If you’re a homeowner planning for an upcoming home remodel or renovation project, chances are you’re experiencing moments of excitement, fear, relief, and anxiety. Don’t worry, those feelings are completely normal, especially since you’re inviting a team of strangers into your home to transform your living space. In our experience, the main cause of anxiety and stress leading up to a remodeling project is a lack of communication between contractor and homeowner. This leaves you, the homeowner, unsure about what to expect from or how to prepare for your upcoming home remodel so that the project is as successful as possible.
To help put you at ease ahead of your remodeling project, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to preparing for an upcoming home remodel.
Ask Yourself Some Questions Before Your Remodel Gets Started
Home remodeling takes time, money, vision, and perseverance to pull off successfully. Before breaking ground on your upcoming project, ask yourself these five questions and make sure that you’re content with the plan for your upcoming remodel. Changing your mind on design, materials, etc. takes additional time and money, and can also cause unwanted stress during your project. Many materials must be purchased ahead of time, and often cannot be returned or sold off without highly discounting the product—especially if they have been tailored to your specific space.
Remember, it’s easier to pull out of a project or change course in the early stages, rather than after work has begun.
Can I Afford It?
This is by far the most important first step when considering a home remodel. Running out of funds can stop a project in its tracks, and being “house poor” is a bad place to be. Sinking money into a remodel removes the liquidity of your funds, meaning you can’t borrow against it if an emergency springs up.
Can I Do It Myself?
Projects you can tackle on your own can sometimes help you save. But it’s important to know when to do it yourself and when to bring in a professional. With the advent of online instructional videos and classes at your local hardware store, some projects such as tiling or painting can be tackled on your own.
Is It Safe?
Safety should always be a priority, regardless of whether you’re taking on a project yourself or hiring an expert home remodeling contractor. Plumbing and electrical are two areas where bringing in the pros pays off in the long run. Roofing and other projects that require you to have special equipment and access to high places are better handled by those with experience as well.
Is It Worth It?
Many home improvement projects do not yield a high enough return on the investment. Decide first why you are remodeling. Is it to improve the value of your home, or simply to improve its livability? If it’s to improve value, make sure to focus on key areas that raise home prices, such as bathrooms and kitchens.
Do I Trust My Contractor?
It’s highly important to make sure you trust your experts. Make sure that you know who you are working with. After all, it’s your home and your money they’re working with. Make sure you choose a remodeling contractor whose numbers are realistic, and whose previous work holds up to scrutiny.
Many home improvement projects require more expertise than even the most skilled DIY-er should handle. It can also protect you for insurance purposes to show that you did your due diligence in handling issues with expert, licensed contractors. Whatever the remodeling project, having a proper plan and asking a few extra questions can go a long way to ensuring that your home remodeling project goes off without a hitch.
Set Some Expectations Ahead of Time
Remodeling is a stressful time for homeowners that ranks right up there with moving or putting a home on the real estate market. There’s the planning, unexpected expenses, and some inconveniences that go along with remodeling projects. The value of the finished product is worth the upfront challenges, though, considering that you’ll be getting the space you desire and increasing the value of your home as well.
We understand - prepping for a home remodel can be a headache. Keep your sanity and set some of these expectations upfront for your upcoming remodeling project.
Expect for Limited Space
If there’s any piece of advice that we can give to you that will be most helpful it’s this: your space is about to become compromised. With the most common remodel being bathrooms and kitchens, imagine life without them now and begin to plan. Imagine your home with 100-200 less square footage, and how that will impact you and the others that live in your home.
Section off the part of your home that is not under construction with tarps or even strategically placed pieces of furniture. Have a definitive place where remodeling starts and ends and it will help you cope with the chaos of the process.
Though it’s only temporary, it’s key to keep in mind that relationships in your home will become closer, and that the space you once declared sacred might become temporarily invaded. Remember, it’s all for the better in the very end!
Expect to Plan Ahead
When it comes to remodeling, it is always best to think two steps ahead. If there are certain things the contractor needs your collaboration for, make sure you’re prepared. For example, if you know your contractor will be ready for countertops on a specific day, have those materials ready several days ahead of time. The last thing you want is for there to be a lull in activity because of something you could have done in advance.
Expect Some Mess
It is going to feel like your home is in shambles for a while. Just accept this fact. Remodeling is not the time to host cocktail parties or plan play dates. Just let the mess happen and realize that your home will look better than ever once remodeling is complete.
