7 Things to Do Before Calling a Pro

After evaluating your budget, scope and needs, you'll be prepared to discuss realistic remodeling goals with a contractor.


Remodeling can be messy. Understand what's involved before jumping in head first.

Remodeling can be messy. Understand what's involved before jumping in head first.

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You squint your eyes as you stare at your old kitchen, pretending you're seeing white Shaker-style doors, stainless appliances and a walk-in pantry. Wouldn't it be nice to have a new faucet with a sprayer that works, too? And how about a gorgeous, tile backsplash?

Then you snap back to reality, sitting at the kitchen table with your head in your hands, stressing out over where to begin. Don't make a single phone call to a contractor until you consider these seven things.

What's the Plan?

Whether you're a house-hopper or staying put for the rest of your life, the following considerations will determine how and what you choose to update.

How might your circumstances change? Space for new babies or aging parents will require careful planning. Don't forget the furry kind of new additions, either. Pets can affect your choices for materials and product durability.

To Do: Write down your current life phase and where you plan to be in 5-10 years.

Know Thyself

How tolerant are you of chaos? It's fair to say that packing up a room, making a bunch of decisions and living through a remodel can be wildly stressful to the most even-keeled people. Talk to your family about how everyone deals with the unknown, then determine your comfort level with remodeling.

Life situations will guide the types of construction projects you can realistically undertake. If you're eight months pregnant, is it a good idea to remodel your kitchen? Probably not, but a few upgrades could be a good, temporary solution.

To Do: Make a list of the rooms you wish to remodel. Beside each project, determine who will be impacted, how the space should function and when the remodel needs to be completed.

Know Your Comps

Is your home the nicest on the block, or is it a fixer-upper on a great street? Knowing how your home value compares to other homes in your neighborhood is a smart way not to over-improve, allowing you to get the best results out of the smallest budget.

To Do: Call a local Realtor to collect information about the home values in your neighborhood.

Set the Scope

Consider what you'd like to accomplish for each room. A down-to-the-studs renovation or a basic decor refresher? You may need an interior designer, an architect or a contractor — but you won't know until you decide how in-depth your remodel will be.

If you've never managed and scheduled tradespeople, and this isn't a task you'd like to take on, look for a general contractor. Having a knowledgeable person at the helm will cut down on your remodeling time.

To Do: List the tasks you want accomplished and determine what type of professionals you'll need hire in order to carry out your vision.

Think Outside the Box

Break out your inspiration notebooks and Pinterest boards! Now's the time to put style to paper. It can be reflected in paint colors, flooring, trim details and hardware. Don't be afraid to take risks with inexpensive elements like paint.

But do exercise caution when choosing permanent updates like hardwood flooring, tile and cabinetry. Stick to non-trendy styles and colors and you'll be happier in the long run.

Storage and desk under staircase

Desk Under Stairs

Use your stairs to your advantage. Create storage and an office nook to utilize unused space. Photo courtesy of California Closets

Use your stairs to your advantage. Create storage and an office nook to utilize unused space. Photo courtesy of California Closets

Some contractors are more innovative than others. When you're searching for new ideas and a partner to explore your creativity, look for a contractor that listens carefully, is willing to educate you on multiple ways of accomplishing your goals, and is open to working with new materials and products.

When you review contractors' portfolios, have them describe the unique features they incorporated. At the end of a discussion ask them to sum up your style and project goals and listen to make sure you were heard.

If you feel like your contractor isn't getting your vibe, contact an architect or an interior designer to help. They often recommend contractors who have done good work for them in the past.

To Do: Don't depend on a contractor for design advice. Seek help from other pros, including interior designers and architects.

Talk Budget

Start your budget by listing necessary purchases. Include appliances, furniture, window shades, door hardware, flooring and plumbing fixtures. Add 10 per cent to the number for surprises.

The money you put into your updates should make sense with the value of your home. It's not practical to spend $80,000 on a bathroom update in a home that costs $180,000.

A good contractor will provide ways to phase out your remodeling goals to help manage your budget.

To Do: Decide what you have available to spend on a remodel, then add 10 per cent to that number to manage unexpected expenses.

The Hidden Costs of Remodeling
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Ditch those Great Expectations

Decide how you and your family will survive your remodel. Do you want to move out while the remodel is underway or will you try to live in your home, instead? If you decide to stay at home, you'll get to know your contractor and their crew very well because they'll be at your house first thing every morning.

It's unrealistic to gut and fully remodel a kitchen in two weeks. Research timelines to determine a realistic on that will get you from demo day to finish. Then plan what that means for your family in the interim. Will you need to store furniture, find temporary housing or set up a camp kitchen in another room?

To Do: Have a family meeting, talk to friends who've remodeled, set realistic expectations for what your life will be like before, during and after a remodel.

Gathering this information may seem like a pain, but it gives you distinct advantages: you're less likely to overspend, both in time and money. And you'll help save your family's sanity.

Next Up

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Don't let an argument delay your remodel. Get tips for managing problems on the jobsite, before they snowball out of control.

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