Monday, November 24, 2008
Being decisive will help streamline your remodel
By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer
It is not uncommon to think about remodeling your home for years before taking any action.
Once you have decided to actually do something, however, it is human nature to want it NOW. The fact of the matter is there are specific phases in this process. They are sequential and none should be skipped!
These phases are programming (determining what needs to be done), schematic design (big picture issues), design development (filling in the details), construction documents, bidding and construction observation.
With each step of the process there are some things you can do to streamline your project.
For example, our client Jo Smith finished her smaller remodeling project in a relatively short eight-month period. The first thing she did was to consult an architect. For Smith, having an architect made all the difference.
"Our architect started seeing other possibilities for the house that we couldn't even imagine," she says. "She created three possibilities for the house, and we took bits and pieces that we liked from each."
This initial design phase usually takes four to six weeks. This includes meeting with your architect to discuss goals, time for the architect to design several options, meeting again to discuss options and budget, and time for you to decide which plan you want to use.
Once you determine the final design, the construction drawings must be executed, both for municipal officials to issue a building permit and for contractors to provide bids on your project. At the same time, specifications are prepared. This involves specifying the materials and finishes for the project, such as windows, countertops, plumbing fixtures, flooring, etc.
Depending on the size of the project, completing the plans and specifications averages eight to 12 weeks. Obviously, decisive clients like the Smiths move through the design and specification phase quicker than other clients.
The plans must then be submitted to the city to obtain a building permit. The time required for this step depends on the municipality. Generally speaking, allow two to eight weeks for the review process and another one to two weeks for submitting any changes they may require.
With your building permit in hand, you are then ready to begin construction. Choosing a contractor is another important step. We recommend you interview several contractors, review previous projects and references, and to see when your project would fit into their schedule. Contractors need your completed plans and specifications before they can compile a bid for your project. This process can go on concurrently while your plans are being reviewed by the city. Allow at least two to three weeks for the contractor to prepare a bid and a week or two to analyze the bids and to make your selection.
The Smiths had first consulted with their architect in January. By March the plans were ready, they had selected a contractor and the project was scheduled to start in April. Construction went smoothly, and the Smiths had a new great room/kitchen, master suite, and main floor bathroom by the beginning of August.
They were able to get through their project so fast for a couple of reasons. First, their project was relatively small. It was essentially moving walls as opposed to building an addition. Additions always take more construction time because they involve adding everything from the footing to the roof with every fixture and electrical wire in between.
Second, they were able to get construction started right away. This was part luck and part experience.
"Our architect was able to steer us away from the contractors who don't normally do small jobs," Smith says. "We didn't waste time on contractors who wouldn't call us back." Smith added that she thinks the construction process went quicker than other projects of the same size because they weren't living in the house during construction.
We know that moving out during construction isn't always possible, but it usually speeds things up. Contractors can move through a project faster when they don't have to work around a family living in the construction zone.
Overall, the Smiths didn't waste time in the design phase or in the construction phase because they made up their minds beforehand. Being decisive and preparing for the next step will help you streamline your remodeling project.
If your timing is right, there is no reason you can't be entertaining next year's holiday guests in a home that belongs in House Beautiful. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.