Key items to consider if you’re planning a home renovation project.

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If you’re thinking of doing a home renovation project, you probably already know that the project will take a lot of time and a lot of money, but there are other important elements you need to keep in mind and prepare for.  We recently completed a large master bathroom remodel and I went into the project feeling pretty confident in knowing what to expect.  We have experience doing home projects – remodeling almost the entire interior of a 1,700 sq. foot 1970s condo we owned over a period of 6 years. Save money, do project, save money, do next project, and repeat until the place was finished.  I learned a lesson from every one of those projects and I took each lesson into the next project and got smarter with the work we did.  However, this master bathroom project was our biggest yet and there were even more lessons to be learned.  I thought I’d share some of my biggest learnings in the hopes it may save someone a headache in the future.

  1. Hire a licensed, insured, and respected contractor.  Get multiple quotes and interview the companies, ask for references and for pictures of their work.  One great question to ask is how they handle mistakes (do they stand by their work) and will they put a dedicated team on your project?
  2. It’s going to take more time than you think.  Depending on the scope of the project – you may want to assume an extra few weeks to months.  We started planning the design of our bathroom in October with plans to start demo early January & then 8-weeks to finish.  Demo started January 8 and we weren’t able to start using the bathroom again until mid-April because of many unexpected elements that came up.  Do yourself (and the contractor) a favor and don’t plan a project with a hard deadline like needing it complete by Christmas when all your family is coming into town.
  3. Speaking of unexpected elements that come up – it’s also going to cost more than you think.  Line items will be left out by accident, scopes will change, if a permit is necessary – the city or county may have changes.  Give yourself a decent buffer and be prepared to have to give and take on your wish list if things are getting more expensive than you can manage.
  4. If you aren’t handling the design yourself, be sure you are very clear on what is being purchased.  Signing off on just an image online without understanding the specs may leave you disappointed.  Asking for the size of something, the material it is made of, a sample of the color, or the brand of the product may help keep you on schedule and avoid costly returns.  We made this mistake not asking enough questions for our master bathroom because in the past, I had always picked out everything on my own.  New lesson learned!
  5. Be prepared for a lot of dust, a lot of people in and out of your house, some really noisy days, and most likely some damage to either a dinged wall, trampled gardens, dirty carpets, etc.  If you work from home and/or have young children at home – be prepared to have your life pretty disturbed.  Make sure you schedule the project for a time of year that may be least disruptive for you.
  6. If something doesn’t look right – call it out and ask what is going on before it’s too late.  We noticed an issue in the shower and called the lead contractor at the end of the day and they were in there fixing it first thing the next day.  If we had waited another day or two, it would have been harder for them to fix it.  I made this mistake on the condo with seeing tile that slid and not speaking up.  That sloping tile drove me nuts until the day we sold the condo.  You’re paying a lot of money for your project – you deserve it to be done right so you’re happy.
  7. Think about function in your design decisions.  Those new lights may look pretty, but will it be hard to change out the bulbs?  Is there enough storage in that gorgeous vanity?  Try to think about how you will use the space when you are making these decisions.

I think I can end my list there.  I hope this at least helps someone really think through the ins and outs of a remodel before getting started.  If you have any more lessons to add that others may benefit from – please comment!

****** Real Estate Tip ******

If you’re planning to do updates before selling, also make sure your design decisions will appeal to a broad audience and not too specific to your tastes.  Keep it classic and keep it classy.

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