This is the continuation of last week’s conversation about “Where to Start a Renovation” A contractor’s job is to materialize the architect’s design. Larger projects may employ one general contractor and several subcontractors for specialized tasks. When you hire a contractor at this stage, his/her job will include removing and installing walls, light fixtures, staircases, flooring, countertops, and more. Their expertise will secure a successful design implementation and a quality final result.
If you start your renovation with a contractor, he will rely on you to conduct the process and navigate him through your vision and goals. That means the typical responsibilities of an architect/ designer will be yours to bear. It may undoubtedly seem tempting, like a convenient way to save some money. But then again, are you sure you know what you’re up to? Every obstacle, challenge, and delay will come with a price tag. Moreover, expect the unexpected. In some situations, neither you nor your contractor will be able to come up with a solution.
Using a contractor in place of an architect or a building designer can make sense only up to a certain point. It’s acceptable when the remodeling is a small, prevalently cosmetic task that costs less than 5% of your home’s value.
Otherwise, all projects that involve significant structural changes should start with an architect’s/ or a building designer and eventually an engineer’s expert input, that will continue throughout every stage. You probably don’t want to risk any legal, financial, and safety consequences. Thus, when researching the initial cost of your remodelling, calculate the hazards too.
Also, don’t forget that many architects have their own contractors, and that connection can greatly affect the final price.
Word of Caution Before You Hire Anyone to Start a Renovation Project
Before you hire anyone, make sure to perform thorough research. Ask around for recommendations from friends and family. Inquire about all kinds of experiences they have had during the contract. That way, you will get some valuable insights that will help you recognize possible red flags and handle the issues more conveniently.
In general, it’s recommendable to look for an established company with a trackable record and a good reputation. Find out everything about their credentials, particularly qualifications and licensing. Check out if the license is valid and not expired, or worse—suspended in the meantime.
Make a list of prospective candidates and meticulously check each one. Look through their websites, google their names and details, find ratings, read reviews, and search for any traces of officially filed complaints. It’s a good idea to google names+keywords like “cheat,” “scam,” “fraud,” or “rip-off.”
Now, we don’t advocate paranoia, and for sure it’s impossible to predict everything. However, some warning signs should be a reason to check the person/company more thoroughly.
Missing pieces of information, like full contact details (including a physical address) on the website, are not such a good sign. If a company asks for a substantial advance payment, or presses you into making haste decisions, run away. Also, beware of contractors who accept only cash, suggest a loan from someone he guarantees for, or offer any kind of “special demonstration price, only today.”
The biggest red flag is if you are asked to sign something even before you hire. That is particularly common with fraudulent contractors. They will answer your inquiry with an estimation or “authorization” that will turn to be as binding as an actual contract.
For many reasons, these situations rarely happen with architects. You are free to choose how you want to start a renovation, but be careful. Avoid any offers that include shortcuts, sideways, and alternatives methods. There is a possibility that you’ll be lucky and hit the jackpot; however, with such a lottery, there’s a great chance to lose.
Right Steps and Wise Choices Will Save You the Most
Red flags may leave you with a feeling that finding an honest contractor is hard. However, there are many ethical professionals in the business, and if you take the right steps from the start, you will not face many issues.
The cheap, fraudulent work is usually conducted by individuals who have never really learned their trade or took a deep interest in it. They had joined the industry with the idea of making fast money out of it. The contractor of this class will offer you plenty of promises, “secrets,” and unique opportunities to renovate for cheap. Trust the established professionals, hire an architect from the start, and save more than just money in the long run.
“Remember that free advice, no matter from whom it is received, will bear the closest of examination before it is acted upon as safe. And, generally speaking, this sort of advice is worth exactly what it costs.” -Napoleon Hill
If you only knew how many times I have heard from my clients that they asked a builder to give them a quotation or even a ballpark price for a remodeling job. It would have been an extension by adding a floor above the existing house or spreading existing footage to the yard. Sometimes it’s converting their unfinished basement to a suite, or anything like that. What do you think, how many times the received estimation was even remotely right?
When it comes to the game of guestimation, everyone has something to say, and everybody wants to give you free advice. In many cases, just like Napoleon Hill said, free advice is worth just as much you paid for it. It’s a risky game with your hard-earned money as the investment. Asking a contractor to give you a guesstimate quote without a clue about your plan, is not a good idea. To start a renovation without any professional input is even worse.
Don’t Trust Anything That Can Think, Until You See From Where Its Knowledge Comes
The best way to get a precise estimation is to hire a professional designer or architect familiar with local construction costs and building codes. What you’ll get is a professional opinion based on real knowledge, which includes checking the zoning and possibilities and potentials of your property. Remember, the contractors build whatever you tell them to build, and they are trained to produce well—but not to design. It will cost you more money and possibly a lifetime of regret, too, if you don’t take the wise direction.
