Unless you are into flipping houses, you will most likely only experience a major home remodel once or twice in your life. Like the path to many good things in life, you may encounter some hardships and difficulties during the home remodeling process. While some projects are smooth sailing, many homeowners come across bumps along the way. It is not always an easy experience, so we have compiled a few insights for how to survive a home remodel.
Fail to plan, plan to fail
Many of the horror stories you hear about home remodeling — difficulty obtaining permits, runaway budgets, change orders galore, halted construction progress — could have been prevented by good planning. It seems almost too obvious to mention, but the planning stage of the remodel is vital to the life of the project. It is what keeps you on budget and on track to make your dreams a reality. While there may be some surprises out of your control, planning ahead, knowing what to expect in the process, and thinking through the design with a professional will eliminate as many of those unexpected elements as possible.
A great project is worth the discomfort and stress that come along the way. In this case, the end does justify the means.
Have a contingency fund
The more thorough and detailed your plans, the more accurate the estimated cost of your project will be. Though it may seem a bit paradoxical, the more you spend up front on creating the best set of construction documents possible, the more likely you are to be able to stay in control of the budget throughout your project and save money in the long run. That being said, remodeling is not an exact science, and it is not hard to imagine that there will be some unknown issues revealed as the project unfolds. Therefore, a contingency fund is essential.
We advise our clients to have a contingency fund of 5 to 10 percent of the total project budget. Any contractor will confirm that you never really know what you are dealing with until you cut into the walls. This is when you may find rusted pipes that need to be replaced, horrific electrical systems, insulation issues or mold. A contingency for these types of things makes such discoveries a bit more bearable.
Expect the unexpected
You know about the “best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men,” as Robert Burns put it. Remodeling requires some flexibility of mind and spirit. If you expect the unexpected, then you can better handle the emotional toll a remodeling surprise can take. An experienced architect knows that challenges and parameters often result in better design than a boring blank slate.
An errant drain pipe that appears in the wall scheduled to be removed will call for some brainstorming by the project team. Should it be removed? How much will that cost? How much will rerouting it affect the surrounding area and floor? What if it stays? Could we add some interesting columns that could disguise the drain pipe but also give definition to the area’s function? No need to panic or despair.
We truly might be able to make lemonade and end up with a happy surprise instead of a devastating disaster. If you go in with the attitude that you may not stick to the exact plan painted in your mind, then you will be able to emotionally handle any surprise a bit better.
Be decisive, but willing to compromise
In home remodeling, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made. Big decisions and what seems like a million small ones can be overwhelming. A good design team can help you move through the list in an orderly manner to prevent you from being overwhelmed. It is important to acknowledge that in design there is rarely one right decision. While there are clearly wrong decisions (just look around!), there are usually several options that could be described as “right.” Do not agonize over finding perfection, but make intelligent choices and move on.
As an added challenge, many couples don’t always agree when it comes to personal style and vision for a home. It is important to compromise and work together to make the decisions. It is also important to communicate, compromise and be decisive as a team so the project can move forward.
Move out or stay and endure?
If you are planning a major home remodel, then you will need to decide whether you are going to find a temporary place to live or are going to stay and live in the construction zone. It is a hard decision and both have pros and cons. The costs of moving may outweigh the emotional cost of staying behind. Either choice you make will require staying organized and keeping a positive attitude. Whether you stay or go, your family will be displaced and have to endure a bit of chaos.
Being organized is key to either scenario. Both will require paring life down to the basics for a brief time. Even more important than physical organization is your attitude. It takes some patience and positivity to live without a kitchen for six weeks or in a pile of sheet rock dust for months. Try to focus on the end result and push through with a happy attitude. You can apply this advice to just about everything in life. Trying to stay positive is the best way to survive just about anything.
There is undoubtably great untapped potential in your home and an opportunity to make your life better on a daily basis. A great project is worth the discomfort and stress that come along the way. In this case, the end does justify the means.
Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com