Remodeling Questions and Answers

Remodeling Questions

Two important remodeling questions happen  during first meetings with homeowners. They’re great questions! Sometimes I have to do research to answer a remodeling question specifically, but I love to do research because it provides information and builds confidence. For the two important remodeling questions,  I have answers that I’ve already researched and proved to be accurate.

REMODELING QUESTION #1:

“How long will it take to complete our project?”

There are two parts to the answer. The answer to the first part of the “how long will it take?” remodeling question focuses on how long it will take to complete the design phase of a project. There is no pat answer for this question, because it depends totally on the following four reasons:

Reason #1: How long it takes for homeowners to make decisions.

I’ve had clients who made decisions at lightning speed, and other clients who needed to think about every aspect of a decision. It’s totally personal. If you’re the type of person who needs all available information before you make a decision, then the design process will take longer, which will ultimately affect the start and finish dates for construction.

Reason #2: Meeting schedules.

In the perfect world, homeowners and their design professional should have regular meetings to stay on track. I like to meet with my clients weekly, but sometimes it’s not possible. I remember one couple who had very busy career schedules that involved a lot of travel. We were lucky to have one meeting a month! Unfortunately, a good percentage of the time was spent recapping what we’d discussed at the last meeting before we could proceed talking about other aspects of their project.

Reason #3: Building the “team.”

I like to get a contractor involved in the process as early as possible, so he or she can offer valuable information about the project. Scheduling meetings with contractors can consume a significant amount of time, but it’s necessary to help homeowners select who they’re going to hire.

Reason #4: Financing.

If you need or want to finance your project, start talking with financial institutions as soon as possible. Getting approved for a home equity loan can take a month or more, as current clients are discovering.

Specific Answers to Remodeling Question #1:

How long construction will take depends upon the size of your project. Allow at least:

  • 6 weeks for a guest bathroom or a powder room.
  • 8 weeks (minimum) for a master bathroom.
  • 8 – 10 weeks for a kitchen without an addition.
  • 12- 16 weeks for a kitchen with an addition.
  • 6 – 10 months for a major whole-house remodel with an addition.

Variables That Affect How Long Construction Will Take

Weather conditions

Unseasonable storms can play havoc with a project schedule. Weather in other parts of the country (or world) can affect transport of a particular product.

Product availability

Order all products well in advance of the construction start date and store them at the jobsite or get a definite delivery date for appliances, cabinets, and large plumbing fixtures. This is advice that many homeowners take lightly. Several times in my career, clients delayed their project because they neglected to select and order products. For some reason,  light fixtures cause a lot of anxiety.

When a supplier tells you that a product is “in stock,” it’s important to find out where it’s stocked and how long it will take to get the product to your home.

Unforeseen emergencies

All of the contractor’s employees and subcontractors got the flu. This delayed clients’ project for almost two months. The HVAC contractor caused delay of new home construction when his employee forgot to renew his boiler license.

Unforeseen framing problems

During demolition, discovering things like dry rot, termites, and poor framing can seriously affect the schedule, depending on the severity of the problem.

“While you’re here . . .”

When homeowners change their minds or add to the project scope, it can seriously affect the finish date. Contractors can also delay the project when they make recommendations that they know will increase the homeowners’ investment. Several years ago, my client’s contractor said to him,  “We can easily add a rooftop deck so you can enjoy the sunsets.” Fortunately, I learned about the conversation and asked the contractor to provide a written change order for the additional materials and labor plus an estimate of how much time it would add to the project completion. After seeing the change order, my client decided not to go ahead with the roof deck.

REMODELING QUESTION #2:
“How much will our project cost?”

The second important remodeling question that homeowners ask at the first meeting is, “How much will my project cost?” I recommend a shift in thinking from “cost” to “investment.” You are, after all, making an investment to  improve your home, and improve your lifestyle. That’s a worthwhile investment!

While I’m on the subject of changing your mindset, I’d like to recommend that you think of financial numbers you get from a contractor as an estimate, not a bid. There is a lot of competition among contractors who want you to hire them, but it should never become a bidding war.

Specific Answer to Remodeling Question #2 — A Great Tool

We’re fortunate to have a wonderful tool available to all of us, called the Cost vs. Value Report that’s been produced yearly since around 2001.  Why is it such a valuable tool? It provides:

  • A complete list of different home improvement projects, large and small.
  • Valuable investment and return-on-investment information for every region, and major cities within that region. You can see how your investment compares in your city to other cities in the region, and how your investment compares to national averages.
  • A description of the materials that are included and the square footage of the project. You can then derive a reasonable square footage investment for your project and do some basic math to help you define your budget.

