No matter how complex your home remodel, a few simple best practices will help ensure the project is completed on time, within budget, and to your satisfaction. By following these key recommendations — most of which happen before designers or contractors even enter your home — you’ll have the basic tools you need to succeed and revel in the peace of mind knowing that the work will be done right. Whether your home is old or new, the job big or small, this guide is for you.
Factor #1: Begin with the End in Mind
When Alice in Wonderland asks the Cheshire Cat which way she should go, the magical feline suggests she’s bound to get somewhere if she just walks long enough. That strategy might have assured Alice, but it certainly won’t work for you and your remodeling firm since money is time, and the clock is ticking on every home remodel. Instead, you need a clear vision of what you want out of your remodel, surprisingly starting at the finish line to ensure efficiency and economy.
Although you can’t envision all the details, a terrific way to visualize the completed project is by asking yourself and your family why you’d like to remodel — and answering with precisely defined remodel goals. For example, your rationale might be to increase the value of your home with improved amenities and aesthetics, add more functional and safer living spaces for you and your family now or after retirement, go green with energy efficiency, or all of the above. The end result will address these needs, and help create a vision for success.
Once you have a general idea of the why, you can shift into the what: Peruse architectural and interior design magazines, galleries on Pinterest, and inspirational websites like Houzz. Now’s the time to “dream big” and use your imagination; as the realities of cost and timing enter later, you can always adjust your vision to fit your pocketbook and timeline. Make sure you discuss your plans with the rest of the family, who appreciate having a say and might have great ideas.
Factor #2: Choose a Trusted Design Build Partner
After you know what you want, the next critical question becomes done by whom? Your choice of a remodeling contractor is arguably the most important decision you’ll make throughout the entire project, so as Sean Connery said in Indiana Jones, “choose wisely.” A smart selection demands a thorough vetting process, one that begins with family and friends, reviews on sites like Houzz and GuildQuality, and involves checking references, trade associations, etc.
Having a concise checklist of vital prerequisites also helps, and should include answering questions such as: Are they licensed, insured, and bonded? How long have they been in business, and what is their reputation? Are they corporate, or family-owned and operated? How large is their staff? To what extent do they use subcontractors? Have they successfully worked on remodeling projects similar to yours, and can you get satisfied testimonials from clients?
Another critical qualification is finding a “Design Build” firm. These contractors become your single point of contact and accountability throughout your project. From the earliest design and specifications stages through planning and into the actual build, their integrated methodology and unified team optimize communication, efficiency, and quality at every step. Design Build is a proven way to stay true to your initial vision and pull it seamlessly through to completion.
Factor #3: Share and Stick to Your Budget
Although many homeowners are tempted to hold their available budget close to their vest for fear of being taken advantage of, complete transparency with your chosen contractor from the onset is best. Ideally, one of the first things to discuss with your remodeling firm is how much you’ll be able to spend. Even a fairly broad range sets vital parameters that will influence every aspect of your home remodel, from essential design decisions to building specs to choice of materials.
Budget transparency will also help your remodeling firm save you money, improve efficiencies, and result in a better remodel. Aside from the obvious choices of overall scope (one room or several? Indoor or outdoor? Kitchen, bedroom, or bath?) and which fixtures and fittings to buy, an open spreadsheet will enable your contractor to leverage and better negotiate their trade relationships, plan for contingencies and any “surprises,” and get the most from every dollar.
Perhaps most importantly, honesty about the budget from the onset establishes trust and creates a strong relationship. Knowing the upper boundaries of your pocketbook will help save money on design fees, materials costs, and countless other elements; and working with a Design Build firm will empower you with a single point of contact who’s mindful of how to expeditiously spend every cent from the earliest discovery phase to the final build inspection and clean up.
Factor #4: Design to Your Needs and Build to Your Timeline
Another common homeowner temptation is to browse through Houzz or similarly inspirational sources of interior design and then ask contractors for the “kitchen sink” — a little of this, plenty of that, ultimately creating a hodge-podge of trendy design elements. Instead, a reputable remodeling firm will help you focus on functional needs first, and then design around and into the fundamentals. Ample floor space, convenient organization, sufficient privacy where most needed, etc.
