No two remodeling projects are alike, but here's a broad look at what to expect during each phase. Two words will see you through: patience and planning.
A remodeling job requires at least one and possibly two professionals to draw a plan and execute it. For suggestions on choosing the pro or pros you need, see "Finding the Help You Need."
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. He or she 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.
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:
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.
The details of your remodeling project will be unique to you and your contractor, and will probably be filled with ups and downs, delays and surprises. Almost surely there will be a demolition phase, followed by a time when the basics, from walls to wiring, are rebuilt or upgraded as needed. Then cabinets, appliances, and so forth will be installed, and paint, hardware, and other finishing touches can be put in place.
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.
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. You already know your professional's policy regarding problems that arise after completion, but identify as many potential difficulties as possible before he or she leaves the site.
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.