Quite a few of us here at PWA have been undergoing renovations in the last year or so, some by choice, others due to large trees and gale-force winds. In sharing our renovation trials and tribulations with each other we’ve come to appreciate each other’s experience. Here are a few things to consider before you step into your next renovation.

  1. Write down everything.
    • Long before you start to work with a designer make a few lists. If you have pet peeves or items on your wish list, write them down. The pet peeves will help you identify problems that need solving. The wish list will get you started on a priority list that will be used to create your project’s scope of work and budget.
    • A notebook with tabs is a handy way to organize all the information involving your renovation. Tabs may include design ideas, design details, products, budget/receipts, agreement forms, etc.
    • If you communicate by email, create a folder with sub-folders for your communications.
  2. Timing is everything.
    • If you are renovating a kitchen, scheduling the work during warmer months makes preparing meals outside a lot easier.
    • Also, if you have a particular deadline (i.e. holidays), work with your designer and contractors to establish a realistic schedule with important milestones. Having an understanding about when decisions need to be made and when work will be done makes the renovation process run more smoothly.
  3. Don’t start until you’re sure.
    • Don’t start construction until you’re absolutely satisfied with the design. It’s well worth putting off starting construction if you’re unsure whether the design is the best solution for you.
  4. Find the right balance.
    • Unless you are remodeling with the intention to sell don’t worry so much about designing for the next owner. Chances are that the perfect design for you may or may not work for someone else. They may not like dark cabinets, your color scheme, or they may be taller or shorter than you. Go with what works for you.
    • Finding the right balance is tricky and can be a lot of work. You have to realize, though, that you are working within the parameters of your own existing home, your neighborhood, your wants/desires, and your checkbook.
    • After committing the resources to a renovation, don’t skimp. Ask if you’ll regret not having something after all the work is done. If the answer is yes, then figure out a way to include it.
    • Be realistic about what it costs to accomplish what you want. Even with discounts, negotiation, or DIY renovation can be a very expensive proposition.
  5. Keep an Open Mind.
    • Listen to other people’s suggestions. You may not go with any of their ideas, but they might direct you to think about something “out of the box” you hadn’t considered, which might be a brilliant solution.
    • Example: For a kitchen renovation under cabinet lighting is a must, but it is also important to think about where to locate wall switches and plugins. Consider relocating plugins high up in the corner between the cabinet and the backsplash. Depending on your budget there are different ways to do this, but the result is the same. Your plugins remain accessible, but your backsplash is not broken up by all those outlet covers.
  6. Should you stay or should you go?
    • Sometimes the pressure to make choices can be quite taxing, and living through the actual construction can be very distressing. Never underestimate the glamour of a microwave oven set atop a card table in the guest bathroom, the usefulness of a griddle, nor the nutritional value of a sandwich.
    • If the renovation is significant it may be easier and less stressful to re-locate to temporary quarters.
  7. Make a decision and stick with it.
    • Once supplies are ordered and labor is scheduled, retracting work orders gets tricky.
  8. Communicate!
    • Keep close contact with your designer(s) and/or onsite construction coordinator. If you relocate to a temporary residence during the renovation, face to face interaction with the construction team may be infrequent and some items might get lost in translation.
  9. Get product samples.
    • Obtain samples from your designers(s), suppliers, and/or contractor and test them (i.e. paint/stain colors) in the actual location in which they will be. Something like hardwood floor stain is hard to change and the shade and tone of the wood can really affect how it plays with your design scheme.
  10. Think Big and small.
    • Think about what you want the end result of your project to be – overall as well as in the details. This is a deceptively complex task, and designers who are trained to think in exactly this manner can assist with this task.
    • Be very particular about the details. If you have an idea in your mind of what you want the details to look like, then try to be as specific as possible with your designer and the installers.
  11. There are no stupid questions!
    • Call it vigilant confirmation of expectations. It may seem like you are micromanaging, but it is your renovation and you have the responsibility to make sure your wishes are known and understood.
  12. Manage expectations.
    • Straight isn’t straight, square isn’t square and level isn’t level in either a new or existing structure. You may need to make compromises to achieve the best-finished look when you find there is a difference of an inch from one side of the room to the next. A creative craftsman can make tweaks that are imperceptible to anyone but those in the know.
    • Sometimes you just have to let it go. Despite all your best efforts, occasionally things just don’t turn out quite the way you planned. It’s difficult to let go of something you may have dreamed about and visualized in your mind’s eye for months. There are many reasons why projects don’t go as planned (i.e. scheduling, availability of materials, cost, miscommunication, etc.) The key is to move past these issues and not let them ruin the delight you should enjoy in your completed project.
  13. Be patient and stay positive!
    • It may seem like everything is going so slowly at the time, but when you look back at your renovation after it is done, it will seem like no time at all!
    • Eventually, the dust will settle, boxes will get emptied, and things will find their new home. You’ll realize that the results were worth the effort.