Expect to Be Away From Home
When your home remodel is in full effect, space becomes tight and cabin fever may occur. If you can leave your home for even part of the remodeling schedule, do it. It may be a great time to visit family or friends, or cash in those hotel points you have been stashing away. Even if you can only get away for a day or two (and your project is months long), it will give you a break from the upheaval and help you rejuvenate.
If you stay local during your remodel, plan activities and explore what San Diego has to offer. That might mean taking the family downtown in the morning for the world famous donuts at the Donut Bar, traveling to Old Town in the afternoon for tacos and a performance by the mariachi bands, and then wrapping up the evening over at Sunset Cliffs for a picnic and a spur the moment family photo shoot. San Diego is full of awesome sights, attractions, restaurants, and breweries, so be sure to take advantage of what America’s finest city has to offer!
Expect to Communicate Often
Communication should be a major part of your home remodel, so expect to have daily conversations with your project manager. Your PM should be keeping you posted on all things related to your project, asking you questions when necessary, and making sure that everything is going according the plan. The principal of the company may also be a consistent contact. If you’re the type that gets overwhelmed by conversation, begin to prepare yourself for a lot more communication. The more open and honest communication there is between you and your contractor, the better the outcome of your remodeling project.
Expect to Be Flexible
Life happens, and sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned. The more flexible you allow yourself to be during your remodel, the more settled you’ll feel during the entirety of the home renovation process. You and your project manager might map out the most bullet-proof remodeling plan to successfully renovation your home, but unforeseen bumps in the road could change the trajectory of the process at moment’s notice.
This is where the time spent choosing the right remodeling contractor for your specific project can really pay off. With a trustworthy, professional remodeling contractor, you’ll always have a reliable point of contact for both the good and not-so-good moments, your project will always have transparent cost estimation from the start, and accountability is the driving force to complete projects thoroughly and on time.
Expect to Think Long Term
When the dust, noise and chaos from remodeling pushes you to a near nervous breakdown, take a step back. Close your eyes and envision the finished product. Remodeling is just a short period of time in what will be a long relationship with your new and improved home. The good outweighs the bad when it comes to improving your home, but sometimes it can be tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel when saws are humming, hammers are banging, and dust is flying. Realize that the temporary inconvenience will lead to long-term happiness, and add value to your home. Looking at the bigger picture will help you cope with the irritation of remodeling and keep you focused on what really matters: a wonderful home for your family.
Make Sure to Prioritize Safety
In any home remodel, safety should the top priority of everyone involved. Here are some helpful tips to making sure your upcoming remodel is safe from the start.
If You Can’t Move It, Cover It!
Start your project off by covering any furniture or valuables you plan to keep in the room during the renovation process. Placing a tarp or other plastic covering on the floor and counters will protect you from minor spills or having unwanted dust and toxic debris embedded in family furnishings.
Open Up Your Windows
Creating good air flow is a must when working indoors with strong fumes like paint. Open all the windows in proximity to the project. Standing fans can be set up in rooms that don’t typically have a window, like small bathrooms. Other harmful particles like dust can get trapped in the mesh lining of windows and have been known to cause allergic asthma and other types of respiratory issues.
This may seem obvious, but when prepping for home renovations projects that involve heavy tools, ladders, and other materials and equipment, it’s a good idea to go over some simple ground rules with those who are going to be around the project site, especially children. If your family is going to be around for a lot of the work, set up a “construction zone” that marks where kids and pets are not allowed in.
Check for Asbestos
In the United States, homes built before 1978 may contain high levels of asbestos, making it crucial to test for the toxic mineral before beginning any major home projects. Asbestos was known as a miracle mineral due to its durability and resistance to fire, heat and electricity, and is commonly hidden in a home’s flooring, ceiling tiles, and insulation. Exposure to asbestos has been linked to several cancers, including the lesser known mesothelioma.
A reputable design-build remodeling contractor will be able to test for asbestos and help plan a course of action to make sure your project is completed as safely as possible.
Test for Lead
California law requires lead-safe practices on any structure built before 1978. Paint chips and dust created from scraping or sanding lead paint can negatively impact the health of those near the project and potentially put everyone in the home at risk of lead poisoning.
