If you’re thinking about a major renovation on your home or planning to buy a fixer-upper, you’re probably not looking forward to the renovation process.
But, there are also specific steps you can take that will not only reduce your stress, but also reduce the risk of a major delay or misstep.
Here are 10 tips based on advice from San Francisco-based architectural color specialist Jennifer Ott, who has 20 years of renovation experience:
1. Start with a top team
Just as you need to build a house on a strong foundation, your renovation needs the strong foundation of a good renovation team. As in most endeavors, choosing the cheapest option isn’t necessarily your best choice. Check references and have real conversations with past customers to look for red flags. Ask if you can visit recently finished projects to judge the workmanship.
2. Determine the budget and scope ahead of time
Before any work begins, decide on the scope of your project, as well as your budget, and stick with it. If you start expanding the scope, you may need new permitting, which delays work. You’ll go over budget, both because of the added job and the longer stay in temporary housing. Stick to your original plan so you finish at or near your planned budget and timeframe.
3. Include contingencies
You need to add up to 20% contingency to your budget to cover “worst-case scenarios.” But, you should also consider adding to your timeframe, which can also affect your budget. If you’re building from the ground up, add a contingency of 10% to 15% to your timeline. If you’re renovating something existing, raise that to 20% time contingency since you could get some unwelcome surprises once they start the demo.
4. Plan for temporary housing
You’re probably thinking the last thing you want to add to your budget is the cost of temporary housing. If you’re just getting a bathroom redone and have another available or even a kitchen renovation, you can probably stay in your house. However, if you’re doing something extensive, it’s worth it to save yourself some stress and find temporary housing, even if it means cutting back elsewhere.
5. Finalize and then track selections
If you hire a designer, you might let them make all selections. But, if you’re going to take on the task, make your selections at the start. The last thing you want to do is scramble around, trying to make a decision under pressure. Put all your selections on a spreadsheet or mobile app that lets you tracks the details.
6. Check on progress, but don’t get in the way
If you’ve assembled a top team, you should be able to leave things in their hands for the most part. It still doesn’t hurt to drop into the job site once in awhile. If you see something that looks not quite right, let your designer know. Don’t get in the way of subcontractors.
7. Don’t skimp on the fundamentals
There are components to your renovation you don’t really notice—foundation, structure, insulation, waterproofing, mechanicals, etc. But out of sight shouldn’t be out of mind. If you need to reduce your spend, try not to short these items. They protect your investment.
8. Know where to trim
If you need to reduce your budget, there are areas you can do so without sacrificing your project. Reduce the grade of some of your trim and finishes, make do with fewer paint color switches or settle for less than professional grade appliances.
9. Limit the change orders
A change order is triggered from any change to your original contract. If you decide to add an outlet plug to the living room floor or some extra can lighting in the kitchen, there’s going to be a change order. Change orders can be costly. Put a lot of thought into your original contract to minimize change orders down the road.
10. Keep it all in perspective
If you’ve never gone through a new build or major renovation, then you may come into the process expecting perfection. Understand, that’s not going to happen. When things go wrong along the way—and they will—keep your sense of humor and don’t sweat the small stuff. Focus on the how wonderful the end result will still be.
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