Ready to Remodel? Top 10 Steps to Prepare for a Remodel
In honor of National Home Improvement Month, Kansas City NARI, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), advises homeowners of the 10 most important steps to take before the remodeling project starts.
“The planning and researching phases of a project are the most critical steps in the remodeling process,” says Kansas City NARI President Mike Guthrie, Raynor Garage Door of KC, Shawnee, Kansas. “The more knowledgeable and prepared a homeowner is, the more they protect themselves.”
What can a homeowner do to prepare for a remodel? NARI provides a top 10 list of steps homeowners should take before breaking ground on their next remodel.
- Research your project. Taking time to research projects on the Internet and www.remodelingkc.com will provide a good sense of what is involved such as price, scope of work, return on investment and new product/material options. Also, research property values in your neighborhood to make sure your project is in line with other homes in the area.
- Plan project around the long-term. How long do you plan to stay in your home? How might your family structure change over time? Life can change quickly—these questions should be answered early on to ensure your project will fit your lifestyle long after it’s complete.
- Set your budget. Deciding on a realistic budget and arranging finances to support your project are essential. This number needs to include everything—the project, products, contingencies, etc. Don’t be afraid to share this with your remodeler; professionals are respectful of a client’s budget and will create a plan around it, not over it.
- Use advanced search for professionals. The online world makes it easy to gather information about strangers. Ask friends, family and neighbors for referrals and then spend time researching that person online. Professional remodelers take their reputation seriously and hold credentials beyond licensing, such as certifications, memberships in trade associations and additional training. Look for examples of press coverage or involvement in industry presentations or events. Check online reviews and social media to see how they interact with past clients and peers.
- Ask the right questions. Time and cost are important, but getting the right information requires the right questions. Ask your professional remodeler about his educational background, training, specialties or past issues with clients. Ask about how the remodeling process will work.
- Verify your remodeler. Don’t take their word for it. Check the information given to you such as references, license numbers, insurance information and certifications by calling providers to verify. Request a visit to an active client’s jobsite. Make it known that you are checking on him—a true professional considers that as a positive sign to working with a homeowner.
- Review contracts word-by-word. A remodeling contract protects you and your remodeler. Homeowners should review this carefully. Professional remodelers have done this before, and know what should go in a contract. Homeowners are not as familiar with remodeling and should ask about terms if they don’t understand. Pay attention to details about change orders, payment, additional fees, timeline and responsibilities. If it’s not in the contract, it doesn’t exist.
- Keep design in mind. Your design guides the entire project. Think about what you dislike about your current space and the intended use of the new space. Use Websites such as Pinterest.com and Houzz.com to gather design ideas. Make sure you can articulate specifically what you like about that design when talking to your designer. Professionals don’t recreate a photo—they incorporate accessibility, functionality, ease of modification, style and value into your design.
- Make your selections. Deciding on products and materials is a larger process than most imagine. With so many options to choose from, product selections are one of the primary reasons for project timelines to get extended. Base decisions on quality, function, price, style and availability. Include selections in the contract to lock down pricing and keep your budget intact.
- Create a communication plan. A common downfall in remodeling is lack of communication between homeowners and remodelers. Your remodeler should lay out a communication plan at the beginning of the project. If not, ask them to do so. This plan should clarify roles of everyone involved, communication methods, availability, and frequency of communication that is expected.
As an industry that struggles with a persistent negative perception of remodeling contractors, these tips serve both the industry and consumers in elevating real professionals from the pack.
The first step to hiring a professional is through NARI, whose members are vetted and approved by industry peers to ensure they live up to the professional standards that NARI sets. “NARI members are proud of their affiliation and commitment to professionalism, and it’s a reputation they work hard to protect,” Guthrie says.
8 Tips For a Successful Kitchen Remodel
Deciding to remodel your kitchen can be a stressful experience with the many decisions you have to make along with the dust, noise, strangers in and out of the house, and no functioning kitchen for awhile. But, the final outcome can be very rewarding along with adding a very high rate of return on your investment. According to the National Association of Realtors Cost vs. Value report, the percentage of cost recouped on a kitchen remodel is higher than remodeling any other room of the home. The following are 8 tips that can help make your kitchen remodel a smoother transition into the kitchen of your dreams!
- Do your homework first! Decide what styles you like. Keep a running file of magazine cut-outs, appliance picks, paint chips, countertop samples, cabinet styles, etc.
- Have a budget. How extensive you are going to get (are you replacing everything or just cabinets?), decide how much you are willing to spend and find out approximately how much it’s going to cost. Google "Kitchen Remodeling Calculator” and you’ll find many free on-line remodeling calculators that will walk you through your remodel and give you an idea of how much you should expect it to cost.
- Shop for a contractor – Get more than one bid. But remember, the lowest price "is not always the best idea," warns Charlie Copeland, CKBR, president of the local Kansas City NARI chapter, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. The quality of the materials one contractor chooses over the other could be different, he or she could have missed something, or one contractor’s idea of a high-end countertop may not be the same as the next. Make sure you get itemized pricing from each contractor so you know you’re comparing apples to apples.