After designing your remodel to basics rather than bravado, the next step is to create a realistic renovation timeline. Exact structure and timing varies from project-to-project and phase-to-phase, and is subject to numerous variables — but you can assume four distinct and fairly standard phases, each with its own approximate duration: Discovery (2 weeks), Design (3 to 6 weeks), Construction (2 to 6 months), and Post-Construction (1 to 2 weeks).
All told, a home renovation can take anywhere from two months to a year, depending on its complexity. Your remodeling firm owes you a transparent and specific timeline, one where each milestone corresponds to an essential step in their design-build process. A detailed timeline is particularly important given today’s safety and supply chain challenges and helps ensure a seamless transition across each phase — and your peace of mind throughout an otherwise complicated and disruptive process.
Factor #5: Expect the Unexpected and Get a Warranty
Today’s chaotic market is creating a host of material and staff shortages, and price increases, further complicating already complicated builds and timelines. Once work begins, mistakes can and do happen, as do other unpleasant surprises. The best defense is to go on the offense by anticipating a stressed budget and blown timeline, thereby ensuring you and your contractor are fully prepared for any contingency when it might and likely will happen.
Partnering with a Design Build firm should reduce and even eliminate most if not all of these challenges, but anticipating every contingency is impossible. For extra protection, work with your contractor to include contingency plans, additional slack on the timeline, and other cautionary measures to proactively stay ahead of the game. Let the firm know of any concerns you may have before construction begins, and keep lines of communication open throughout.
Contracts are a critical component of all reputable renovation projects, typically covering the scope of the work, materials, and equipment; work and payment schedules; proof of insurance and other necessary documentation; and acknowledgment of receipt of all product warranties (such as for appliances). Given all the uncertainties, though, make sure to inquire about a warranty on the construction work, too. Typically a year-long, some go much longer. Ask!
Factor #6: Communicate Frequently and Ask Many Questions
Yet another advantage of partnering with a Design Build firm is your single point of contact, responsible and accountable for every phase of the project from Discovery through Post-Construction. From the start, discuss with your project leader the most efficient and effective communication channels and schedule. Do you prefer phone calls or email? Texts or FaceTime? Weekly meetings, more frequent touchpoints, or need-to-know check-ins?
Your personal involvement in the project is up to you but is also dependent on whether you’re living in your home while being renovated, or if you and your family will be staying elsewhere. Either way, your peace of mind and the success of the entire project depends on keeping the lines of communication open. To that end, don’t hesitate to ask questions — your trusted contractor owes you simple, straightforward, and honest responses every step of the way.
Another benefit of frequent and detailed communication is the time and money saved with quick responses to the unexpected. Whether asked to choose an alternative material for a finish, or swap a fixture that’s on backorder, or even alter a layout due to an unanticipated plumbing problem or electrical situation, your ongoing involvement is key to a successful build. A capable contractor is flexible and agile, but important decisions are ultimately yours to make.
Factor #7: Rely on the Experts at Gayler Design Build
Gayler Design Build is an award-winning Design Build firm with 22 National and Regional design awards. Founded in 1961, Gayler serves the Tri-Valley and Lamorinda areas. With a solid 23-year track record, Gayler is your best choice for top-notch home remodeling done right the first time — on budget, and on time.
Gayler’s thorough planning process, quality of craft, dedication to excellence, and clear communication keeps each remodeling project on track at every step. Led by George and Chris Gayler, their exceptional five-year written warranty means they stand behind their work and honor their word. They can’t wait to partner with you!
Take a look at Gayler’s comprehensive design-build home remodeling services, sign up for a webinar, stay informed with their newsletter, and contact them with any questions at 925-820-0185. Working with you every step of the way, the folks at Gayler are here to make your remodeling experience smooth, efficient, and enjoyable. Now’s the time for Gayler Design Build.