Remodeling 101 Ideas

Tips on how to start a remodeling project.


No two remodeling projects are alike, but here's a broad look at what to expect during each phase. Two words will see you throughout: patience and planning.

Getting Started
A remodeling job requires at least one and possibly two professionals to draw a plan and execute it.

Obtain at least three written bids for your particular job, using identical plans and specifications.

Do not automatically accept the lowest bid. Discuss each bid in detail with the person who submitted it, and make sure you understand the reason for any variations in price.

Beware of any bid substantially lower than the others. It probably indicates that the contractor has made a mistake or is not including all the work covered by the competitors' quotes.

The contractor may be planning to recoup the costs by charging you with change orders (a written order specifying any change from the agreed-upon plan that is not included in your contracted price) after the project has started.

Learn more about hiring remodeling professionals.

Sketch a preliminary plan.
Even if you're not an artist, you can draw lines that indicate just where you want your new kitchen to start and stop.

Be open to constructive criticism.
Your architect or designer will help you decide whether it makes more sense to reuse existing space or build an addition to meet your needs.

Review preliminary designs prepared by your designer or architect.
To prepare these designs, your professional will measure your existing residence, research local building and zoning requirements, and prepare floor plans and elevations in 1/4-inch scale.

Establish a construction budget.
Because design drawings are done to scale, they can be used to determine accurate material and labor estimates and to establish a usable construction budget. If necessary, designs and material selections can be changed to fit the budget.

Allow time for the working drawings to be prepared.
Working drawings are technical drawings and calculations necessary to acquire building permits and to receive subcontractors' bids. The drawings typically consist of a site plan, floor plan, foundation plan, elevation section, general notes, and details. In most cases, plumbing, mechanical, and electrical symbols appear on the floor plan.

Pay for the building permit obtained by the contractor.
The contractor must show proof of workers' compensation insurance and a city business license to receive the permit.

Learn more about drawing and submitting floor plans.

Learn more about building permits.

The contract binds both you and the contractor to the project. The approved plans and specifications should be part of the document to help clarify the extent of work to be done and the responsibilities of both parties. Make sure your contract includes at least the following:

  • The name, address, and license number of the contractor
  • The start and completion dates of the project
  • A description of materials and work to be done
  • The price of the project and a schedule of progress payments (which should coincide with city inspections to ensure each phase of work has been properly completed)
  • A description of what constitutes substantial commencement of work
  • A notice that the contractor shall substantially commence work within 20 days of a specified date. Unless you have a substantial legal background, it's a good idea to have a legal adviser look over the contract your contractor has prepared.

Learn more about contracts.

During the remodeling process, keep your relationship with the contractor and his or her workers as cordial as possible. It's normal for both sides to get on each other's nerves, but here are a few suggestions to keep things running smoothly.

Take responsibility.
If you have pets, keep them on leashes or confined. Supervise your children and instruct them not to bother the workers. Talk to your neighbors before construction starts, informing them about the time frame of the project and the nature of the work involved.

Stay out of the way.
A job runs more smoothly if the remodeler and crew can concentrate on their work with minimal interference.

Speak up.
When you do talk with the remodeler, be clear about your concerns. Tell him or her what's on your mind; don't allow problems to fester.

Be friendly and supportive.
Greet the contractor and workers when they arrive. Put out refreshments occasionally. Thank them for good work.

Be patient.
Mistakes and misunderstandings happen. When they do, resolve the conflicts and move on.

Be nice to yourself.
Treat yourself and your family to meals out. Keep your sense of humor and focus on the big picture: how much you and your family are sure to enjoy your new space.

Learn more about effectively communicating with a contractor.

When you and your contractor agree the job is done, set a time for a walk-through to ascertain that everything was completed as ordered.

A few weeks down the road, show your appreciation for a job well done. A small gift is perfectly appropriate, as is a letter of thanks in which you offer to serve as a client reference for your professional's future jobs.

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