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DESIGN LINE: 7 Steps To a Great Home Renovation

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


The New Year is an exciting time to dream of home renovations--follow these 7 steps to make sure your dreams become a reality.

A new year is upon us, and if the way our office phone typically rings in January is any indication, the fresh year brings many minds to home improvements.  I can’t tell you how many people I have talked to in December who said, “2013 is the year we’re going to renovate our (fill in the blank).” What I’d rather not do is hear the horror stories of construction from you after the fact, so here are some tips on how to enter into your renovations, what to know, what to expect and how to achieve the smoothest renovation possible.

1. Gather your team

If you’re hiring an architect and/or interior designer, get started interviewing well before you want the job complete.  Your builder will be critical to the process.  My advice is to hire a builder who will construction manage the project and budget rather than one who guarantees you a flat fee for the job.  You will spend a lot of time with this team, so make sure they are all experienced and personable!  I’ve seen clients cringe when a design professional whittled away billable hours from too much chatting, so trust your gut, check references, and get your team members on board simultaneously. 

2. Allow time for planning

Far too often, people rush into renovations without allowing the time for both the design process and their own thought process.  Your team will need time to design what you want, and you will need time to make sure it really meets your needs.  A good designer will always determine the “program” requirements, which is to say, find out everything possible about you that will ultimately inform the design.  Take time to review ideas and be honest.  This way, when the floor plans are set, you’ll be able to establish a realistic schedule.

3. Find alternate housing

Some renovations are small enough that you can live right through them.  But most are not.  My chief concern is always air quality.  Construction dust is full of microscopic particles, many of which can be carcinogenic in older homes.  No matter what, it’s not good for anyone to breathe construction dust, so if you’re not able to completely seal off the work zone, move out.

4. Let your experts lead the way

You’ve hired the experts.  Now let them help you!  There are hundreds, sometimes thousands of decisions to be made for a renovation, so let your designer bring things to you whenever possible.  Trust that the builder who you spent time to hire is asking the right subcontractors to bid.  Because you took time with the initial hires, now you can let them tell you what you need to make decisions on while you sit back and try to enjoy the chaos!

5. Keeping the schedule

Once construction starts, a good builder will establish weekly site meetings where all players involved will coordinate, including you.  You should be at every one of those.  This will help you stay up to speed on the progress, and it will keep everyone working for you on their feet.  Construction schedules are rarely ever met, as there are inevitably changes or delays along the way.  Do yourself a favor and build in a schedule contingency (ie: don’t plan a party the week after you’re supposed to be finished).

6. Beware of scope creep

I can’t remember where I heard this but I repeat it often:

Q: What are the four most expensive words in construction? A: While you’re at it. 

Be very thoughtful of the scope that you add to your project along the way.  Know what can and cannot wait.  Insulating the walls while they are opened up is scope creep that makes sense.  But if you’re on a budget, hiring the same painter to also do the second floor is something that can wait. 

7. Bring treats and be nice

If there is one thing that will melt the heart of most job site employees, it is a box of joe and something good to eat.  A little bit of generosity, a few “thanks for the great work,” and a platter of sandwiches or cookies every so often will get every single person on that site going the extra mile on your behalf.

Good luck with it and please, when you start in on your renovation this year, don’t rush it. I really don’t want to be saying “I told you so” in 2014.  Happy New Year and Happy Renovating!

Kelly Taylor has fifteen plus years of experience in the field of interior design.  She is the 2012 recipient of New England Home magazine’s “5 Under 40” award for excellence in design as well as Rhode Island Monthly magazine’s 2012 Gold Award for residential interior design.  She practices residential and commercial interior design in Providence, Rhode Island.  Please find her on twitter at @ktidnet, visit her website at www.ktid.net or find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/KellyTaylorInteriorDesign.


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