By Nicola Caul Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction
It’s the New Year and despite the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic, home remodeling services are in high demand. The low-key holidays at home and ongoing virtual nature of work and school have many of us thinking ahead to later this year when (hopefully) we’ll be able to entertain once more and/or have family come to stay.
Whether you’ve decided it’s time to remodel your kitchen, create a more open concept on your main level, finally finish that unfinished basement or just simply turn your master bathroom into a retreat, here’s our guide to helping you find the right remodeler for your project.
1. Match your project needs to the right type of remodeler
Knowing who you need is the first step in any remodel. With some many different companies out there, it’s not always easy to navigate who does what. Here’s a good place to start (and it’s one of the biggest questions we get): What’s the difference between a general contractor and a design-build home remodeling company?
A general contractor (sometimes simply referred to as a “GC”) typically focuses on small- to medium-sized interior projects. They are responsible for overseeing the construction phase of your remodel and for finding/hiring the appropriate tradespeople to complete the project if they do not have the expertise themselves or in-house. You, on the other hand, will likely have to come up with the design and, in most circumstances, pick out the materials for the project and project manage it.
GCs are perfectly suited to smaller pull-and-replace type remodels where you are not significantly changing the footprint and are replacing like-for-like in the existing footprint. The quality and price of using a GC varies greatly depending on the level of support they offer, the size of the project and the quality of the project management in keeping the remodel on-time and on-budget.
In terms of a design/build company, a full-service firm (like Synergy Design & Construction) manages all aspects of your home remodel and guides you through your project — from design all the way through construction. They do all the heavy lifting as well as project manage it along the way. Design/build firms tend to focus on medium- to large-scale residential projects: design-thoughtful whole home renovations as well as kitchens, basements and bathrooms. They may also offer services for home additions (though we do not).
Most design/build firms “design everything they build and build everything they design,” so most local firms will not bid on design-only services, and/or the design services they provide cannot be used to hand off to a general contractor. In-house design and professional project management delivers a better customer experience from an accountability and quality perspective, but on the flip side, good design and well-executed construction takes time and may cost more. At Synergy, our typical clients intend to stay in their home to enjoy their space, so we don’t offer kitchen “refreshes,” flips or simple updates like powder rooms (unless it’s part of a larger project).
Do your research and poke around various websites to see examples of the type of work and level of support a company provides. Read testimonials and Google reviews — they are a great way to get a sense of what a company is all about from real clients.
Still need more help? Read Best Remodelers in Reston and Where To Find Them.
2. Don’t play your cards too tight to your chest
It’s one of the biggest hurdles to overcome: being honest about budget. It’s important to have this conversation early in the process so the companies you talk to better understand your investment goals. Your remodeler of choice can be realistic with you in terms of how far your budget will go and how best to maximize it.
Keep in mind a pull-and-replace kitchen remodel is going to cost less than reconfiguring your kitchen to move your sink (for example) or any changes that require additional plumbing, mechanical and electrical work. The level of finish will also drive up cost. From cabinetry to countertops to tile to flooring, these costs add up. Appliance packages alone can be a huge chunk of your budget, so your home remodeler should be able to work with you to determine where to splurge and where to save without sacrificing quality and finish.
3. Be clear on scope
Don’t proceed with a project until you have a clearly defined scope of work with your contractor in writing. Assume nothing. We hear so many stories of homeowners ending up way over budget because the scope was not clearly defined (or even written down in some cases!) upfront.
This has a knock on effect to not only your budget but also your timeline. If things have not been planned and accounted for before the project begins, you will likely be faced with change orders and extra time needed to complete your project.
At Synergy, we pride ourselves on developing a clear budget and timeline for every project we work on before anyone comes near your home with a sledgehammer. We don’t believe in nickel-and-diming along the way. We’d rather be honest with you upfront about how much things cost so you can rest easy that, once agreed, we’ll stick to the budget.
4. Have the right expectations
Ah, yes, wouldn’t it be nice if we could all get a complete home remodel for $20,000 and in six weeks? The reality of TV home remodeling shows is that they aren’t reality. Many of these shows have materials such as cabinetry and appliances provided to them free of charge as part of sponsorship deals, and they don’t include the cost of time/labor for the crews involved. Take a look at websites like Houzz, or read any of their great consumer research to get a real sense of how much things cost.
It is also not an unreasonable expectation that your contractor should start the project when they say they will and won’t disappear before it’s completely finished. Sadly, this doesn’t always happen, and this is when we hear the worst “renovation nightmare” stories. Reputable design/build firms can be counted on to keep their timelines.
5. Think of your remodeler as a partner, not a vendor
Your chosen home remodeling partner is going to be in your life and in your home for a while. Feeling like you have a good relationship with them is important and having open communication from the start will set you up for success throughout the process. Home remodelers are people, too, and most take great pride in their work and want to do a good job. If it doesn’t feel right at your first consultation, it’s never going to feel right. You should have a good rapport with your contractor from the outset and feel you can trust them and be open with them and vice versa. That’s the key to your project’s success.
This month’s featured project is a whole townhouse remodel in Reston. Having lived there for 11 years, this Reston couple was ready to make big changes to their home to update it throughout to better reflect their modern aesthetic. However, they knew they didn’t have the time to project manage it themselves or the expertise to create designs that could then be implemented by a General Contractor. Enter Synergy Design & Construction!
In addition to other changes on all three levels, we completely remodeled the master bathroom, guest bathroom and powder room. Beyond remodeling the bathrooms, we also installed new flooring, lighting fixtures and fans throughout the home, replaced the kitchen countertops, and updated the plumbing fixtures. New paint throughout and an updated “black satin” color on the stair balusters and railings completed the transformation, making the whole home feel fresh and modern.