October 16, 2012

Preparing for a Remodel: What Your Contractor Should Be Asking You

Now that you have asked your potential contractor a series of questions, it’s time to make sure they are asking you the right questions. Developing a good working relationship with your contractor is key to completing a successful remodel. During the planning process, your contractor should ask a series of questions in order to ascertain your needs and ensure they can achieve your goals. Let’s review some of those potential questions so that you are better prepared when you start your next remodeling project.
1)  What are the specific issues that your remodeling project should address?
Are there things about your home that you might want or need to significantly alter? In most cases the answer is yes. Be specific in your conversations with your contractor. Make sure they address this early in the planning process.
2)  What are the constraints that might affect your project?
These are very important issues to define during planning and might include things such as zoning restrictions, easements, setbacks, or FEMA’s 50% rule. All of these items might affect the feasibility or scope of your project.
3)  If your thinking about an addition, how large of an addition?
Determining how much space you need is critical to defining the parameters of your project. Is an addition truly necessary or could the existing footprint be reworked in some way? We’ve had clients come to us thinking they needed a two-story addition, but after design and planning, we determined that their needs could be met by working within the existing footprint of the home.
4)  What is the style or character of your home?
As you think about your remodeling plans, decide if you want to maintain the style of your home or change it. Can the look you want be achieved through subtle alterations or will it require more extensive changes?
5)  What are the room-by-room requirements of your project?
It is important to work room-by-room to document your requirements so the complete scope of work can be developed. Consider the small things as well: changing out door hardware, painting trim, new closet shelving, etc.
6)  Do you want to update your existing mechanical systems?
The mechanical systems in your home are the major consumers of electricity and have significant costs over their lifecycle. Changes such as switching from an electric tank water heater to a gas-fired tankless heater could result in significant savings over time. Also, new HVAC systems are much more efficient and could make your home more comfortable. Make sure these issues are addressed as you plan your project.
7)  Finally, how much can you realistically budget for the project?
This last item might be the most important. Make sure that your contractor inquires about your budget and provides you with comprehensive pricing. Know in advance what you can actually afford and work towards that number. In many instances, a potential contractor might quote a very low number up front to land the work, then slowly hit you with change orders along the way. Questions about budgets are a very important part of the planning process.
As you can see, these are important issues to consider when planning your project. Each affects the scope, budget, and schedule and should be well-planned before construction begins. Make sure that your contractor asks you these and other questions so that clear communication can develop. This can make the difference between an enjoyable remodeling experience and a very unpleasant one.