Five tips to help avoid the biggest home renovation blunders


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April 17, 2012
by Rick McDermott, AIA

Do you love your neighborhood, but your house is old and out-of-date? Do lifestyle changes have you struggling in your current space? Has disaster put your home in a state of disrepair? These are just a few examples of why you might choose to renovate. Here’s five tips to get you started on the right track.

1. Write out a wish list. Think big (i.e. bigger space to entertain, more outdoor living area, room for hobbies, etc.). And think small (i.e. a place to store the ironing board, a place to store sports gear out of sight, etc.). List everything you want. There will be time to pare down later. Make sure everyone living in the house has a voice. Then come together and prepare a master list.

2. Get help from a registered architect. Architects do more than design --- they are trained to look at the big picture, interpret your wish list, ask questions, help prioritize your wants and needs, solve problems and provide creative solutions. By listening to what their clients want and adding a fresh perspective, architects present alternatives that might never have been imagined.

3. Align your expectations with your budget and your timetable. Most renovations take more time and money than people expect. Be prepared to make choices - cutting square footage, changing materials, phasing in the construction. Realize that the timeline for renovation is dependent on many things outside of the architects’/contractors’ control - things like Architectural Review Board approvals, permits and inspections, weather, or the availability of the materials. Make sure these issues are discussed up front with your renovation team.

4. Use a licensed contractor and get referrals. The licensing process acts as a third-party endorsement and helps ensure that the contractor is competent and up-to-date on city codes. Their license implies that they use construction best-practices including hiring and working with qualified sub-contractors. Ask your architect for suggestions, or check out N.A.R.I. or the Home Builders Association.

5. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Make sure you have a good understanding of the drawings (2D & 3D) and the contracts. If you don’t, ask questions. Make sure you are comfortable with the communication style of your team - your architect and their staff, the contractor and the superintendent. The use of graphic images in the early stages of the design process helps make sure everyone is on the same page. You may also be working with an interiors team, audio/visual professionals, landscape designers. Their work often overlaps and it may be up to you to make sure everyone knows the plan. Today’s technology offers many ways to stay in touch that help facilitate good communications - an essential ingredient for a successful project and happy homeowners.

For more information, check out our previous post, here, which includes a link to a table of average remodeling costs calculated by project and area of the country.

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