How to Remodel Your House Without Freaking Out

I recently had a dream, well more like a nightmare, where I was so upset with my contractor after seeing his work that I took my shoes off and threw them at his head as hard as I could. Then, I started destroying the kitchen he just installed. I was yelling. "I just paid you and you gave me plastic formica countertops? You didn't think I wanted to pick my own appliances? What about these cabinets? I would have never picked these!" I woke up fuming and feeling a little like a crazy person. We don't even have a contractor for our remodel project yet and I was already feeling unbelievably stressed out. 

Anyone that knows me personally, knows I would never react like that in real life, or get myself into that situation to begin with, but it does go to show that having your home remodeled is a huge deal.  Your home is an incredibly personal space and chances are you take a lot of pride in it. With a remodeling project, there is also a huge amount of change whether that means you don't have a functioning kitchen, parts of your home are closed off, or you need to move out entirely. It can all be very emotional, time consuming, expensive, and physically draining. I have a friend that literally lost his hair from the stress of remodeling their home, and I'll admit I have a few gray hairs myself from overseeing construction projects. 

With all of that in mind, here are some things I have found to help manage the stress of a remodeling project. (I can't guarantee that you won't have crazy dreams though.)

Hire professionals and check references
A contractor may appear professional and totally sell you, but if they don't have experience with the kind of project you're working on or if they are difficult to work with, you may end up feeling misled and frustrated.  Ask friends, family, coworkers, or someone you trust for contractor referrals. I recommend interviewing and getting quotes from at least three contractors.  

When choosing who to work with, choose someone who has done excellent work, has great referrals, and who you feel comfortable with. I wouldn't focus too much on just going with the lowest bid, because they could easily increase their prices later once "unexpected" issues on the job come up. A more experienced contractor may include all or most of the costs, so you don't have additional surprises later. Don't be shy to ask contractors for references on jobs they recently completed and calling to see how their clients' experience was.

Be involved with planning
I try to be involved in the planning process from the beginning. I recommend working with your architect or designer to plan where things will go, how they'll look and feel. For example if you're planning out a kitchen remodel, really consider how you use the space and what feels natural to you instead of going with a design that might have an awkward flow once everything is installed. 

Pictures online and samples can only show you so much. Go to the supply stores and see and try the products you're thinking about using before you purchase and install them. Read reviews, ask questions, and ask other unbiased people about the products you like before buying them. They may see something you don't and save you from choosing something that isn't going to work out for you in the end. 

Have every step mapped out and be clear about your needs and expectations
This may be the most important tip I have for saving you from headaches while you're remodeling. Go over each stage of the project with your contractor in depth so that you have a clear picture of what will be happening each day, week, and month and incorporate the timeline into your contract with them. There will be things that come up that cause delays or are out of your control, and maybe even out of your contractor's control, like building inspections, weather, or issues with subcontractors. Knowing the best and worst case scenarios ahead of time will help manage your expectations so there are less surprises along the way.

Know that any remodeling project can take longer than you expect and may cost more than you expect. What you think will be a simple kitchen remodel could easily take months, while building a new house could take years, and it's not uncommon to go over budget by as much as 20%. Building some buffer time and budget into your planning process will definitely help.

If you have any questions about remodeling, whether you're trying to figure out your initial design ideas, are looking for inspiration, or need recommendations on who to call to do the work, feel free to drop us a line.