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5 Things Every Homeowner Should Know Before Their First Remodel

A home remodel can be an exciting and rewarding experience that enhances your life and adds value to your home. However, many homeowners begin the process of remodeling with certain expectations that aren’t always realistic or attainable. That’s why in order to set yourself up for success in your first remodel, there are several things you should know before you begin.

As one of Portland’s leading remodelers, Lamont Bros. Design & Construction has guided hundreds of homeowners through the process of transforming their homes. Part of this journey is helping our learn what to expect during the remodeling process.

In this article, we’ll cover 5 of the most important things that every homeowner should know before their first remodel. After reading through, you’ll have a better understanding of the process and commitment involved in remodeling your home. With that information, you’ll be able to start preparing yourself and setting expectations for what the process might look like in your own life. The specific topics we’ll cover include:

1. A Successful Remodel Begins with a Great Design

The first thing you should know before your first remodel is that remodeling often involves spending tens or even hundreds of thousands to improve your home. To ensure that you make the most of the money you spend, it’s imperative to take the time and effort to fully plan out and design the project. While many homeowners would rather just begin their project, a thorough design plan helps to minimize unforeseen circumstances and gives your build team clear instructions on how to achieve the vision of the project.

Design Process Takes Time

Remodeling design is more complex than you anticipate. Unlike new homes, where the design and pricing are typically standardized, everything in remodeling is custom. The design process can take anywhere from 4 weeks to 6 months and might include a feasibility study or demo & discovery to determine what was built previously.

The design phase of a remodel takes time, but can save you money and heartache down the road.

Custom Engineering and Design

Remodeling almost always involves custom engineering and detailed design work to tailor the project to your specific needs. Be prepared for a comprehensive design phase that ensures your remodel meets your expectations. You’ll attend several meetings in which you’ll make a lot of decisions, ranging from big-picture topics like the overall layout and design of your remodel down to the smallest details like countertop and tile selections.

Importance of Patience

It’s important to remain patient during the design process, even when it can be long and drawn out. Understand that achieving your dream remodel requires careful planning and deliberation, and that each step in the process is an important part of making your dream home a reality.

2. Understanding the True Cost of Remodeling

Many homeowners go into their first remodel thinking they know how much it will cost, only to discover that the project they had envisioned will far exceed the budget they’ve set. The fact of the matter is that remodeling is almost always more expensive than you initially think it’s going to be. For example, in 2022, the average cost of a kitchen remodel at Lamont Bros. was $129,955.

It’s important to work with a professional remodeling contractor to establish realistic budgetary expectations upfront and give your design team specific constraints to keep the project within your price range.

Customization Adds Expenses

Home remodeling is almost exclusively custom work. From tile showers and cabinetry design to major structural alterations, chances are, the work in your remodel will be one-of-a-kind. While customization allows you to create your dream space, it can also increase costs.

Remodel work requires more labor and more custom-made products and features. With remodel carpentry costing approximately $100 per hour, It’s important to understand that the more your remodel is specifically tailored to you, the higher the expenses.

Custom features and finishes like tile can add to the cost of your project.

Hidden Costs Exist

As your project develops, hidden costs may emerge during the remodeling process. These can include structural issues, necessary electrical or plumbing upgrades, or unexpected delays that impact the budget.

Although it’s wise to expect hidden costs to arise during your first remodel, working with a qualified contractor who know what to expect can help you avoid them as much as possible. A contractor who understands potential pitfalls of the remodeling process and has implemented systems and processes to address these pitfalls is more likely to accurately estimate the cost of the project from the start.

At Lamont Bros., our 4-year average price variance from the initial bid to the final cost is under 5%, including client-directed change orders.

Sometimes, hidden costs arise when you discover what lies behind your walls.

Quality vs. Cost

Recognize that quality work often comes at a price. If you’re expecting to remodel on an HGTV budget, recognize that many of the home improvement projects seen on reality TV involve subpar building techniques that don’t last more than a few months.

Bargain hunting may save you some financial heartache, but it can also lead to subpar results or even safety concerns. If you want a remodel that will keep its value over time and serve you for years to come, prioritize finding qualified remodeling professionals who meet industry standards.

3. Navigating the Construction Timeline

When your first remodel begins and your home becomes a construction site for several weeks, you’ll find the process to be a much more pleasant experience if you know and communicate your expectations before you begin. It’s no secret that your life will look a little bit different while your home is under construction. That’s why it’s important to work with a contractor that has a track record of writing accurate construction schedules and sticking too them.

Realistic Timeframes

When it comes to misconceptions about the timeline of a remodel, homeowners might expect their remodel to be much shorter or much longer than is true. In our experience, there are typically two reasons someone might not have realistic expectations for their project’s timeline.

  1. Clients may not have any prior experience with remodeling and therefore might underestimate the time it takes for the project to be completed.
  2. Clients either have had a negative experience with remodeling or have heard about others’ experiences and, as a result, expect the project to take longer than what the contractor initially estimates.