Every property, as well as owners’ needs and the situation, is unique. If your idea is to ask questions and get free advice from a couple of contractors, and then hire one of them, be sure that he will eventually hire a professional to help him out. That way means you are heading to a long process, probably more expensive in the final outcome.
If you hire a professional, make sure it’s a building designer, a home designer, or an architect. Sometimes an experienced interior designer can do the job as well. Start by asking them to prepare a report. It should provide you with the possibilities and scenarios that your property has to offer, together with your options based on the budget available. That kind of service is called Low-Cost Consultation, and its price depends on the project, ranging between $500- $1500.
Why Start a Renovation With an Architect/ Designer?
To make a simple comparison: the architects’ duty is to create designs that contractors will implement. Architect’s scope of work is a combination of artistry and engineering. Many of them will offer a whole range of convenient services, like building permit drawings for custom homes or renovation, city follow-ups for permit application, rezoning and subdivisions, and more. After that, contractors come to the scene to carry out the hands-on work defined by the architect’s plan.
You know what you want and need. An architect/ Designer will take those ideas to turn them into a design that meets the requirements. Moreover, he will know how to improve them. In the whole process, he will find solutions that can cost more or less, depending on what you prefer. The scope of the project can be small or massive, and the prices can change accordingly. This is exactly the place where the former game of guestimation becomes obsolete.
An architect or building designer must ensure to deliver a project that will not only satisfy your needs but comply with all building codes as well. He/she should also secure the appropriate permits for the project. The job doesn’t end there, as they will work along with contractors to ensure that the design solutions will be implemented according to plan. That means, by hiring an architect/ designer, you will secure the consistency of the whole remodeling process, having the same responsible person supervising the delivery from start to finish.
In short, an architect/ designer will upgrade the work of your contractors with industry credibility and technical expertise.
In the next blog we discuss more detail about: When Should a Contractor Join to Start a Renovation Task?
Meanwhile you can learn more about your project planning in the following links:
Many people think of renovating their homes as an opportunity to solve an immediate issue. Often it means adapting the space over the garage to get an extra room or adding a foyer to get a better entrance. Some people believe that a simple expansion of 500 sq. ft. to gain more space can make life easier. The truth is, to truly help the clients, we first have to listen carefully and find out what bothers them. Instead of focusing on the end solution the client has come up with, and try to resolve that, we rather go deep to the issues that they really want to solve. If our clients decide to remodel during Covid-19, we have a double responsibility to help them achieve the best results while avoiding any issues or inconveniences.
Can you imagine a patient who suffers from ear pain and has the doctor advise him to change the shoes? It makes more sense than it seems because a wrong shoe can affect your nerves which can, in return, affect your ear. Instead of giving the patient a pain killer to solve the immediate issue, the doctor actually investigates the issue and solves it from the source.
That’s exactly what we do with our clients. We look at the whole picture and help them unveil the best living and working space that matches their unique lifestyle. After all, we are all unique in our ways of living, so our lifestyle represents our unique personality and character. Our home should reflect our uniqueness and we must not be shy to express it.
Making the house more sustainable and energy-efficient
A need to open a home office within your house
A wish to build a mancave
Rejuvenating your kitchen
Buying a new house and wanting to customize it to your needs
We design houses for people who are ready to reward themselves, and that determines the three key categories of clients:
1. Couples with very young children (one partner is always in finance).
2. Couples with young teens that have outgrown their home.
3. Couples/singles whose kids are out of the house. They either deferred updating/expanding their house until they were through financing their kid’s education, or they are “downsizing.”
I help people to redesign their lifestyle by understanding their life and designing an ideal house for them according to their taste.
Remodel During Covid-19: Yes or No?
The world is in slow motion, and nothing seems certain. It’s undoubtedly hard to plan too far ahead. However, it’s still possible to get something good out of the situation, and that includes all the extra time on our hands. The ongoing circumstances that nobody wanted still bear an excellent opportunity to do something we seemingly never have enough time to do properly. For instance, few would consider going for a home remodel during Covid-19. Then again, perhaps they should rethink it.
Naturally, the first question to arise is if dealing with such an enterprise is a good idea under current circumstances. The decision is not nearly insensible, as it might sound at first. Still, as with anything, there are both pros and cons.
Slow Times: A Chance for Proper Remodeling Plans
This stay-at-home period offers you a chance to devote to the entire project with higher attention to detail.
You probably have more than enough time now to plan or review the existing blueprint for every room carefully. Revisit the planned layout and double-check for loopholes, recalculate the cost breakdown of different aspects involved. Research new interior trends and discover some fresh ideas. Go slowly—if your existing plans and wishes have been based on any impulsive decisions, this is the moment to bust them.
