Dear Gail: We’re thinking about doing some remodeling but are nervous as we’ve heard horror stories. It’s really not something we have to do but, of course, want to. Before we make the big leap can you tell us what we might expect? — Roger &Dotty
Dear Roger &Dotty: Remodeling is a big step, especially if it is a big job. Although no matter whether you’re just painting, adding a wall unit or gutting a kitchen, there are things you need to be aware of. As I only have so much space, I’m going to share a few aspects of the process, so your remodel won’t be the next big horror story.
Labor alone on any project can be 50 percent of the overall budget. No different than when you take your car to a mechanic. You’re paying for that person’s knowledge and experience. If you need to cut costs, labor is one of the places.
But really be honest with yourself if you have the expertise and time to do it. Sometimes those DIY projects end up costing more in both time and money when, in the end, you have to hire someone to fix or finish the project.
Honesty and communication are two of the biggest keys to any successful project. I haven’t met a mind reader yet. Have you?
You must communicate with your contractor and designer on precisely what you want, your budget, time frame, and overall expectations. Now is the time to ask those thousand questions. No one means to assume, but it happens. Nobody likes excuses or surprises on either side of the project.
You need to be realistic with how long it will take. Don’t push your contractor or designer to an unrealistic deadline. You want the job done right, so let them. Don’t decide a month before the big wedding you want a new bathroom because you have the reception at your house. There are always unforeseen things that will happen, and all you’re doing is setting the stage for a stressful process.
Lead times are challenging to plan for. Don’t fall in love with something before you find out how long it’s going to take to ship. Realize that even if it’s in stock this morning, by the time you’re ready to order, it can be out of stock. I’ve had it happen more than once over my 27 years.
To me, having all the materials on-hand before starting alleviates one significant portion of the stress factor. It’s worth the storage fee or having your car parked in the driveway for a couple weeks.
If you’re expecting the job to go seamlessly with no hiccups, you’re going into this with blinders on. Things happen, it’s life, we’re not perfect, and we’re human.
Contractors are not Superman. They don’t have X-ray vision to see behind walls or through ceilings. So when something is uncovered during demolition, you can’t hold it against him.
You need to stop and make a sound decision on what you need to do and how it will affect your vision, time frame, and budget. I always advise having a 25 percent contingency in a budget. If you don’t have to use it, great, go on vacation. But if you do, you know it’s there.
Also, understand that people get sick, cars break down and weather can affect what you’re doing. The world is not perfect.
Just because you’ve hired a contractor doesn’t mean you’ve relinquished all responsibility. My dad taught me to always check things twice before jumping in. Inspect everything at every step of the way; you might catch something or decide you want to change it. Easier to do before the tile is set and grouted.
Examine the materials being used and make sure they are up to your expectations and what you ordered. Your contractor may not know you ordered black tiles. If you have him pick them up, make sure to check them before any work begins. The number may be right on the box, but it could have been boxed wrong. It happens.
If you’re a clean freak, get ready to be freaked out. You can’t get away from the dust — you just can’t. Everyone does the best to cover entirely every niche and cranny, but dust will still get through.
If you can’t handle being inconvenienced, well, remodeling is not for you. They do their best to limit the disruptions of your space, but they need to get the work done. If it really turns your world upside down, look into a staycation at a nearby hotel.
Other things to look into are budgeting, whether or not you want to be the contractor, the proper paperwork when hiring a contractor, permits and licensing,
I guarantee you that you will reach a day when you’re just done with it and wish you had never started. I know because I was there twice myself. But it too shall pass, and in the end, you’ll wish you wouldn’t have waited so long to start.
Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by email to GMJinteriors@gmail.com.