At Lamont Bros., we use historical data from past projects to schedule and estimate project . As a result, the average completion date for our projects falls within less than a day of the original schedule.

It’s important to note the type of project you’re doing will directly impact the overall time it will take. For example, a simple bathroom remodel can be completed in as little as 3 weeks, a large-scale home addition can take 6 months or longer to build.

Disruption and Chaos

Understand that construction sites can be loud, chaotic, and dangerous. Unless your remodeling team gives you the green light, you should plan to stay out of parts of your home that are under construction until it is complete.

While your team will do their best to minimize disruptions to your daily life throughout the project, it’s important to recognize that construction often involves multiple vehicles coming and going throughout the day, as well as occasional interruptions to your electricity and water.

Power tools and construction activities can cause disruptions during the day.

Importance of Adaptability

To make the most of your remodeling experience, it’s important to be open to flexibility and adaptability throughout the construction phase. Some homeowners opt to stay in temporary accommodations like a rental or hotel while their remodel is underway. Alternatively, you can explore strategies such as setting up a temporary kitchen during a kitchen renovation.

Moreover, it’s crucial to acknowledge that unforeseen challenges occasionally surface, potentially necessitating adjustments to the project timeline. To effectively manage these situations, maintaining open and clear communication with your remodeling team is key, helping to ensure everyone’s expectations are aligned and the project progresses smoothly.

4. Industry Standards and Certifications

Many homeowners know before their first remodel that they need to find a contractor to work on the project. However, most don’t realize that there are different types of remodeling contractors, each with their own set of strengths and each one qualified to do different types of projects.

Not All Contractors Are Equal

Some contractors will be better fit for your remodel than others. Ensure you hire professionals who are qualified for the job, just in terms of skill and experience, but also style and design history. Look for a contractor whose previous work matches the style and level of craftsmanship you want to see in your own home.

It’s important to find a contractor who aligns with your vision for the project.

Specializations Matter

It’s also important to recognize the value of specialization in the remodeling industry. Contractors have different skill sets, and not all are masters of all trades. For example, a contractor who specializes in home exterior work probably isn’t the best fit for interior projects. Alternatively, a handyman who is skilled in repair and small projects would likely not be qualified to build a large home addition. Find professionals who align with your project’s specific needs.

Industry Standards and Certifications

In the remodeling industry, adherence to industry standards and certifications is a strong indicator of a contractor’s commitment to quality. Consider the following levels of contractor training programs:

  1. Minimal Training: Some companies lack formal training programs and do not attend manufacturer training sessions. Contractors in this category may demonstrate slower improvement rates and potentially deliver lower-quality work.
  2. Certifications: Look for companies that regularly participate in industry training programs and hold certifications for specific types of products. This indicates a commitment to staying updated on the latest industry practices and product innovations.
  3. Comprehensive Training: The highest level of commitment comes from companies with specific training programs for their field staff. These companies not only invest in their team’s development but also regularly participate in industry training programs and acquire certifications for specialized product installations.

For instance, some contractors might be Certified Wedi installers, offering a 20-year warranty on shower systems. Others may hold certifications for window and door system installations, allowing them to provide extended warranties for their work in that area.

Understanding these distinctions can help you make an informed decision when selecting a remodeling contractor. By aligning your expectations and standards with the right professional, you set the stage for a successful remodeling experience.

5. Anticipating the Unexpected

Even with carefully crafted design plans, unexpected challenges may arise during remodeling. Be mentally prepared for possible delays, change orders, or unforeseen issues with the structure of the home.

In the Pacific Northwest, dry rot is a common hurdle during a remodel.

Contingency Planning

The remodeling process comes with inherent risks, including the potential for the project to incur unforeseen costs. Consider how your agreement is structured with your contractor and how much of the unforeseen costs could get passed down to you.

If your contractor works on a fixed-cost contract, your chances of incurring additional expenses are lower than if your contractor works on a cost-plus contract. For these types of contracts, most professionals recommend homeowners have a 40% contingency. For companies like Lamont Bros. that operate on a fixed-price contract, a contingency of 5-10% may be more appropriate.

In either case, consider maintaining a contingency fund for unexpected expenses. Having financial flexibility can alleviate stress when surprises occur.

Open Communication

Effective communication with your remodeling team is essential when navigating unexpected issues. This is why it’s important to hire a contractor who commits to communicating with you throughout the remodeling process. Transparency and collaboration help find solutions and minimize disruptions.

Ready to Learn More About Remodeling Contractors?

Now that you have a better understanding of what you should know before your first remodel, do you feel more confident in your ability to make decisions your home? If so, take the next step in your remodeling journey by downloading our free 3-step Guide to Choosing a Contractor. In this guide, you’ll discover a simple, easy-to-understand process developed by construction professionals to help you find and hire the best remodeling contractor for your home.

Think it’s time to start planning your remodel? Click the button below to schedule a free design consultation with a member of our professional design team. We’ll guide you through the remodeling process so you never have to face the challenges of home improvement alone.