The economy is, unfortunately, unstable at the moment. However, at the same time, the situation presents a chance to use the abundant offer of various sales. You may significantly lower your project’s cost or benefit from a more upscale purchase within the same projected budget. Suppose you had your eye on some fancy piece of furniture or a professional kitchen appliance. In that case, this might be your chance to finally get it.
Remodelling can be expensive, and discounts are welcome wherever possible. In other words, if there’s no significant obstacle insight, why turn a blind eye towards an attractive opportunity?
It’s also easier to compare offers and prices when showrooms offer plenty of virtual tours. You can even use Zoom and similar platforms to hold a meeting with a designer or a contractor.
Covid-19 Interrupting Ongoing Renovation
In case your remodelling project had started before the pandemic, you have probably already acquired most of the resources and have the plans developed. Apart from the risk of running short of a specific material, this situation bears certain advantages. Unless another lockdown interrupts all plans again, you have no reason to doubt or look back. Even in case of a shortage, your order will be considered a priority in the chain of supply, compared to the ones just made.
You might be surprised to learn that the home improvement industry is continuing to thrive in many parts of the world, despite the pandemic. Many countries list remodelling companies as essential services. That means they can continue to work even throughout some stages of the lockdown. Most companies are also adapting and continually innovating their business model to fit the circumstances and requirements.
Finding the right contractor in this period could prove more comfortable than you think. It’s logical to presume there were some cancellations. In the best case, you’ll end up with a remodelling company able to focus exclusively on your home. Also, few contractors will want to delay more than necessary, most likely they’ll work twice as hard to complete the work fast.
Hire an Architect
Even if your initial plan did not involve an architect, this might be a perfect time to hire one. Surely, renovation projects can be done without an architect in order to save money. However, in many cases, the final result turns out to be more costly. Without professional guidance and surveillance, it’s easy to go vastly over-budget and still end up with plenty of annoying failures. What seems trivial at the start, may later reveal just how much it affects daily life.
An architect does a lot more than coming up with a floor plan. Your architect is also your advocate within the industry. He can take many issues off your back to handle them with more convenience. Think reviewing payments with the contractor, control if the specified materials are actually being used, and supervise to ensure you get what you agreed on.
Most homeowners are not experienced enough to spot subtle differences between the cheap stuff and the natural materials they pay for. A contractor can be honest, but mistakes happen. That is one of the crucial points where paying an architect can actually save you money in the long run.
There’s a difference between a young professional freshly out of school and a licensed, experienced architect familiar with the industry pros and cons. In many cases, paperwork is crucial for a project’s success, and you need an architect well-versed in dealing with specific codes, regulations, and approvals from the city. Choosing to remodel during Covid-19 gives you a chance to get even a high-end architect, usually over busy and unavailable.
Improve Air Circulation
The pandemic outburst made us all revisit our choices, including the relation to hygiene, health, and germs in our environment. While professionals have already been coming up with improved ways to ventilate public spaces, remodelling during Covid-19 presents an opportunity to do the same in your home.
It goes without saying that the project of such a scale requires you to move out for a while. Depending on your location and circumstances, a pandemic may or may not be the best time for that. Hopefully, you can have a chance to change the environment a little and use providers like Airbnb for a home away from home. Apart from the fact that every change is welcome once in a while, you will also lower the health risks by staying away from the site. If you have hired an architect, he can take over the entire supervising job, and keep you involved remotely.
Cons of Remodel During Covid-19
Depending on your location and current circumstances, you may have to pay additional costs for certain safety measures and building protection. Alternatively, you can search for a remodelling company that has it all included in the price.
Your contractor will probably try to finish the task as soon as possible. However, it’s still possible to experience delays and interruptions due to the “higher force,” so arm yourself with an additional load of patience. It’s a wise move to also have at least 20% over the initial budget prepared for any unexpected issues.
Although the home improvement industry is seemingly working fine, managing to keep all the popular stock items, there can always be exceptions. The items you have ordered may suddenly run short or go out of stock, so try always to have a Plan B at hand. It is also possible that products may suddenly become pricier, as higher demand can lead to a higher cost.
Don’t fall into the trap of impulsive decisions and spending too much at this stage. Considering the state of the economy, it’s safe to say that the future is somewhat unpredictable. Therefore it might not be a good idea to use your credit card or take a loan to finance your project.
So, Should You Remodel During Covid-19?
Pandemic has undoubtedly slowed down the life we know, but it hasn’t destroyed it. Worldwide, the governments and the people are fighting to keep it on and work towards containing and eventually eliminating the source of problems.
The times are hard; however, there is still space for some profitable remodelling decisions as well. If you are able to deal with the cons, the benefits can be significant. With all precautions taken, if you have your budget sorted out, by all means, go ahead.