I have completed hundreds of renovations and managed dozens of contracting firms and tradespeople. This is my take on what I consider the 10 best tips to ensure that your remodeling project is a success.
Pro Tip #1 Have a plan!
“I love it when a plan comes together” famously said by Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith of the A-Team! If only every renovation project could work out like an episode of the A-Team. Having a plan is critical to so many things in life not just design or home renovation. The extra time spent planning upfront definitely pays off. Every tip I have listed except for #10 is part of the planning stage for your project. Planning can be slow and even painful but definitely less painful than having to redo work, pay for costly change orders or living with a finished product that wasn’t what you really wanted.
Pro Tip #2 Don’t try to force a square peg into a round hole
Don’t force the design upon the space, work with what you have and try to enhance it. Many times design inspiration comes from magazine photos that are completely different in architecture and size than the space that you have. Making a specific photo your primary vision can lead to unrealistic expectations for the final result. Also, think about how your space will be used most of the time. For example if you are planning a kitchen, it is good to envision how you will navigate and use the space. Make sure that your ideas not only look great but are also practical and functional.
Pro Tip #3 “I know it when I see it!”
It can be very hard at times to make choices without seeing them first. I always try to utilize as many methods as practical to visualize my design. Virtual mood boards and room planners are great tools. There are lots of visualization apps available online that allow you to upload your own photo and add furniture, fixtures, change wall color and more. If you are buying new furniture it can be helpful to use blue painters tape to block out the shape of the furniture on the floor or even use large pieces of cardboard to represent the actual size of the new furniture. This can also be helpful for new cabinets and bathroom fixtures. I always test out the new paint color on the wall before committing to it. When it is not possible to paint directly onto the surface, try painting large swatches on poster board or cardboard.
Pro Tip #4 Like an Onion… Or maybe a layer cake?
Ok so when you think about your design maybe an onion isn’t the first thing that comes to mind but it really is all about the layers. I always recommend adding interest to your space with layers such as artwork, conversation pieces, vintage items, heirlooms, or other meaningful items. By integrating personal layers you can connect to your space and make it uniquely yours.
Pro Tip # 5 Don’t Forget About Lighting, Furniture and Fixtures
It is all about synergy. All of the items in your space should work together including anything that will be reused or cannot be changed such as an architectural feature. Furniture, décor items, window treatments, artwork and your own personal touches come together and become the final result.
Always check colors in the actual lighting of the space and in combination with other elements in the room. Natural light and artificial lights plus the surrounding finishes such as flooring can alter the color. I have seen houses that most people see clearly different colored rooms but it is actually the same paint color throughout.
Pro Tip #6 Create a Budget with Options
Having an initial budget range is a good start. After going through all the planning steps, that budget may start to change. Renovations do not always go smoothly. Unforeseen defects can be uncovered during construction resulting in additional repairs that are not optional. Communicate with your contractor to identify any areas of potential problems or change orders before work starts. I recommend allocating a portion of your budget towards the unforeseen. Having alternative lower cost options as a plan b is great way to offset additional construction costs when you are on a tight budget.
Pro Tip #7 Make Informed Decisions
Is your renovation complicated? Are there decisions that need to be made that involve construction methods or product options that you are not sure of? I always provide my clients with product specs and help them understand the differences when there are multiple options. Before signing a construction contract, do as much research as possible and create a list of questions to ask the professionals involved. Many times contractors will make decisions for you based off of what they are familiar with or will only buy from a supplier that they always do business with. It may be great for the contractor but not for you. If a contractor balks at questions and will not communicate clearly with you, it is usually a sign to find someone else.
Pro Tip # 9 Assembling Your Own A-Team!
Hiring professionals to complete your project can be a difficult task. Any company can seem great when things go smoothly but what about when things go wrong? Ask if the company can provide a job reference that was particularly challenging. How did they handle the issues that came up? Rather than hiring the same general contractor for everything, consider hiring for any specialty trades such as electrical or plumbing separately. You will save money and also be able to deal directly with the tradesperson yourself. When I am acting as a project manager for my clients, I obtain multiple bids from several specialty tradespeople and only use companies that I have had experience with or have actually seen their work.
Pro Tip #10 Contracts and Quality Control
I have heard many horror stories about shoddy work, unscrupulous contractors and homeowners getting ripped off. In my home state of Pennsylvania, the Attorney General requires contractors to register as Home Improvement Contractors. This doesn’t assure any level of training or experience but is only a database of the business operator’s name, contact information and insurance information. The PA Attorney General’s website also offers good information about the home improvement laws and construction contracts. If you are not familiar with the home improvement law, you should definitely check it out before signing any contracts and utilize their database to make sure that the contractor you plan to do business with is registered.
Once your renovation is underway, keep eyes on the job throughout the construction process. If you are not savvy about construction methods, try to get a friend or relative who is to inspect the work from time to time. It is best to catch problems as soon as possible so you can work with the contractor to make it right before your final payment is made. When I am managing projects for my clients I regularly visit the jobsite. I look out for shortcuts and make sure that the contractors are adhering to the contract specifications. If any conflicts do arise, I will moderate them for my clients and get the project back on track quickly.
Let me know if you have any questions or would like to add your own pro tips for renovations in the comments below. If you are located within Pennsylvania and are looking for renovation help, click here to contact me. I understand that every client and home is unique. I will work to create a plan that will fit your own personal style and budget.
Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Subscribe to our newsletter for more renovation tips, design ideas, DIYS, before and after makeovers and more!