DEAR DESIGNER: I plan to remodel my guest bathroom. My husband and I are handy but we’ve never done a project like this before. In order to save money I want to call in experts only as needed. Which professionals will give me the biggest bang for my buck? — Althea
DEAR ALTHEA: Being capable and handy are wonderful skills to have but many times the learning curve can cost more than hiring the professional. I believe in hiring the expert always, for all trades. A skilled craftsman brings quality workmanship, tips and shortcuts to your project that pay off. Designers and contractors depend on expert trades people to execute their plans with quality that will last a lifetime.
Whether you consider calling a designer to organize an overall plan, the licensed contractor to pull the appropriate permits and oversee the job or a subcontractor who is well-practiced in his craft, getting the correct person(s) to help you with your project will save you time, money and a multitude of headaches.
It’s easy to realize you need a professional for plumbing and wiring, but you will also benefit by hiring experienced tile installers and drywall contractors.
A talented friend once decided to redo his own shower. Unbeknownst to him there is supposed to be a thick rubber liner called a shower pan under that pretty tile in the shower floor. Tile alone will not keep water in the base of a shower. He discovered his mistake the hard way and ended up calling in the expert to redo the shower, costing more than if he called the tile installer in the first place. If you do not call in the expert, be sure to do proper research.
Most paint companies also do drywall repair. Although painting is something most people can do, a painting contractor can take your job to the next level. Most paint contractors will agree to return after the plumbers and electricians have left to do final repairs and touch-ups. It is very difficult to match existing texture on walls and ceilings. A bad patch job can leave your new remodel with an unsightly flaw, a quick giveaway that the job was not done professionally.
Be sure you are on the job site all day every day if you do not hire a job supervisor. Judgment calls need to be made all along the way. You might get a shout out from the tile installer that goes something like this, “We are short of the large tile but have too much of the small tile. Do you want to do some sort of wall pattern with the small tile or wait until a new order of tile comes in?” If you or a supervisor is on the job all day, the job will not be held up by decisions that can be made immediately.
Know which questions to ask whom. It’s great to get a second opinion when decisions need to be made, and most workers love to give their opinion. Remember that the opinions you get are based on the limited amount of information that particular subcontractor knows about your job.
If you need advice on color, ask your designer or a talented friend who knows your lifestyle. Painters do a great job explaining what finish (eggshell, semigloss or flat) goes on which surface but most painters have not taken classes in color selection. The same idea applies to each trade.
A designer is expert at taking a whole-house approach. He/she knows how to lay out a functional and safe plan for your space. He/she knows how to coordinate color and materials to give you a balanced design.
If you’re working with a limited budget, consider hiring a designer to drop by your job site at various points during construction. This will usually cost you a fee but is well worth it if your designer catches a costly mistake. Most designers are happy to work on a consultation basis.
You will get the best bang for your buck if you hire the expert or become the expert.
Cindy Payne is a certified interior designer with more than 25 years of experience, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers, as well as a licensed contractor. E-mail questions to her at deardesigner @projectdesigninteriors.com or send them to her at Project Design Interiors, 2620 S. Maryland Parkway, Suite 189, Las Vegas, NV 89109. She can be reached online at www.projectdesigninteriors.com.