No matter the size or budget, a renovation can disrupt your daily routine. Beyond having builders in and out of your home, there will be tasks such as countless decisions both big and small to make, supply chain issues to face, and, of course, budgetary considerations.
To help make your next home improvement project run as smoothly as possible, we asked two experienced professionals—Chris Tilley, mortgage production manager of Regions Bank, and architect Yong Pak of Pak Heydt & Associates residential design firm—to share their advice on how to set yourself up for a smooth renovation.
1. Look for inspiration, then set your vision
It’s always smart to come to an architect or builder with ideas. “An inspiration book is helpful when starting your project,” Tilley says. “Collect [images of] the look, materials, and ideas that represent what you desire in your renovation.”
Pak also suggests scanning your neighborhood to see what new renovations catch your eye. Once you have a sense of what you like, you can enlist an architect to help you plan and design the project.
2. Get an updated property survey
This key step is done to determine or confirm land boundaries, which architects and builders need to know in order to avoid violating a neighbor’s property.
“You want to have an updated survey so you know what the potential setbacks are and what the zoning is for your community,” Pak explains. “Each community has different zoning, and if you don’t have that on a legal document, you really don’t know it.” Ideally, you would know this information—and share it with your architect—at the beginning of your project.
3. Make a financial gameplan
There are plenty of resources designed to help ease the financial burden of a remodel, such as home equity lines of credit (HELOC) and renovation loans. “Determining what you qualify for is the first step. You don’t want to make plans and find out you can’t afford the loan,” Tilley explains. “Having 10 to 20 percent of the budget in cash is a normal requirement of the lender. That should cover unexpected costs.”
As you’re working out your budget, your contractor can also help you understand the financial implications of your remodel. “If you communicate ideas with budgets in mind early on, it helps stress-wise,” Pak says. “You can bounce things off the contractor because they’ll be able to tell you if you’re in the ballpark or not.”
4. Assemble a reliable team that is able to work well together
In addition to an architect, the ideal renovation squad includes a contractor, interior designer, and landscape architect. Consult with friends or neighbors who have done a remodel to see if they’d recommend potential contractors. You can also ask your architect or builder who they prefer to work with, since the project will be a collaborative effort.
Talk with a few different people before making the final call—and don’t forget to ask about their most recent work. “Reputation is one thing, but actually getting the job done is another,” Pak says. “I always tell my clients I’m only as good as my last few jobs.”
5. Maintain an open line of communication with your remodel team
Take advantage of your expert team and ask plenty of questions of your architect, builder, interior designer, and landscape architect. Along with bringing your vision to life, they can help you determine what’s worth splurging on and where you could save. Consider scheduling regular weekly meetings with the entire group to get the latest project updates and to help you stay on budget.
6. Order hardware, furnishings, and more as early as possible
Work with your contractor to figure out which subcontractors and products have the longest lead time, then try to order things in advance.
“If things don’t get delivered at the right time, it’s going to throw all of your subcontractors off schedule,” Pak says. “It’s a domino effect; that’s why it’s super important to plan and have drawings so everyone is working on the same page.”
He points out that people who have done renovations pre-pandemic should expect to pay 20 to 30 percent more than they’re used to because of supply chain issues—and plan for longer delivery times as well. “It takes 12 months now to order a sub-zero fridge,” Pak warns. “Your interior designer might love this beautiful tile but it’s a year out. Do you really have time to wait?”