When you click on the link to access the Cost vs. Value Report, after you select the city, the website will divert you to a page that requests demographic information. In all the years I’ve been using this report and referring it to hundreds of homeowners, no one has ever complained about ending up in  a “sales cycle” by sponsors of the report. If you do get unwanted sales contacts from any of the advertisers, please let me know and I’ll intercede on your behalf.

Remodeling Questions and Answers: A True Story

What follows is a true story about one project that was as good as it can get from beginning to end.

I met with homeowners in early April two years ago. They’d been thinking about and talking about remodeling their 1970s kitchen for several years and were prepared to get started immediately. After telling me how they wanted their new kitchen to function and look, they asked the two important remodeling questions that I’m accustomed to hearing.

When the wife asked remodeling question #1, “How long is it going to take to remodel our kitchen?” I had to preface my answer with a warning. Most contractors I knew were already scheduling projects to start in the fall and later, so they may not achieve their new kitchen until the following year. Their facial expressions clearly showed their disappointment, but the husband’s follow-up comment was optimistic, “I’m sure the right contractor is out there.” This motivated me to work hard and find the right contractor for them. Because their project also included updating the rest of  their home, I told them that their project would probably take three to four months instead of the normal eight to ten weeks. We agreed that it would be great to find an available contractor who was also a good project manager.

Then the husband asked remodeling question #2, “How much will we pay for all of this?,”  I shared what I knew from the “Cost vs. Value” report, that their kitchen remodeling project would be around $70,000, but the investment in the additional updating would bring the total to $130,000 or more. They were surprised that the number was so high, but took this information graciously. Honestly, at the end of the meeting, I wasn’t sure whether they would proceed with their project or not, but I really wanted to help them.

For the next several days, I contacted every contractor who had worked with me on projects in the past ten years, except the ones who I vowed to never work with again. You may know the type; they don’t:

  • Provide accurate investment estimates.
  • Know how to schedule a project and keep it on track.
  • Have good communication skills.
  • Have employees or subs that work on all their projects.
  • Follow the details in design plans.
  • Respect homeowners’ property.

Yes, it’s true that I’ve worked with the best and the worst. The best will take the most challenging project and turn it into a dream-come-true. The worst will take any project they touch into a nightmare.

Found: A Great Contractor!

One of the contractors I contacted, Larry Mock, the principal of Cascade Custom Remodeling, had a large project fall through at the last minute because his clients got transferred to Southern California. He was available! Not only that, but I rediscovered what a professional he is. I was so excited, I called the homeowners. The wife answered and immediately said, “I was just about to call you and schedule our next appointment so you can take measurements of our home!” Talk about pieces of a puzzle falling together!

Larry met with the homeowners three weeks later, after I finished the preliminary plan, elevations, and perspectives. He prepared a detailed eight-page breakdown of their investment, and gave them a preliminary schedule.

The Project: On Time, Within A Reasonable Budget

In the three weeks that followed, I worked with the homeowners to select all of the products for their home. It was a real joy working with them! They were always upbeat and optimistic about everything! And they made quick decisions! At the same time, I finalized the design plans that included several virtual-reality perspectives. Here’s one of the perspectives I prepared:

Virtual-Reality Perspective

Larry finalized his estimate. Construction proceeded smoothly. Larry stayed on top of the schedule and communicated with everyone daily. It looked as if the project would be completed on schedule, in late September, until one of the fabricator’s employees dropped the table top. This meant that  the fabricator had to re-make the table top using a new slab. The fabricator squeezed new the table into their schedule and installed the replacement slab in less than a week.

The design phase for this remodeling project took only six weeks from the day I took measurements until I gave the final plans to the homeowners and Larry. Construction started on July 7 and final inspection happened on October 5, three months from beginning to completion. The homeowners’ total investment was $135,350.00.

Remember The Results

It’s gratifying when a project finishes on time within a reasonable budget, and gives homeowners the results they want. I’m happiest when I provide honest, reliable information that helps homeowners make informed decisions. This was one of the projects that I’ll always remember as an achievable goal when all of the stars align. It started with two important remodeling questions about “When?” and “How much?”

–oOo–

See the before and after photos of this project in my Portfolio.

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“Today’s Home” Podcast: Remodeling Questions and Answers

Also remember that I’m available to help you with your project, from beginning to end! Contact me today to talk about your remodeling (or building) project.

