6 Ways to Prepare for a Full-Room Renovation

Renovating your home should be rewarding, but it's also going to be stressful. Whether it’s running over budget and over schedule, developing conflicts with contractors, or ending up with results that you didn’t actually want, complications will always find a way to crop up.
These 6 tips will help you prepare for your renovation while avoiding stress, time delays, and budget overruns.

Home remodeling in New York comes with many challenges, which is why being prepared ahead of time is essential to a successful outcome. The truth is that lack of proper planning is one of the biggest reasons home remodeling in New York goes south. Thankfully, many people have been in your renovating shoes, and you can learn from their challenges. There are ways to best prepare for these inevitable road bumps — even the ones that might feel unpredictable. Before you begin your home remodeling project, take the time to prepare against common pitfalls to help your project run as smoothly as possible.

Know What You’re Getting Into

If you’re planning on home remodeling in New York, it’s essential for you consider just how much you want to change, how much control you want to have, and how involved you want to be in the process. Without thoroughly knowing what you’re getting into, your project could snowball and get out of hand long before it’s finished.

Buyer’s remorse can hit unprepared renovators hard. At the end of a long project, there were likely many twists and turns along the way that resulted in compromises or last-minute changes. One of the worst feelings — worse, even, than having to pay an additional $1,500 on your bathroom renovation cost — is ending up with a finished project that does not meet your initial expectations.

Even if you love your end result, if your budget and time expectations were not met, the project can feel sour. It’s not totally uncommon for someone to be so stressed by the process of a renovation that the process feels like it wasn’t worth it, even if that person ends up with a seemingly beautiful full bathroom remodel.

How to Prepare for a Home Renovation

The good news is that you have the power to mitigate as much stress as possible in your renovation project. If you prepare for the project ahead of time in a smart and comprehensive way, it doesn’t have to be a headache. In fact, you can turn what can be a stressful process into one that is smooth, creative, and ultimately rewarding. Follow these steps to make your renovation as streamlined as possible.

  1. Determine the scope of your project first.

There are four general methods to renovating your kitchen, bath, or any other part of your home: labor only, designer only, architect-in-charge, and all-inclusive. Read more about each type in this infographic.

Before beginning your project, decide which method you’ll use by gauging the scope and determining how involved you want to be. Small renovations such as painting your apartment or redoing a closet will likely require a labor-only contractor. On the other hand, if you are aiming for a gut renovation or multi-room remodel, using a labor-only contractor means you’ll be the one responsible for managing the project, visiting kitchen and bathroom showrooms, securing permits, paying fees, and much more.

If your project’s scope is somewhere between small and massive, then speak with various contractors of all types to gauge which is best. Find out what responsibilities they’d handle for the project to determine how much of the leftover or high-level work you’d have to deal with. You’ll save time, money, and stress by working with a contractor that doesn’t force you to be more involved than you planned.

  1. Think about living conditions during the project.

For more comprehensive home remodeling projects — especially when it comes to home remodeling in New York — your living situation could be one of your biggest sources of stress. The disturbance of living in a construction zone can be nerve-wracking even when everything goes according to plan. If you can, find a place to stay or delay your move-in date until the project is finished.

If you can’t avoid living in the midst of your project, then prepare yourself and your family by setting realistic expectations for what it will be like. Consider the time frame for your project and what changes you’ll need to make to accommodate the work. For example, if your kitchen renovation takes four to six weeks, can you stand ordering in or eating out every night for up to a month and a half? How much will that add to your kitchen renovation cost? Can you live with other people working in your home each day?

The need to share space is something many people fail to account for, and when you don’t expect it, it can become a source of immense stress. To avoid this stress, it’s important to find a contractor that you respect and get along with from the beginning.

  1. Consider functionality in your design.

It can be easy to get caught up in the desire for a more aesthetically pleasing space. However, it’s just as important to consider how you will move about the space as how it will work. If you’re looking at a full bathroom remodel or a full kitchen remodel, optimize its functionality in your new layout. This is especially important if you’re renovating a home you just purchased.

Take note of how much storage space you’ll need, whether you need space for children (now or in the future), and anything else that impacts that space. For example, couples who plan to have children might want to think twice about putting a walk-in shower in the only bathroom. A tub would be much more practical.

A good contractor will spend time discussing these details with you and should share his or her knowledge and understanding of how your remodeled home should play into your plans. This will help you avoid ending up with a finished product that you regret down the road.

  1. Make sure your contractor is licensed and insured.

If a contractor appears to have a legitimate business, then it’s easy to assume that contractor is licensed and insured. However, you should cross-reference the contractor’s name with New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs to make sure.

Also, ask contractors to provide you with a certificate of insurance that clearly states all of their coverage stipulations. The certificate will prove that they carry general liability (coverage for property damage or bodily injury) and worker’s compensation (coverage for the contractor’s employees if they get hurt in your home) insurance.

Even the most skilled contractors and workers can make mistakes and have accidents. Verifying a contractor’s license and insurance will help you avoid liability and make sure you have recourse in the event that your contractor makes a serious mistake.

  1. Read all the fine print in proposals and contracts.

In the excitement to get a renovation project started, many people will focus only on the bottom lines in proposals and contracts. It’s only natural, but it also opens the door to headache-inducing obstacles down the line.

There’s a reason that one proposal costs $52,000 and another is only $30,000. Chances are one company isn’t just pricier than the other, but also more inclusive in what it provides. The differences are in the details, and while some contractors make those details obvious, others may try to bury them within overly complex proposals. Sometimes, companies will even purposely lowball offers to secure the job. If you find your contractor doing these things, do yourself a favor and run in the opposite direction!

The best proposal, especially for a gut renovation, is the one that explicitly states upfront everything that’s included (down to the finishes and fixtures) and excluded in the proposal’s price. This is one of the most effective ways to avoid unexpected and unnecessary costs.

Make the effort ahead of time to include every possible detail in your contracts, and you’ll be setting your project up for success from the beginning.

  1. Talk to your co-op or condo board before you start.

If you live in a condo or apartment building, then your board will have specific requirements for you to follow during your renovation. Those requirements will likely mean that you must include additional work, such as plumbing and waterproofing in wet areas like your kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room.

Many such requirements can be found on the alteration agreement, but any knowledgeable contractor will have the experience to ask about them before submitting a proposal. If a contractor makes no mention of these requirements, then it likely hasn’t accounted for them and won’t be able to meet those stipulations successfully.

Making sure your contractor is well-versed in board requirements will help you stay within your initial agreed-upon budget and timeline. You can avoid surprise invoices and project extensions by addressing them before you get started.

Even small home renovations come with some level of stress, but you can keep yours to a minimum by taking time to set up your project properly. That includes gauging what the project entails, deciding what method you’ll need to complete it, and choosing the right contractor or all-inclusive firm to work with. By being smart in your preparation, you’ll set yourself up for a rewarding renovation project experience.

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