When Sarah Whitaker bought her West Hollywood condo five years ago, she loved it! Well, almost all of it. Her kitchen needed some serious T.L.C, so she took the time to research home renovation tips before she hired a contractor and started construction.
“I’m big on hosting; I’m an event planner, and we’ve had a horrible, tiny kitchen for years,” she said. “I knew it would have to be remodeled. It was just a matter of time.”
Planning her remodel was tough, since Whitaker is not a construction expert, so she learned a lot of lessons throughout the planning process.
“During the holidays we stalled on it, because I got overwhelmed and I’m not good at stuff like this,” she said. “But then in January we started the real push.”
If you’re like Whitaker and are ready to update a room or even an entire house but aren’t sure where to start, read on! We have expert renovation tips to help you prepare for the big construction project ahead.
Create a Home Renovation Plan
Before you start making calls, or tearing down walls, create a budget and research who and how you’re going to finish your remodel – even if it’s just one room.
“Good planning will save you a headache,” said Tal Ben Zur, owner of L.A. Remodeling Co., who is currently renovating a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home along with several other Los Angeles-area houses. “You need to know what colors and materials you want and have a clear budget.”
Don’t forget to contact city or county planners to make sure you have all the necessary permits before you start construction. You can have your contractor do this legwork for you, but be sure you’re clear on what needs to be done and who will be taking care of it.
Since this is Whitaker’s first major remodel in her condo, she turned to an online home-improvement advice website to research what she would need to complete her kitchen project, from cost, to materials and contractors.
“If you’re worried about money or advice, go (online),” she said.
One popular request these days that can require a plan is removing walls to create an open feel, between the kitchen and dining room, for example. It can change the look of an older home but is one update Ben Zur thinks makes a home more desirable when you sell.
Whitaker is doing just that by knocking down two unnecessary walls.
“We knew from day one that we wanted those walls taken off and it would look a lot bigger,” she said.
Order All Materials for a Remodel Ahead of Time
Before a contractor starts working on your home remodel, make sure you purchase the necessities and then store everything on site, said Ben Zur. Be aware that appliances and materials such as counter tops or tiles can take longer to deliver than promised, can show up damaged or be different than what you ordered.
If something is wrong after you’ve gutted a room, you could be living without that space for longer while you wait for replacements.
“Order all the appliances ahead of time to avoid delays,” he said. “Keep everything in the garage, so if we need to retake measurements to ensure a perfect fit, they’re all right there.”
He also advised all homeowners specify the brand and types of products they want contractors to use, like paint and carpet, in writing. This can help in the future as well when you’re trying to touch up a room and need to make sure your color and finish are a match.
“Don’t be lazy and leave the elements to the contractor, because they might overcharge you,” said Ben Zur. “You want to make sure you’re getting quality, so it’s best to go out and get the materials yourself.”
And before you buy anything online, where you may find the best price, make sure it’s up to your standards. And check on the return policy in case it isn’t all you had wanted when it arrives.
“Read the dimensions and reviews,” said Whitaker. “I read a lot of reviews on faucets, because I like to wash a lot of my dishes by hand. I thought I picked the perfect one, but then I looked at the reviews and saw all the flaws.”
Talk to Multiple Licensed Contractors
Not all contractors are created equal. In order to get the best price along with the best service, make sure to talk to at least three before you decide who to hire.
“You want to interview the contractors to find the best one,” said Ben Zur, who takes all of his new clients to a few of his past projects so they can see the quality of his work. “The lowest price isn’t always the best fit, because it depends on the project.”
And the quality of their work.
Whitaker consulted with a handful of companies before choosing a contractor she could trust for her kitchen remodel. Like most of us, cost was a factor guiding her search, but she also wanted a team that would be easy to work with.
“I liked (the sales rep.) right away. We connected and she had the same style,” Whitaker said. “She brought us samples, took measurements, and the timeline was very clear. I understood everything.”
Don’t forget to verify that all candidates you consider have an active state contractor’s license. Many states allow you to perform this search online and access information without ever leaving your home.
And make sure that all subcontractors, like plumbers, painters and electricians, are also licensed and the contractor is insured to cover all of them in case someone gets hurt on the job or your house is damaged.
“You want a contractor that carries general liability and workers compensation insurance,” Ben Zur said. “Ask for those credentials and call to make sure they’re valid.”
“You want to be covered, so don’t try to save money by just hiring the guy who knows how to do it,” he added. “An unlicensed contractor can just disappear if something goes wrong, while a licensed contractor is held accountable by the Board.”
Thanks to her extensive planning and research, Whitaker will have her kitchen – complete with quartz countertops, matching stainless steel appliances and floating shelves – within the month.
“The kitchen is small and we’re making great headway,” she said. “I’m not much of a cook, so I’ll definitely use the microwave first, and I will definitely have people over to see it!”