- Check out the contractor – Finding a reputable contractor is more important than price! NARI is a great source for professional, reliable, experienced, licensed & insured companies. Ask the contractor for a current license and insurance. Get a contract! The contract should contain the starting date, completion date, and details of the project that have to be carried out. Ask the contractor for a list of past customers. Call them and ask: Did they receive the remodel project they wanted? Are they glad they hired this contractor? Did the crews show up on time and clean up at the end of the day? Go look at their past work. Check out if the contractor has any complaints filed against the company through the Better Business Bureau or the state attorney generals’ office. Finally – ask yourself if you feel comfortable with this contractor. Do they listen to you? Are they fun to talk with? Remember…you will be dealing with this person for weeks or months. The experience needs to be enjoyable! If they don’t seem enjoyable to communicate with you’re probably dealing with the wrong person.
- Geography of your Kitchen – Your kitchen layout should adhere to what’s called a work triangle. The work triangle is made up of an imaginary line drawn from the center of your sink to the center of your stove/cook-top, to the center of your refrigerator and back to the sink. This triangle should not be interrupted by traffic or cabinetry.
- Plan for Proper Lighting - Inadequate lighting is a common kitchen problem. Proper lighting makes a kitchen more inviting and safer. Under-cabinet lighting is the best source of task lighting and doesn’t break the budget. Update ceiling-mounted fixtures with pendant lamps or some winding track lighting.
- Sufficient storage - Homeowners often agree that they have insufficient storage space as well as the inability to organize accessories. Make sure you discuss storage options that fit your needs with whoever helps you with your cabinet design and make sure they can offer options. Some options to keep in mind are: base rollouts, lazy susan, trash rollout, under the sink organizers, spice tray drawer organizer, spice rollouts, cutlery tray drawer organizer, inside door mounted spice rack, and pull-out cookie sheet organizer.
- Countertop Choices – There are tons of options on the market today for countertops. Following are the top four most commonly used along with the pros and cons of each.
Granite: Pros – Holds up to heat, comes in a ton of colors, 2nd highest hardness rating after a diamond and will last a lifetime.
Cons – Expensive but becoming more affordable, requires some maintenance, some stones absorb stains if not sealed, will dull knives if cut on and can crack if stressed due to settling or improper installation.
Engineered Stone: Quartz products like Zodiaq or Silestone. Pros – Resistant to stain and acid. Cons – Expensive.
Solid Surface: Such as Avonite or Corian. Pros – Comes in many colors & patterns, seamless, stain resistant. Cons – Vulnerable to hot pans which can stain & damage the surface, can be somewhat expensive.
Laminates: Such as Formica or Wilsonart. Pros – Comes in many colors, easy to maintain, durable, least expensive. Cons – Scratches or chips are almost impossible to repair, seams show, very limited on edge choices without a pricey up charge.
Whatever you do, make your kitchen remodel a fun experience and you will enjoy that new kitchen!
Planning To Remodel Your Home? Ask Your Contractor the Right Questions!
Here are some of the questions NARI recommends you ask before signing a remodeling contract:
- How long have you been in business?
- Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job?
- Who will be working on the project? Are they employees or subcontractors?
- What is your approach to a project such as this?
- How many projects like mine have you completed in the past year?
- May I have a list of references from those projects?
- May I have a list of business referrals or suppliers?
- What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business?
Are you a member of a national trade association?
- Does your company carry workers compensation and liability insurance? A homeowner should always verify this information by calling the insurance agency. A copy of an insurance certificate does not let you know if the policy is still current, even if the certificate has an expiration date. The insurance policy may have been canceled by either party.
- Have you or your employees been certified in remodeling or had any special training or education, such as earning a Certified Remodeler (CR), Certified Kitchen and Bath Remodeler (CKBR) Certified Remodeler Specialist (CRS), Certified Lead Carpenter (CLC) or the Green Certified Professional (GCP) designation?
If licensing is required, a homeowner should also ask if the contractor is licensed and call to verify compliance with the law. Not all cities and states require licensing, though homeowners should check with local or state government agencies.
It's also important to realize that sometimes it’s not the answers that are significant, but what the contractor leaves out. Sometimes asking the right questions is not enough, and homeowners need to pay attention to their instincts and to what information is missing. Remodeling can be a fun experience. All you need to do is ask questions. So tap into your curiosity and ask away.
Tips on Selecting a Professional Remodeling Contractor
Start your home improvement project by selecting a professional, reliable remodeling contractor. By following these basic guidelines, you will not only make the selection process easier, but you will also be better prepared to make an informed decision that best suits your needs.
- Employ a contractor with an established business in your area. Local firms can be checked through past customers. Look for a local member of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). The NARI logo is the mark of a professional.
- Check the remodeling contractor with the government Consumers Affairs Office and the Better Business Bureau to ensure there is no adverse file on record.
- Ask to see a copy of the contractor's certificate of insurance. Most states require a contractor to carry worker's compensation, property damage and personal liability insurance.
- If you elect to solicit bids from several different contractors, be sure they are bidding on the same scope and quality of work. Discuss variables in bids and beware on any bid that is substantially lower than the others.
- Ask for references and follow up on them. Call the references and ask such specific questions as: "Did the contractor begin work on time?" "Did the contractor stay in touch throughout the project?" "Would you use this contractor again without hesitation?"