I was recently consoling a frazzled client as the holidays approached when I realized that it's just not normal to enjoy remodeling. It inspired me to pull together a quick list of some tips for getting things off to a good start.
1) Hire the right team for the job.
Get as many referrals from friends as you can, but also leverage online resources like houzz.com, which provides invaluable client reviews of many local designers, contractors and other tradespeople that may become an integral part of your project. Ask all services providers for references and make sure the company you're interested in is licensed and bonded. ( You can check that your builder's license is up to date on your State's online licensing database.) Ask established suppliers for references too - they provide the nuts and bolts of the projects to builders and have a good sense of how organized, timely and responsible they are. Google your short-listed builders to see if there's anything you don't already know.
2) Expect the unexpected.
I have yet to complete a project that has been predictable. It's best to assume that changes will happen through the course of your project, so plan for it. As much as you want your remodel done on time, factoring in an additional 2-3 weeks (or more, depending on the scale of your project) might keep you a bit more collected as you near the final stretch. When budgeting for your project, believe it when people tell you to aim high - about 10-15% - when planning for overruns. Added costs can happen at any time during a project, whether it's due to a higher priced appliance or accent tile that you "just have to have" or the builder finding dry-rot in your bathroom wall. It happens, so be prepared. Make sure to tell your builder, however, that you expect to see change orders so that you understand where those costs are coming from.
3) Do your homework.
While everyone working on your home would like to think we know what you want, you will always be the best champion of your own project. Before you get started, take time to research the looks you like and don't like and create ideabooks using houzz.com or pinboards on Pinterest that you'll later be able to use for collaboration with your team. Take photos of things you've seen in public places. I recently visited a favorite restaurant in Bellevue and fell in love with some of the finishes in their public restroom, which I immediately captured on my cell phone. Some of the elements later became a great reference point for one of our clients. Read up on some of the materials you like so that you can ask informed questions about them to your builder and/or designer.
4) Have a plan!
Depending on the scope of your project, you'll need a personal plan for some of the phases. How will you make time to find all of the design finishes (tile, flooring, fixtures, etc) that the builder needs, when they need them? If you can't do it, plan to factor in time to find someone skilled who can. Where will you stay when your floors are being installed and finished and for how long? Can you and your family live with one operable bathroom for a few weeks? Will you budget to eat out every night when your kitchen is under construction or plan the project in the summer when you can grill out? There are lots of questions that should be answered in advance to keep your budget and timeline on track.
5) Make sure your project team has a plan too.
First, don't expect your builder to pinpoint specific dates. Do expect them to give you timeframes and ask them what their contingency plans are if their plans slip. (A builder who tells you they've never had a project go south is not someone you want to work with. A builder who says they have a plan when things do, is.) We work within plenty of constraints and focus on delivering specifications and plans well in advance of when a builder needs them. This helps ensure that plans are baked and materials are ordered and on site well in advance of when they're needed so that time and resources aren't left in a holding pattern while your project dollars go out the window.
6) Have...dare we say...FUN?!
If you've done most of the legwork and have a trusted team in place, chances are good you'll be prepared for the project and might actually enjoy it! While it's a bit of a marathon, keep thinking of the end result and know that it'll all come together beautifully and be a reflection of all of your hard work.