Remodeling Your Home Soon? Prepare For the Worst- To End Up With the Best

Remodeling Your Home Soon?

Prepare For the Worst- To End Up With the Best

By Shad D. Johnsen, CKD

You just finished the last few decorations in the dining room when there’s the first knock at the front door.  You have dreamed of this moment since last Thanksgiving when you and your family crammed into the small breakfast nook and front room provided by your generous home plans.  Not only was everyone tripping over the food table, but also the lack of lighting made it difficult to see expressions on the faces of family members as uncle Bob was told his routine jokes.  You got up to check on the turkey, only to find out that you placed the oven on 450 degrees instead of 325.  The smoky evidence was very clear to everyone else.  You quickly turned on the hood to recirculate the air, and opened a window in the living room.  Finally, because of the terrible smell, and smoke filled room, everyone ended up going out for the Thanksgiving meal.

This year was different… you have spent a lot of blood sweat and tears getting the new addition with the enlarged kitchen, added dining room, and more private and enlarged living room.  You worked with your designer to ensure that you covered all the details, including the built-in buffet in the dining room with plenty of walkway space around the table.  As you get to the front door, you notice some of the before photographs from old rooms before demolition began.  You cringe to think of the lack of efficiency that the space offered.  You open the door to your two brothers and sister with their spouses and children.  Quickly you take their coats and get them into the house, excited to begin your tour of the recent renovation.

Suddenly the room goes dark, and all you can see are some red lights saying 7:15.  You wonder why it smells like burnt wood.  You sit up in bed to realize that the finished project was all a dream.  You are now three weeks away from Thanksgiving, and your home is in shambles.  You cough at the evidence of dust in the air.  Obviously the contractors made themselves at home almost an hour earlier than they usually do.  That’s good, because they have some catch up to do after yesterdays mistaken removal of the carpet in the living room.  You spent four hours on your hands and knees removing staples out of the floor, trying to decide what you want to do for the new flooring, whether you wanted new flooring or not.  You have come to expect these difficulties since you started the addition in June.  It was supposed to be completely wrapped up by September 15th, but delays in concrete material, problems with the roofline, and the recovery of the contractor from his nail gun accident all delayed the projected completion.


What are some common sense ways to prepare for a remodel, and be realistic with the process and outcome?  Here are a few suggestions:

Delivery Times:  Through all the enthusiasm, anticipation, and excitement of kitchen remodel planning, sometimes we forget to plan the scheduling of the project around the arrival of the goods.  I strongly encourage my clients to wait on demolition until all the products for the project have arrived and been checked for damage.

Get Out of The House:  Plan some time away from the project.  You might even consider a vacation or two during this time.  Some of my most satisfied clients are the ones who spend the least amount of time around the project.  Plan for the cost of meals out of the home, time visiting family, etc.

Contingencies:  Plan for unforeseen problems to arise.  After the walls are torn up, and the work to move the sink location has begun, you may find the pipes are in need of some replacement work.  Or, you may find that special new technology gadget halfway through the project that you would like incorporated into the new kitchen.  Or, you just might not like one of your design choices, and want to make a minor modification.  On any account, you should plan about 4-5% of the project as a reserve for these types of changes.

Noise & Dust:  Plastic mats, plastic zipper walls, vacuuming, vacuuming, and more vacuuming will help some.  Even with all of this, you should still cover your furniture in the adjacent rooms, and find a little corner of the house as far from the project as possible to create some solitude.

Work Delays and Waiting Time:  So many work delays can occur during this type of project.  You may find that the flooring contractor was delayed by three days at another project.  Or you will find frustration from the wait times for the mud and texture to dry properly.  Some of these delays, you simply do not have control over.  May I refer you to the “Get Out of The House” suggestion.

Errors and Omissions:  Everyone makes mistakes, especially on larger projects where there is a large amount of detail to record and plan.  In the middle of the project you may have to resort to the ancient method of pencil and paper to render what you want to see happen.  Then, simply add initials with a date, and you have a modification to the project.  Also, it is a good idea for both of you to have a copy of this change.

How Much Did You Say?:  Some of you may already be painfully aware of this unfortunate scenario;  The contractor hands you the invoice with change orders attached, and suddenly your project has doubled in cost.  How?  “Well, you know the cost of materials and labor has increased so much lately, and I didn’t realize how long it would take to move that wall, so it was a surprise to me too.”  One of the best ways to avoid this is to obtain an accurate estimate up front.  Then, if you run into anything that would change the cost by more than 5%, you stop the project, assess the cost in writing, approve that change, and move forward.


You walk downstairs avoiding loose nails, pop cans, and trash and find the new wood flooring almost done.  The last minute change to insert a medallion in the entryway is a welcome sight.  Even more of a welcome sight is the airline tickets on the desk to send your family to Disneyland this weekend.

I have found that the happiest day of the project ends up being the day before they write the first deposit check.  From there until the completion of the project, there is much to be said about the inconvenience of a remodel.  Be realistic and prepare, and the project will be less of a nightmare, and more of a…shall we say “bear it with a grin” opportunity.

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