Excerpts from the San Diego Union Tribune, Housing Scene by Lew Sichelman, September 30, 2001.

Building or remodeling a house is comparable to an emotional roller coaster. But the trick to bringing your ride to a successful conclusion is to try to even out the peaks and valleys. The journey typically starts out on a high note as you go through the preliminaries choosing design ideas. As you pick your options and figure out how much it will all cost, you plummet quickly from a feeling of excitement to shock or even anger. Some people even give up. But those who decide to keep going often find that the trip starts to level off as they sign the contract and obtain funding.

In anticipation of starting the work, the ride generally starts to pick up steam again and heads back uphill. By the time the framing begins, euphoria sets in. You can finally see your dream taking shape. Unfortunately, it’s at this point that the experience often takes another plunge. As the project goes through the various stages of construction, many people begin to wonder what in the world they were thinking when they first decided to remodel.

The process of remodeling a home can be very stressful. But the ride doesn’t have to be so challenging if you know what to expect. Here are some steps you can follow to have a successful experience.

Set realistic expectations

This is not a spectator sport. Be involved. But most of all, be prepared for the ups and downs that lie ahead. One of the most frequent complaints is that the process takes too much of the buyer’s time. And that is usually because he/she has no concept of what is involved in a remodeling project.

Don’t choose a contractor on a cost-per-square-foot basis

It’s like buying a car by the pound. Costs are driven by many factors, only one of which is square footage. Materials like lumber, concrete, drywall, and insulation have a direct bearing on size, but others–floor coverings, cabinets, and exterior finishes, to name a few– have only an indirect relationship. And items like driveways, utilities, and landscaping, have no correlation at all to square footage.

In addition, not all spaces are created equal. Kitchens and bathrooms are the most expensive, followed by rooms with fireplaces, high ceilings, and numerous windows. The least expensive are bedrooms, living rooms, and finished basements. The correct way to judge a builder is by reputation, professionalism, experience, and the warranty he provides. Ask friends and relatives for recommendations, and ask previous clients about their experiences.

Make your choices early

The number of decisions they must make often surprises people– roof colors, flooring, counter tops, cabinets, to name a few. The earlier you decide, the less hectic–and perhaps the less costly your remodeling experience will be. So shop early. Once you make a decision, stick to it. Changes are not only expensive, they extend the construction process. Once the project starts, resist the urge to make changes.

Don’t get upset when nothing is happening

Workers will not be on the job every day all day. Not only that, but sometimes nobody at all will be on the job. Realize that contractors often have other projects going on at the same time as yours, and they have lives, too.

Delays are inevitable

Remodeling a house is directly dependent on numerous things over which a contractor has little or no control, including people, weather, and the availability of materials. When construction is booming, subcontractors and supplies are often hard to come by.

The quality isn’t what you expected

Oftentimes, neither you nor the contractor ever bothered to define the term “quality”. Don’t confuse “luxury” or “custom” with “quality”. Quality can be defined as the “merging of good design with appropriate products and materials installed with superior workmanship”. Discuss your perception of these terms and your expectations relative to them with your contractor.

Extras cost extra

Too many clients expect something for nothing. Builders and contractors have to make a living, too. And just as any other business owners, builders have overhead. So don’t try to nickel and dime your contractor to death. If you want something extra, be prepared to pay for it.

You will spend more than you expected

The general rule of thumb is to allow for a 10-20 percent cost overrun. There are usually some modifications or additional work decided along the way that increases the total cost of the project. Make sure you have enough money.

You’re the buyer, not the boss

The contractor is in charge–not you, not your real estate agent, not your lawyer, and certainly not your brother-in-law who just went through this and “knows the ropes”. You can converse with subcontractors, but don’t try to tell them what to do. That’s your contractor’s job.

Problems are inevitable

Contractors don’t build watches, they build or remodel houses, which are made up of thousands of parts that don’t always fit together just right and are assembled by humans who don’t always follow the plans and are capable of making mistakes. But if you choose the right contractor in the first place, everything will work itself out in the end.

This information is provided as a courtesy to you by Nordic Construction & Design

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