Additions & RemodelsConsumer Guides

Plan Ahead for Remodels

We all read and hear complaints about the time it takes to get a building project “off the starting blocks.” Negotiating the planning/permitting process and actually starting construction comfortably within the same building season is tough to do at best, depending on the size of the project. Naivete on the homeowner’s part frequently leads to poor timing that results in high costs in job quality, higher project costs and mental health. The answer? Start now!

Q: I’m not planning to build until the building season. The approaching holidays will make my time really limited. Isn’t a January start plenty early for getting things done?

A: The bottom line is easy—avoid the rush when you can. January is the most popular time of the year for new projects, so everyone’s time is at a premium.

What many consumers don’t understand is the sheer multitude of decisions required for just getting a project “permit-ready,” much less the time it takes for getting construction underway.

Developing a custom floor plan is just the start. Working with a professional designer is usually a real eye-opener for most consumers, once the full variety of decisions to make and all the options available become apparent. Choosing architectural materials, specific appliances, electrical and plumbing fixtures, cabinetry, fireplaces, windows and skylights, etc. is a time-consuming decision and shopping process.

A huge advantage to planning ahead is that your research can easily become part of your regular (or holiday) shopping routine, making dual use of your time. You’ll have time to weigh your choices, find great sales, discuss your project with friends and relatives, call or actually visit the names on that reference list furnished by your designer or contractor you’re considering using, all without the time push. You may as well enjoy the process—you’ll be living with the results of your choices for many years.

Q: Once the plans are complete, with everything clearly specified, don’t things go pretty quickly?

A: Maybe. What about the bidding process?

If the project bids have come in over your projected budget, a whole new series of decisions begins. Do you cut back on the project, requiring new or re-drawn plans? Can you bring the project into line with material changes? Can the project be done in phases?

Which contractor do you hire? Have you looked at his work? Is he still using the same sub contractors? If not, is the quality of his current subs satisfactory?

Even anticipating the normal three-six months (or more) does not always allow for the unexpected. An accident or illness to any of the involved parties can slow or stop the process temporarily. Allowing plenty of time for planning to permitting can make the difference between a fun enjoyable project and a hair-tearing headache.

Early planning allows for finding sales and bargains. Being ready at the beginning of the building season takes best advantage of supply and demand, when it comes to contractor selection and selective bidding.

Q: OK, I have taken all the steps. I have my permit, I have three bids, I am ready to build, right?

A: Not necessarily. How are you paying for this? A loan? How long will the lender take to review the plan and make a decision? Did you plan for the loan officer’s two-week vacation? Remember Murphy’s Law! Oh, by the way, the contractor you really wanted has accepted another job and cannot get to you for two months. Do you have time to wait?

Well, you get the picture. You should have contacted your designer last month!

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