A Step-By-Step Guide to Remodeling (Or, Turn Your Old Home into Your Dream Home)
Deciding to remodel your home goes beyond being unhappy with the way it looks. And, finding the remodeler that’s right for truly you is the key to a positive experience and achieving the result you want—your dream home.
- A variety of remodeling resources from the National Association of Home Builders
- Here’s an interesting article from This Old House
Is this You?
What do you do when your home doesn’t fit your lifestyle, your family size, your style and tastes any longer?
- Your family situation has changed so you need more rooms or fewer rooms, different amenities and features to suit the way you live today.
- Your income has changed, now you can afford to have some of the more expensive features you really want but gave up due to budget when you bought.
- Your heating, cooling, and maintenance costs are killing you.
- BUT, you really want to stay in the neighborhood—close to friends, family, place of worship, job, school.
Then there’s often only one best solution—remodel. But where do you begin?
Pick the Right Home Remodeling Contractor
There are a lot of companies out there that offer remodeling services so how do you know which is the right one?
Figure out what you want and need. Even the best remodeler can’t provide solutions when you haven’t figured out the problem.
- Examine your family’s lifestyle. What fits how you live in your current home, and what doesn’t. Make a list and then prioritize it into your “wish list” (include what you really need, what you really want, what you’d like but could live without).
- Take a good look at your home, your lot, your neighborhood. What needs to be updated or repaired? Do you have room to expand outwards? Will property values in the neighborhood support your planned improvements?
- Figure out how much you’re willing to spend.
- Keep a scrapbook of pictures and articles from Houzz, Pinterest, even magazines and books to get ideas about style and features you like.
- Meet with a lender to discover your financing options and limits.
Select the right remodeler. For most families, working with a design/build remodeler (a company that handles everything from design to final construction) or a remodeler that has a good working relationship with an independent architect or designer will serve their needs best. Unless you have construction experience, letting your remodeler coordinate the entire job leaves less chance for problems and errors.
Start by narrowing your search:
- Tour the Parade of Homes Remodelers Showcase® (September and March) to see actual remodeling projects and talk to the remodelers in a no-pressure environment.
- Visit ParadeofHomes.org to see pictures all of the remodeled homes displayed during the past tours, and get a complete listing of our professional remodeler members in an easy-to-use search format.
- Get referrals from friends, neighbors, relatives.
- Look for reliable professionals with credentials like membership in Housing First Minnesota or other reputable organizations. These organizations require members to uphold a stringent code of ethics and quality standards.
Then interview several remodelers:
- Make sure they have experience in the type of remodeling project you have in mind.
- Make sure they explain all aspects of working with them—payment and budget requirements, what to expect during construction, scheduling, selections, how they handle changes, how they handle unforeseen problems.
- Make sure your personalities and communication styles mesh — if you don’t feel comfortable with them in the interview, you probably won’t feel comfortable with them during your remodeling job.
- Ask for examples of past projects and how much each project cost, especially those that were similar in scope to what you hope to accomplish. Tell them what you want, and your total budget — show them your “wish list.”
- Make sure they are licensed and find out what kind of insurance they carry. Also ask about subcontractors that will be involved.
- Get names of past clients and contact them—ask about their remodeling experience, including how the remodeler was to work with; price and value of their project; were they on-time and on-budget; would they hire that remodeler again; did the remodeler make sure their home was secure and clean at the end of each day; were there any unplanned-for problems during construction and if so how were they resolved.
Finally, choose the right remodeler:
If you’re tempted to start by asking several remodelers for bids, don’t! At this stage, a reputable remodeler will only be able to guess at the final price. Remember, a design/build remodeler or remodeler/architect team will work with you to create a remodeling solution that will best suit your needs, your home’s condition, and your budget. Before the first worker comes on-site, the remodeler will have invested considerable time and talent in designing a project that meets your expectations, your needs, and your budget.
That means trust and communication are key. So, do choose the remodeler with whom you feel most comfortable. You’ve checked out their credentials, asked about their experience, talked with past customers, and discussed your budget and your remodeling dreams — now you should be able to confidently choose the remodeler that had all the right answers, the one that just feels right.
Planning Phase. Once you’ve selected the right remodeler, the next step is to make sure you provide all the information your remodeler needs to put together your plan.
The first meeting at your home with the remodeler’s designer should include:
- Describing in detail your needs, wants, tastes and budget
- Examining your current home’s structure, layout, materials
- Finalizing all the business details — financing, contracts, payment schedules, construction schedules, living arrangements during construction, (how long will the bathroom be out of commission, will you have cooking capabilities, should you consider moving out at any point, etc.)
In any remodeling project, there can be serious but hidden problems that can add significantly to the cost of remodeling, especially in older or previously remodeled homes. At this point, your remodeler may want to poke a few holes in the wallboard or pull down some ceiling tile so they can get the full picture of your home’s needs. But remember, sometimes the problems are so well hidden that there’s just no way to tell until construction is underway. So this is the time to make sure you and your remodeler discuss the potential for these problems and how best to budget for them.
Next, your remodeler will begin putting plans on paper. For some projects, the remodeler may draw a rough sketch right at the first meeting, but don’t count on it, especially if the project is very complex. Sometimes you’ll see several sketches before the final plans are completed. In any case, you’ll want to allow your remodeler enough time in the design process to assure that you get what you want. This is also the time when you’ll probably need to select materials (like appliances, lighting, tile, cabinet styles, etc.) to include them in the budget.
Remember, the planning phase is critical! You can be sure that changes you want to make once construction has started will always cost more and consume more time. At the end of the planning stage, you’ll be rewarded with a set of working drawings, a price, a construction schedule, a contract, and be ready to begin a construction phase that will be as quick and easy as possible.
Construction. Now the fun begins! At first, you may wonder what you’ve gotten into. Your home will get messy, dirty, dusty, and loud. But, as the job progresses you’ll begin to see your ideas taking shape. And just about the time you’re getting used to all the disruption, you’ll come home one day and spy that sparkling new chandelier or gleaming new kitchen countertop and discover the job is just about completed.
And then, after your remodeler installs the last few finishing touches, you’ll look around and discover that you have finally achieved that dream home you’ve always wanted.