Follow these tips when you embark on your renovation:
- Work with the strengths of your home - Check under existing carpeting for old hardwood flooring. Refinish old trim and moldings rather than replace it. Resurface cabinets rather than installing new ones.
- Don't just focus on the upfront cost - A well-planned renovation can reduce future costs and is a further investment in your home. When considering your renovation designs and products, factor in the time, energy and costs required of any ongoing maintenance and possible replacements down the road.
- Don't cut corners to save a few dollars - There may be ways to stretch a limited budget or you may be able to scale down your project or alternatively, do it in phases over time. But don't compromise on quality as it's better to do less and do it well.
- Don't worry about trends - Plan for comfort, ease of living and personal satisfaction. Enjoy exploring options and possibilities - then design the renovation that is uniquely right for you and your family.
- Establish good two-way communication - Does the renovator listen? Do they answer questions clearly and candidly? Can you reach them when you need to? Do they return phone calls promptly? Are you informed when problems arise and do they work with you on solving them?
- Make sure you are compatible with the renovator - You’ll spend a lot of time with your renovator so it’s important to have a good rapport and a level of trust.
- Set a clear and mutual understanding about the schedule - You and your renovator should agree on the schedule up front to avoid conflict and problems later.
- Request a written proposal - Two people often remember the same conversation differently. Get the proposal in writing and work with the renovator to ensure it reflects your wishes.
- Determine a clear and mutual understanding on the details - Details need to be settled prior to the work beginning. What times of day will they be working? How will they access the property? How will cleanup be handled? How will they protect your property?
- Remember to be flexible - Renovating is an interruption of your normal life. Remember to be flexible during the project so that you can handle the unexpected and go with the flow. The bigger the project, the more likely you will run into the unexpected, such as existing deficiencies hidden in the walls, delays in special orders or bad weather. Be flexible and understand that some things are beyond the renovator's or your control.
- Create a clear and mutual understanding of how changes will be handled - With renovating there is always the chance you may want to change materials or details. Agree with your renovator on how changes will be handled before work starts. Also understand that changes could affect the schedule and the budget, so it’s important you have all changes in writing.
- Have a well written contract that covers everything - The contract should include these elements: a timetable, price and payment schedule, detailed specifications for all products and materials, insurance information, permit information, procedures for handling change orders, lien releases, provisions for conflict resolution, and other details such as access to your home, care of the home, cleanup and trash removal.
- Ask for a written lien waiver - If the renovator hires subcontractors for portions of the work it is their responsibility to see them compensated. In order to ensure this has been done and to protect yourself, ask for a written lien waiver when the work is finished. This document will verify everyone has been paid.
- Establish a project plan, covering all phases - Plan your goals and needs with the renovator. Hire a renovator who will plan it out with you, listen to concerns, and answer questions.
- Keep money in reserve for extras - It is not uncommon for homeowners to want to go an extra step - a better quality tile, brand new appliances and so on.