Thinking about Renovating this Summer? Sanity-Saving Tips from a Home Designer



Red Hook, Brooklyn kitchen loft renovation by Cavdesign

Red Hook, Brooklyn kitchen loft renovation by Cavdesign

Are you thinking about renovating this summer? You’re not the only one…so the time to start is now. A lot of contractors have already started booking up their summer, so to make sure you can get on the roster you should get your design ideas in order and start reaching out to find the right person.

What You Need to Know about Renovating Before You Find a Contractor

Before you speak to a contractor, it’s best to have a scope of work organized and on paper. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • If you have work needing to be done scattered throughout the house, organize those items by trade. For example, change light fixtures in two bedrooms, install a dimmer in kitchen, and add an outlet in your living room would go under the electrician
  • Remember, it’s more economical to take care of as much as you can at one time, rather than break the project up to be done at different times. Just loading in tools and supplies (not to mention you clearing out all your stuff) is a big part of the job.
  • If you are planning a kitchen, bath or making other types of upgrades be prepared with key questions during your first meeting. Take a look at the list below to help you know what to ask!

What You Need to Know About Renovating Kitchens

Redesigning your kitchen can be overwhelming. If you’re not sure what you’d like to do or need help narrowing down your choices consider the following options:

  • Set up an appointment with a kitchen design center (just keep in mind that their goal is to include as much cabinetry and add-ons as possible!). Having measurements of your kitchen will be important to make the most of your time.
  • Hire a designer who specializes in kitchens (ahem…like CAVdesign) for a consultation on layout, functionality and materials.
  • It’s helpful to know what cabinet style you like, or better yet know where you’d like to purchase your cabinets.
  • Many contractors are good with layout ideas, but I’ve met very few whom I’d trust to make aesthetic decisions on tile, counters and cabinetry. Better to make those decisions yourself or with a designer, and work with your contractor to make sure the correct materials and quantities are being purchased.

What You Need to Know About Renovating Bathrooms

Bathrooms have their own particular design challenges. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind before you get started:

  • For baths, you can choose tile and fixtures, but do NOT purchase anything until you have confirmed your ideas with the contractor. Bathrooms are small and can be tricky with regard to plumbing locations and what will fit.
  • If you live in a co-op or apartment, make sure you building will approve your plans. A lot of people are replacing tubs with walk in showers – don’t assume you are allowed to do this as many buildings have gotten quite picky about allowing this change due to leaks from faulty installations.

What You Need to Know About Changes to Walls, Doors or Layout

If you plan to take down walls – you may need an architect or engineer to vet this and if need be, file plans with the Department of Building. Don’t assume anything, even if your neighbor has done it.

Remember, the Stuff that Shows Is What You’ll Need to Pay Attention to!

In a renovation, it’s the last 15% of work that gets done that actually shows. Make sure your contractor and their subcontractors do neat and conscientious finish work. The kinds of examples you should look at (in person, if possible) are:

  • Is it level, tidy and even?
  • Sheetrock and taping. Do you see small ‘bulges’ where two pieces of sheetrock are seamed together? Or can you see scrapes or areas that are not smooth or sanded?
  • Corners on walls, floors, tile, and cabinetry. Do the edges come together nicely? Are gaps filled or covered in a way that looks clean and finished?

Every contractor is different, and some are happy to work patiently with homeowners to get them the look they want. These are the guys you want on your project!

Do you have any questions or are you feeling stuck on anything you plan to do in your home this summer? You can make a comment below, or head over to my Facebook page and I’ll do my best to answer! If you want to find out more about what to expect when renovating a kitchen (including a lot of my ‘insider tips’) for less than the price of a cabinet knob, take a look at my ebook, Kitchen Design and Renovation: a step-by-step guide to planning and managing your kitchen makeover.

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