Resale. Even if you’re planning to stay in the home, think of the next owner. Making sure your upgrades add resale value will give you all the options. Think kitchen upgrades, opening up spaces, adding a deck, installing hardwood floors, and upgrading windows.
Planning. Spend plenty of time planning what you want. Go to IKEA to look at storage options and spaces and go online to Houzz to look at ideas. Get your planner or contractor to show you exactly what the upgrades will look like in 3D. You don’t want to get to the end of the work and say, “Ah, I wish I had… “
Contractor. Pick carefully and get three bids. Talk to their clients and tour their work. Ask for their insurance certificate.
Contract. Get a detailed contract and go through it with a fine-tooth comb. A general idea of the work and a handshake won’t do it unless you don’t care what you end up with.
Plan for a few surprises. Surprises are inevitable, but they should be minimal if you did your planning. Set some extra money aside for them – 10% of your remodel budget. If you don’t need to use it, great.
Don’t buy your own materials. If you think you’re going to save money by specifying and buying your own materials, you may be sorry. Contractors don’t like the practice, and they are better at choosing and negotiating than homeowners. Don’t worry; they will allow you to make all the choices but let them handle the transactions and the warranty.
Pack up as much of your stuff as you can in the areas of the house that will get the work. Contractors hate having to negotiate piles of clothes and toys, and the work makes an awful mess.
Stay out of the way. I know it’s fun to watch, and you also want to keep tabs on the work, but contractors will be much happier if you trust them to get the work done without you looking over their shoulder, or worse, trying to help.
Minimize mid-stream changes. In the middle of renovations, we sometimes realize that something needs to be changed on the plan. If you feel strongly about it, it is better to upset the contractor now rather than live with it later.
Have a pro review the work. Even if the remodels are small, have an independent contractor or home inspector review what was done before you write the final check. The few hundred dollars you spend on a consult will ensure your happiness and reduce surprises later.