NEED & PURGE
So you want to change your space, you believe you need different space or you will burst at the seams if you don’t build or remodel. PAUSE- did you purge all the unnecessary junk from your space? If not, read my last month’s blog about flexible and evolving rooms. (Blog) There’s a motivating section about sorting out your stuff. Constructing new space just to fill it with unused stuff is pointless and expensive. If you’ve already purged, please have a seat. Let’s talk…
ESTABLISH the PROJECT
The most helpful step in a construction job is to know exactly what are you wanting in the outcome. Are you painting and buying new fixtures or are you redoing the whole bathroom? Are you tearing out empty offices to pave way for an open office layout or just removing cubicles? It’s important to clearly define the boundaries of the project from the start. If you don’t, the project will “grow legs” and run away from you making your timeline unrealistic and the budget blown. The phrase “while we’re at it, why don’t we just…” is a very alluring statement. Yes it is more economical to have the work done all at once, but you don’t want to renovate the whole building if it’s just one room that really needs the work. Also, consider phasing the work, especially if you are occupying the space during construction. Enough unknowns will be uncovered while remodeling as it is to delay the project. If there is additional desired work, it’s best to discuss it with the designer and contractor to figure out when and how to add it to the original scope.
HIRING the PROFESSIONALS
In the beginning stages of contacting professionals it is important to familiarize yourself first with the correct terminology regarding construction. Below are some words that are often times confused. The subtle differences can greatly affect the impression the professional forms regarding the scope and depth of the project.
Preservation: respecting the historic property in its entirety and efforts are focused on maintaining current conditions without making modifications.
Restoration: returning a property to a specific previous time period using the original materials that are present. Other items not matching the chosen time period are removed.
Rehabilitation: similar to restoration however originals in poor condition may need to be recreated in order to complete the work.
Renovation: aesthetic updates to dated interior finishes such as flooring or wall finishes. Can also include plumbing fixtures, lighting, and appliances.
Remodel: changing physical characteristics like doors and walls as well as finishes mentioned in renovations.
New Construction: either constructing an addition to the existing structure or a new building altogether.
Once familiar with the specific term defining your project, meet with an interior designer. They will know who you need for a project, what plans need to be drawn and help you solidify your ideas. Refer to my article about hiring a professional. (Blog) Unless you are a seasoned DIY veteran many construction jobs will require professional design help. Review their portfolios, discuss past projects, and have them view your space to brainstorm ideas prior to signing a contract. This will also allow piece of mind that your ideas are aligned. Items also important to discuss when hiring a designer are your style inspirations, historic preservation items, environment/sustainability concerns, allergies/health and age range of occupants (infants and elderly specifically). The designer won’t just help design your space but also assist in managing the construction site and working with you and your contractor. Specific notes can be written into the plans to address necessary concerns for your project.
In general, you want to get as much work done on paper first before bringing in the sledgehammer. You may be anxious to get the work started, but it will always be cheaper and more beneficial to work it out on paper first. Plans, details, schematics, finish schedules, custom orders, contracts, deposits/payments, permits & insurance, workshop space, tool storage, dust mitigation and garbage removal are all items that need to be addressed prior to any hammer getting swung. A word of caution when reviewing quotes from contractors: Always get at least three different quotes. Look for the outlier (extremely high or low). If one is drastically different than the other two, don’t accept it. They’re either missing part of the scope, desperate for work, or misunderstanding the project.
SCHEDULE & BUDGET
You may have established an end date in your mind prior to meeting with your designer and contractor, however they well help fill in the details and make adjustments as necessary. What may feel like a quick job, may indeed need more time because of unconsidered factors such as plumbing or electrical updates or needing increased structural support for wall openings. If there’s a big event that the work needs to be completed by that needs to be communicated in the planning stage to have the most impact.
When creating a budget, know your financial limits firmly. Is there a loan or grant getting used or a fixed cash amount that needs to be maintained? Yes you’ll sign a quote from a contractor but contingency is there for a reason, make sure it’s part of the quote. Allocate 8-15% of your budget for contingencies as unknowns are always discovered. Remember if you “rob Peter to pay Paul” then your budget will need to be adjusted. Meaning your big ticket items need to be covered if they’re necessary and scrapped if they’re not. For an in depth remodel imagine a $100 pie; roughly a third should be for the interior work including finishes, non structural wall alterations, and windows. $5 is allocated for furnishings. Plumbing, electrical, and HVAC take another $33 of the pie. The remaining third should be roughly divided into $25 for the structure itself, and the remaining $10 of the pie for contingent expenses discovered along the way. If its just an aesthetic interior renovation the $25 for the structure can be allocated into other pie portions as needed.
A careful decision is whether to attempt to continue to use the space vs vacate during construction. Demolition is brutal, especially if nothing is being salvaged and the walls or floors need to be opened up for electrical, plumbing or HVAC work. If you must remain in the space consider construction phases or scheduled time for excessively noisy work. Dust partitions and walk off mats should be installed regardless to help reduce tracking dirt elsewhere in the property. Otherwise, set up a temporary location elsewhere, it will move the work along faster and help you keep your sanity.
Also during construction material samples should be available to select remaining finishes such as flooring or paint colors. With technology 3D models and color renderings are standard practice as well as example photos. If not possible, ask to visit a showroom or view past projects to visualize an item prior to installation. The schedule and timeline is very important to continue work progression. The construction trades follow each other in work sequence so delaying a tile decision, for example, can hold up plumbers and painters. Decisions need to be made as early as possible as lead times for many items can be 6-12 weeks if not readily available as a stock item. A single order needs to be placed for finishes to prevent different color batches to occur. If special orders or back orders occur, a faster alternate should be suggested if the delay will cause significant schedule setback.
It is best to discuss frustrations and problems as they occur to keep the aggravations at a minimum. Update meetings should occur twice a week for a project that is less than 12 weeks in duration and once a week for jobs longer than 12 weeks. Once daily phone calls and email exchanges should suffice for quick clarifications but bombarding contractors and designers with hourly issues will complicate matters and can cause more confusion in the back and forth transactions. When walking through the job site, dress appropriately especially footwear. Sturdy, closed toe shoes should always be worn to avoid tripping and injury. A dust mask and safety glasses are always wise to have on hand. A hardhat during heavy demolition and structural construction will be required by the contractor and should be announced ahead of time.
During construction feel free to document the progress with photos. Also, city inspections reports/sign-offs and permits should be posted. As the owner, copies of these should be provided to you if desired. When all work is said to be completed a final walk through should be performed. The site should appear finished, cleared of all leftover debris and professionally cleaned. Have your designer perform a “punch list” during the walk through. This list should only include small items such as paint touch ups and receiving manuals. If any major issues are evident, consider the work incomplete. Final payment to the contractor and owner occupancy shall occur after punch list items are completed.
The project is finally completed and hopefully successful. You are excited to move into the space and are pleased with the finished product. The contractor and designer aren’t finished yet. Post occupancy surveys, portfolio photos and client references are the last steps to completing your project. These are the venues to air your exaltation or grievances. Please complete the surveys, write the references/reviews, and let the photographers take the photos.
As the old adage goes, “only experience brings true confidence”. However, with the help of a qualified designer and seasoned contractor you should feel comfortable tackling any construction job. Don’t be afraid, make the jump and improve your life. After the dust settles it will be awesome!
Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ
Studio Owner & Interior Designer
Daricilar Design Studio – Medway, MA