A BEGINNER’S GUIDE FOR HOME RENOVATION
a year ago
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SayHomee’s survey shows that not many people are knowledgeable about home renovation, while some even have little clue about where to start the project. Now, I am going to guide you through the process with my experience.
Step 1: Find A Strong Team Before Starting the Renovation Project
Unless you are a professional builder or a handyman, you may need professional assistance on any job aside from painting, cabinet or floor installation. Personally, I believe hiring architects and contractors is a great investment, because you will have an experienced and confident blueprint to finish the project. In another word, you will get a high return in the aspect of safety, professionalism, and function. It is worth it.
Find an Architect
Yes, an architect before a contractor. If it was a simple renovation job, a drawing design by an architect is not necessary but no matter the scale of the project, you will need an architect to evaluate and consult the project. The first step of renovation is to look for an architect who will be the head coach of your team to ensure the plan meets your budget and requirements, and all the permits and paperwork are in place.
When I was remodeling my home, I hopped on Houzz and browsed the list of architects for a few hours. In the process, I not only assessed the comments but also evaluated the pictures. I wrote down 5-10 architects that have top reviews and a similar style with the project that I wished to work on. Then, I sent them email inquiries, introduced myself, the project I intended to work on, and my budget.
I waited for responses. Among 8 architects I contacted, 3 did not write back at all. I received a prompt response from 3 architects, and I immediately scheduled a face-to-face consultation at home. I eliminated the late responders because it is meaningless to cooperate with someone who cannot respond to emails on time.
When you conduct face-to-face consultations with them, it is important to know their style in both aesthetic and functional perspectives. Do you like the similar styles? Are they being genuine and participative? Can they give you a direct answer? The most important is to evaluate whether they react to your concerns.
Consultation is important to you, for example, I wanted to remove the wall on the right in the picture below and I wanted to know if it was possible structure-wise. Also, I wanted to get rid of the bathtub, but I was not sure if it was realistic. One of the architects had great idea on both outstanding issues, which made me believe that she is the right candidate. She was also able to provide me with a clear answer of how much it may cost, although it turned out her estimation is way lower than the actual expenses.
The cost of hiring an architect is usually 5% - 10% of the entire project. You can also pay by the times of consultation.
Find a Contractor
With a great blueprint, the next step is to look for a quarterback. However, it is not easy to find an adequate contractor. No matter how well a home is designed, without a good implementor, it can only exist in theory.
In remodeling process, I looked for a contractor through the architect’s and friends’ referral. Again, I contacted 5 contractors for a quote. And each was different from the other, unfortunately, I cannot decide on the right contactor by just one communication.
Luckily, another contractor referred by my architect is awesome. He is well-organized, well-rounded, and gave me a systematic answer to each question I asked. I usually have high expectations to the contractors my friends or architect refer, but it is not my only criteria. Responsibility and attitude weigh a lot for me.
Most contactors charge you by the cost of each project, what commonly contain in the quote are raw materials (dry wall, nails, concrete, etc.), and there are also contractors charge by man hour. You will have to choose one.
If it was by raw material, you must do a lot of homework in advance for the readers who do not know much about construction. In the end, it is up to you how to choose it.
Step 2: Start the Renovation by Making Estimates and Plans
Once you hire an architect and a contractor, it is time to work as a team to make renovation plans and estimates of the total cost. It is important to bear the following points in mind while doing so.
The cost estimate is going to be lower than the actual cost. It does not mean you are deceived. With many changes going on, almost everything costs more time and money than expected. To be on the safe side, I would anticipate the cost to be 15% - 20% more than the estimates to make enough budget.
Make sure to consider if you need an additional member of your team. When your home is being evaluated by an experienced contractor, ask if you still need a structural engineer or a civil engineer, and do you still need to remove asbestos or lead.
Remember to get a permit as soon as possible. In cities with lots of buildings like the Bay Area, you need to get a permit fast, and an architect or a contractor knows how to get it almost immediately.
Step 3: Start the Renovation by Taking a Loan
Do so if you haven’t started to apply for a loan, you will need the money for your project.
Step 4: Deep Research and Get the Renovation Started
Once you have formed a team, studied the plan, got proper permits, and had funds, it is showtime. Keep close and efficient contact with the contractor during the process. Because only you know what you truly want. Make a shopping list for materials and mark the pickup date to avoid delay of the construction.
Anyway, a successful renovation project is guaranteed once you consult with the professionals, choose a reliable construction team, and keep efficient communication during the process. Be understanding and supportive of each other.