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  • Gita Jacobson

How to Ensure a Less Stressful Remodel


Remodels are exciting but stressful when not properly planned. Just like you wouldn’t tackle Thanksgiving dinner without a fool-proof recipe, your home remodel should entail a detailed plan. The following four phases are how I approach every remodeling project, plus some dos and don’ts, to help you achieve the best outcome possible.


Phase 1: Planning & Design

During this phase the goal is to think through and understand exactly how the new space will flow with the rest of the home and work for your family’s various needs.

I always start by getting to know my clients and their lifestyles. I want to know their daily routines, what they do when they first walk through the door, how and where they eat their meals, if TV is a big part of their family time and so on. I also spend a lot of time understanding what isn’t working in their current home. With this knowledge I can come up with personalized layouts of the new spaces that will be just right for them. I put in as much detail as possible into the layout (furniture, lighting, electrical outlets, etc.) so that the client can begin to imagine themselves living in the space.


This is THE most important phase of your project so don’t rush through it.


Once we agree on the final layout, I then bring in one of my go-to architects. The architect helps us determine if our dream layout is possible and what it would take to achieve our plan architecturally and structurally.


Many of my clients will hire me after they have already worked through layouts with an architect, and as a result become frustrated and unhappy when their needs don’t align with the architect’s layouts.


Architects are fundamental to any big remodeling project. They are focused on meeting hundreds of regulations and codes as well as ensuring your home is structurally sound. So don’t get too upset when they don’t spend a lot of time figuring out where to place your dog bed or how much space you’ll need for your new dining room table. That’s the work you can do with a designer!


Assuming our dream layout didn’t raise any red flag with the architect, he can then begin to create all of the necessary drawings for the city and contractor. This process typically takes about 1-2 months.


Here is a sample of a design layout for a first floor remodel.

Phase 2: Shopping

As the architect creates the final architectural and structural drawings, I take my clients shopping for all materials and finishes. Keep in mind that most contractors will not include finish material costs in their bids. Most of the time this includes any tile, countertop material, plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures, appliances, electronics, prefab vanities, flooring, cabinets (unless you go custom through the contractor), and cabinet door hardware. It’s important you shop for these items ahead of time so you know the exact cost of these materials before you see the contractor bid. That way you can combine the contractor bid + your material cost to get the exact price of your project. Don’t make the mistake of shopping after you hire your contractor!


Once all materials and finishes are selected I create design boards of each space and share that with the architect. The architect is then able to place these finishes and options into the final set of plans, making them much more robust and fail-safe when getting contractor bids.


Your material selections will change the price of a contractor bid. For example, if you decide to upgrade to a gas cooktop, the contractor will know to bid running a gas line to the new cooktop location. Same goes for a refrigerator that needs a water supply or an intricate mosaic backsplash install. If the contractor knows all of these items ahead of time you won’t run into extra charges during construction.


Make sure you shop and spec out all of your finishes BEFORE you get a contractor bid.


Sample design board featuring all of our shopping materials and finishes.

Phase 3: Contractor Selection

Once the architect hands off the final set of plans you can begin the bidding process. It’s a good rule of thumb to get at least 3 bids to compare pricing so you’re aware if you’re paying a fair amount or not. However, don’t let price be your guide when choosing the right contractor. Some contractors are more pricey than others due to their higher quality of work and should be factored in your decision making. You shouldn’t compare a high-end contractor who does large projects with a smaller one who does smaller projects. It’s not always an apples to apples comparison.


Check out our post on the exact questions to ask when interviewing a contractor.


Pin our handy checklist to your Pinterest board or print it out for easy access.



Phase 4: Construction Time!

If you’ve followed each phase, by the time you begin construction you should be in a very good place. All your materials and finishes are already selected and your contractor knows exactly what he is doing so now all that’s left is to place orders for the materials. I typically ask the contractor for a schedule of when they need each item ready. Some items will get delivered right to the house, such as appliances, and others will get delivered to the showroom and will need to be picked up by the contractor, such as tile. You don’t want to order everything ahead of time and store it at the job site as things may get damaged. Plus, if purchases sit for extended periods of time your return/exchange window may expire.


Create a purchase spreadsheet where you track each order. I track the vendor I order from, the date I placed the order, the order number, the expected ship/arrival date, actual arrival date, and location of delivered package.


And always make sure to open up each delivery and inspect right when you receive it. That will give you enough time to deal with damaged goods that need to get replaced. Trust me, there will always be some! If you’re prepared to deal with them you won’t hold up the work.


Make sure you set up a recurring meeting with the contractor and foreman every week. During this meeting you should be finding out what items will get done before your next meeting. At each follow up meeting you can then check in on those items to understand status.


To further help you manage the outstanding items, start a shareable google spreadsheet where you track all of the outstanding items and touch ups that need to get done. There will be lots of little items to track so having them written down electronically is best. Share this with the contractor/project manager/foreman/designer and anyone else who is managing your project.


Hopefully knowing what to expect and being prepared will make your remodel flow as smoothly as possible! Happy remodeling!

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