One of the first questions that your designer or remodeler should ask is, “What is your budget?” While you might be hesitant to share that information, quote a range anyway . . . and try to be forthcoming! If you have picked a reputable, professional designer or remodeler, you have not given anything away. It is a quick way for him to assess early on whether he can give you what you want within your budget.
For budgeting purposes, keep in mind that the most expensive remodeling projects are those that involve expanding the footprint of the house. Less expensive are those that reconfigure existing space and even less expensive are projects in which all the walls, plumbing and heating fixtures stay where they are. The best way to figure out if your budget range is realistic is to run it past good remodelers. They will be quick to tell you if you’re in the wrong ballpark. And if you are, don’t despair. A design professional or remodeler can suggest less expensive alternatives or divide the project into smaller phases. Almost all successful remodeling projects are the result of a series of compromises between the initial dream and the final budget.
Do you need an architect or design professional? That depends on your location, and the size of your project and budget. Some towns may require plans that are prepared by an architect. Check with your local planning and zoning office for the particular building and zoning requirements for your area. Most small scale remodeling projects – such as kitchen and bath remodels – can easily be put together by an experienced remodeler and a cabinet supplier. Larger jobs might benefit from a complete set of construction plans and the input of a design professional.
Using a design/build firm – either a remodeler who provides design services or an architect who provides contracting services – is one way to simplify a complex project. You hire one firm that handles everything. The design/build approach to building brings together professional design and construction expertise. One company handles both design and construction, which means you enjoy greater continuity of service. This joining of design and construction functions can also save you time and money, and helps make you – the customer – more of a partner in the remodeling of your home.
If you decide to hire an architect or building designer, start by looking for candidates with extensive residential remodeling experience. Ask remodelers about designers they like to work with. Make your decision based on a review of their work that might be similar to your project. Ask for references and check whether their projects stayed within budget and ran smoothly.
Some people think that acting as their own general contractor is a good way to cut remodeling costs. But few homeowners realize the complexity of the contractor’s job. Your contractor must understand not only today’s building construction, but the techniques that were used decades ago; plan the job, step by step; obtain or prepare drawings and apply for building permits; hire good, reliable subcontractors (who may have worked with him on many projects); schedule (juggle) all of the elements: material delivery, labor and subs, inspections by building officials, inspect all work; and allow for the inevitable unanticipated delays!
When you hire a professional contractor, you don’t just pay for the labor and material, you also receive the contractor’s ability to save you time and aggravation. The contractor’s fee takes into account all of the expenses directly related to your project such as rubbish removal, liability insurance, and also expenses not directly related such as office and vehicle overhead, tool expense, employee training and warranty work. That last item is the most overlooked, but one of the most important for you.