|Any type of remodeling project - whether kitchen and bath, full home improvement or exterior landscaping - requires careful planning. You are about to make a substantial investment in your most important asset
your home. Before you invest thousands of dollars, know that your remodeling project is going to be a success by carefully planning for the desired outcome. Much of the planning will be done with your chosen interior designer, home decorator and/or cabinet installer - but you can set the stage for success by following these guidelines.
- Plan your remodeling project room by room. Kitchen, bath, wardrobe, home office, living spaces - make a list of specific items you want to address. Some of these will be general in nature, such as color scheme and style, while others will be more specific - such as cabinets, flooring, countertops, walls, ceilings, furnishings, accessories, appliances, and so on.
- Determine what theme or style you are going to remodel with. For instance, in cabinetry you would be choosing between Transitional cabinets, French cabinets, English cabinetry, European cabinetry, French Country cabinets, Art Deco cabinetry. Then what type of cupboards will be employed - framed cabinets or unframed cabinetry.
- If you don't already have one, make a layout of each room you are going to remodel. You can get fancy with this by purchasing and using an interior design software package - or it can be as simple as a manually written "to scale" diagram that includes all existing furnishings as well as measurements and construction.
- Research your local permits and building codes. You should get assistance on this from your interior designer or remodeling contractor - but do a little legwork yourself. Go to the city or county website for the area you live in and look up "building permits" and "construction code". The Permit process can sometimes be expensive and time consuming - causing additional delays and costs to pile up if you don't start out on the right foot.
- Establish a budget. This will be somewhere between what you can afford and what you want. By having the first 2 documents in hand (list of specific items and room diagrams) - you should be able to get some preliminary estimates from a few contractor or designer interviews. Chances are, it's going to be more costly than you had thought. Keep in mind that this is not an expense - but an investment. You are increasing the value of your asset - your house and your home. Most, if not more, of what you invest will come back to you in the form of higher home valuation. The good news is that you can count on a wide variety of financing plans to help fit your kitchen and bath remodeling project - or whatever - into your monthly budget.
- Research your financing options. Talk with lenders and mortgage loan brokers to see what your financing options are and how you can best structure the financing for maximum return. Check the "links" page of this site for local lenders who provide or specialize in home remodeling financing.
- Put together a list of contractors or interior designers and start interviewing. This can be a long and tedious process - but think of it as part of your "investment." One benefit of this is that these interviews will yield a lot of good ideas and concepts that you hadn't thought of when your first started your home improvement project. You may be revising your plans quite a bit as you go. Look for these qualifiers as you interview:
- License - is the company and/or individual you are considering licensed for remodeling? If so (and they better be!), under what licensing authority? What certifications do they have and, again, from what certificate authority? Not only does this provide better assurance of competency, but also will impact your ability to get low cost financing.
- Experience - what other projects has the builder or decorator done that are similar to what you have in mind? Can they show you pictures or offer some discussion that shows they are familiar with your mindset? Are references available that you can contact and perhaps even visit? There is no better reference than talking to another customer who has had a favorable experience with your prospective cabinet contractor or remodeling contractor.
- Bonding - is this contractor bonded and by whom? A bond is a 3rd party insurance / assurance program for the customer that states that the contractor is qualified and that they will stand behind them in case there are disagreements later in the relationship between you and your installer or contractor. If the project is big enough, research the bonding company to make sure a solid, reputable organization is standing behind the supplier.
- Terms - define what type of payment terms your interior decorator or remodeling contractor requires. Avoid contracts that give too much cash up front. If you can afford it, YOU prepare the contract - with the help of a good construction attorney, so that you will be protected from fraudulent builders.
- Guarantees - does the subcontractor stand behind their work? What type of guarantees are provided and what is involved to execute them. This can be part of the remodeling contract
and probably should be.
- Ask for and get a detailed proposal. This remodeling proposal will include a description of each phase including what materials will be used, what will be done and how much is due in advance and upon completion of each phase. The proposal should also identify the contractors license number, certifications, Bond and other legal and financial qualifiers that establish, in writing, this supplier's suitability for your project.
- Define and execute the contract with the best legal assistance you can afford. The remodeling contractor or interior designer's proposal should be a part of this contract.
- Monitor your project. While your budget may permit the luxury of a General Contractor - be sure to stay in touch with the project. Have a "check list" that you can follow, phase by phase, as the remodeling project progresses.