthy contractor would agree that receiving at least three quotes before making a final decision is always prudent, even if you think you know the one you’re working with well. I also gained because the people providing the estimates taught me something or gave me a new perspective to work into my master strategy. When I solicit bids, I am always honest with the contractors and tell them exactly who they will be up against. It’s essential to compare bids, materials, what’s included in the bid, personnel skill levels, and how change orders are handled. Remember that I’m not suggesting you choose the cheapest or most expensive option. Choose the offer that works best with your strategy. It is also a good idea to check the contractor’s licensing, company history, and number of customer complaints by looking them up on the registrar of contractors’ website. There are far too many negative consequences to enumerate here for homeowners to engage an unlicensed contractor. The advice of friends and reputable distributors is invaluable while searching for trustworthy contractors.

The best part of remodeling is making something lovely that you designed yourself. The finishes you choose will be in constant view for decades. It’s up to the individual to decide how to allocate their budget for lighting, plumbing, wall color, tiling, and stone. When it comes to service, durability, and quality, you typically get what you pay for. You don’t want something that’s only two years old to look old, worn out, or even worse, outdated and in need of replacement. Everything from the wiring to the framing to the plumbing is hidden, leaving the final appearance of your project up to the finishes you choose. How pleased would you be to spend the next decade staring at the ripples in your wall in the kitchen, where you spend so much time because you chose and installed a cheap glass tile for the backsplash? I’ve seen a floor where the cheap ceramic tile used to save money began showing large chips only months after installation, forcing the homeowner to decide between spending more money to tear out and replace the tile or living with a floor that would only worsen over time.

Whether hiring a general contractor or taking charge of the project, you should always use high-quality materials backed by reliable customer service. You can’t judge a product’s quality or support options just by looking at it; instead, you should contact the vendor directly to learn more. You’ll also have to evaluate the material’s fitness for its planned application. Can it be used in the rain or outside? Two years ago, I was contacted by a Chinese Glass Tile Company offering their services as technical assistance. I was startled when I requested installation instructions and received them for a paper-faced glass tile instead of the mesh-mounted glass tile they were advertising. After I informed them of the mistake, they could not provide any further assistance; I am confident that if I had been selling their items and encountered difficulties, they would not have been able to offer any answers due to a lack of technical experience and product understanding.

It often takes longer and costs more to finish a project than was initially estimated. Having a plan in place might help you avoid unpleasant surprises, but that plan needs to be adaptable. Time lost on a project can add up quickly. One method to avoid these is to make your finish choices and buy the necessary materials at the outset of the job. This will be useful in avoiding backorder problems that can arise from shipping or production delays. Suppose material is needed for a project but is out of stock. In that case, three unfavorable outcomes can occur: either construction must be halted until the material arrives, additional freight costs must be incurred if the material is available elsewhere, or the material must be reselected. Many times, I’ve saved clients money and time by suggesting that they buy the finishes early and having the vendor hold them in a secure warehouse until they’re needed.

You can create anything you can imagine. While careful planning is essential for any project’s success, you should always be prepared for the unexpected. You may rest assured that the process will go more smoothly if you use high-quality materials and reputable licensed general and sub-contractors. You’ll also benefit from cultivating patience and understanding during the project.

Original and only copy 2010 Facings of America, Inc.

Facing of America is co-owned by Ken Tims. Facings of America is an award-winning tile, stone, and architectural feature distributor based out of Arizona and has been run by the same family for the past 43 years. Facings of America is well-known around the country for providing superior customer service and selling premium materials like tile, stone, glass tile, and Architectural Features. Ken Tims has an impressive resume with substantial management and leadership experience. For additional information and some of our award-winning work, please visit

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