If your home was built prior to 1978, any remodeling contractor or home improvement professional you work with will be required to arrange testing of any project areas by an independently licensed hygienist.
In March of 2018, ABC 10 News reported on crackdowns by the Environmental Protection Agency on six contracting and home remodeling companies who had violated lead paint and asbestos regulations. Those six companies, operating in California and Arizona, were forced to pay a combined $287,000 in penalties.
The report highlighted a local San Diego contractor, Renovation Realty, who was required to pay a settlement of over $41,000 for renovation work performed in San Diego and Santee “without being EPA-certified to perform work in pre-1978 housing where lead-based paint is assumed to be present.”
Proof of proper removal and disposal of any lead-containing materials will need to take place before your remodeling project can get started. If your contractor suggests otherwise, or isn’t aware of the EPA regulations, that should be a huge red flag. Even well-known companies that we compete against cut corners. If you are remodeling, I recommend downloading the Lead Safe pamphlet that can be found here: https://www.epa.gov/lead/lead-safe-certified-guide-renovate-right
Plan for Work After Your Project is Completed
As we’ve already established, carrying out major changes to your home can greatly improve the appearance and add to its value. New floors, windows, and other changes can breathe new life into your home, but renovations aren’t without their work.
One of the biggest challenges that most homeowners run into after the builders have left is cleaning up, which can take days or weeks. These tips can help you get back to normal faster after your home renovation has been completed.
Start with the Walls
The walls are the first place you should start as there’s a good chance they’ve got some dust and other dirt on them. If the walls have been painted, simply dust them and then move on. If not, then clean the walls, especially molding where dirt and dust easily gather. If the walls have a textured paper, vacuum them using the brush attachment. Other wallpapers that aren’t textured can be wiped down with a damp cloth.
Clean Vents and Replace Filters
Even if it’s not time to replace the filters yet, any renovation is going to add dust into the home. If you have only renovated a section of the house, it’s still a good idea to treat the air vents and filters as they will be full of dust. This is especially crucial if anyone living in the house is allergic to dust. Start by removing vent covers and cleaning them with soap and water. Replace the filters before replacing the vent covers.
This is an area that’s often missed but any cushions and soft furnishings are a magnet to dust and debris. If covers can be replaced and washed, put them in the washing machine for a thorough clean. For any other upholstered fabric including mattresses, use the upholstery attachment on your vacuum. Use this attachment to also clean curtains or blinds.
After you’ve vacuumed the upholstery, you’ll want to use a damp cloth to wipe down the wood and metal parts of the furniture. Any picture frames or other miscellaneous items should also be wiped down. Using a damp cloth is often more effective but a duster often works well.
Since your vacuum is probably the most important tool you’re going to be using in the cleanup, then you’ll want to invest in a good quality vacuum. A powerful vacuum cleaner will be able to get dirt and dust from all surfaces, and will also have lots of attachments to clean hard-to-reach areas. If you don’t have a good vacuum cleaner, then you may want to consider upgrading.
Clean The Lights
Lights and light fixtures can build up dust, and it’s a good idea to take down the fixtures if possible and clean them. They can be cleaned with hot water and soap. Fan blades attract a lot of dust, and a simple wipe with a duster will be sufficient to clean them. Ensure that you clean and dust them before using the fan to avoid spreading any dust.
Wipe Down All Hard Surfaces
With the fixed surfaces in your home, such as cabinets and countertops, it’s a good idea to start at the top and then clean them to the base. After cleaning the top of counters, clean the interior, making sure to get all for the hard-to-reach corners. If you left items in the cabinets, you may want to remove them for a more thorough clean. Any items in the cabinets such as dishes or pans may also benefit from being washed before replaced.
Clean Floors Last
The floors should be the last thing that you clean as any dirt and dust from the rest of the house will accumulate on the floors. Cleaning them earlier will result in more dust landing on your floors, this is why it’s recommended to start at the top of the room and work your way down.
Start by sweeping up any large particles if needed and then follow up with a thorough vacuum. Once you have finished vacuuming, give any hard floors such as wood and tile a good mopping. You may have to mop several times to ensure your floors are clean.
After following these steps, you can enjoy a newly renovated and clean home. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to start cleaning from top to bottom as dust will settle over time. This process ensures that you get all areas of the house. To make sure that you clean every surface in your home, be methodical and take the time to be thorough. You’ll be much happier with the end result.