Whole-House Remodeling Project

Homeowners’ Wishes Become My Goals

My clients were a couple who bought a new home in the location they wanted. They knew the whole house needed remodeling. Their blended family includes six adult children. They wanted to achieve a large addition for a dining room, enlarge the kitchen, and possibly enlarge the master suite above the kitchen. Shortly after they bought the home, they called me to design their whole-house remodeling project with major additions.

Homeowners’ Wish List:

  • A smart home, controlled by phones and pads
  • A dining room that would easily seat 16-18 people;
  • A larger kitchen with a dedicated coffee bar and more storage, and more usable countertop space
  • A larger deck for entertaining and a hot tub for the family
  • An updated living room with stacking doors
  • A home office for the wife
  • An updated master bathroom with a two-person shower and a separate makeup area
  • A multi-purpose guest bedroom and bathroom
  • A laundry room that’s accessible by everyone
  • More storage
  • A dedicated playroom with a large projector TV and theater seats
  • A storage area above the husband’s workshop in the garage

Challenges to Prevent The Whole-House Remodeling

I learned years ago to check with the building and planning departments before starting to design an addition. The planning official said that this home was close to a floodplain, and he’d need to see two things before giving us the go-ahead with the major additions:

◊ Preliminary plans of the proposed addition and deck;

◊ A positive report from a soils engineer that the proposed addition was okay.

It’s human to go ahead and assume that everything will be okay. But in this case, it wasn’t. The 760 square-foot addition came too close to the floodplain. The planning official said that he definitely needed to see a soil report. The homeowners weren’t happy with the situation, but they hired a soil engineer. The engineer drilled several holes down to 50 feet in the proposed addition area and discovered that the “soil” was mostly sand. The homeowners were devastated. They had bought a home, thinking it would be everything they always wanted. They had two choices: To resell the home, find another home, stay in this home, and make the best of it.

Challenges Overcome!

The Whole-House Remodeling Project Forged Ahead!

They took several weeks to talk about their alternatives and make a decision. I received an email telling me that they wanted to proceed but scale back their whole-house remodeling project severely. After getting that message, the first part of the meeting was uncomfortable for all of us, like trying to speak and understand a foreign language to build a strong bridge of communication. I felt the anguish they had experienced and listened to their story to gather information about our direction moving forward. By the end of the meeting, we had achieved a new level of understanding and compassion.

I went back to work to see how we could achieve what they wanted, using the original wish list we had compiled. The smart home and the workshop with a storage mezzanine above weren’t a problem, but the rest of the list was challenging.

Whole-House Remodeling Project Details Room By Room:

DINING ROOM: There was no way that the existing dining room would comfortably seat 16-18 people because it was landlocked. When I asked the homeowners if they would ever seat that many friends at the dining table, they responded that the only reason for needing a large dining room was for family gatherings. I widened the doorway between the adjacent entry hall. If two tables were placed next to each other and extended to the maximum possible into the entry hall, it would seat 18 people. A custom cantilevered cabinet is a beautiful display hutch with a granite countertop.

LARGER KITCHEN: The kitchen was expanded to be on the same plane as the garage, approximately five feet. We achieved this by cantilevering the floor joists and creatively framing a new roof over the kitchen so that the ceiling could be extended at the same height. This additional space gave the homeowners what they wanted. They chose custom gray cabinets, granite countertops, and porcelain tile with glass tile accents. A bonus in the kitchen is the heated countertop where they can sit for casual meals.

LARGER DECK: The planning department didn’t balk when we submitted the plans that included a new deck three times larger than the original deck because a structural engineer designed it for stability on unstable soil. The new deck has two sets of stairs: The large main stairway leads to the rear garden, and a side stairway leads to a concrete pad for the family hot tub.

LIVING ROOM: The homeowners found a manufacturer of stacking patio doors that met their requirements. They selected a new fireplace, and we designed the surround, mantel, and recessed AV controls that would be hidden by the flat-screen TV mounted on heavy-duty swing-arm support.

WIFE’S OFFICE: The original den, adjacent to the entry hall, became the wife’s office. She requested a larger side window so she could see the floodplain and the wildlife.

MASTER BATHROOM: New cabinets, countertops, plumbing, and lighting was designed to replace the existing double lavatories. A two-person shower replaced the existing 6-foot whirlpool tub. We replaced the double doors with a single 3-foot wide door that allowed the master shower to be amply deep. The existing window remained, and a new window was installed adjacent to the wife’s new generous makeup area.

WASTED SPACE CONVERTED TO A GUEST BEDROOM AND BATHROOM: This home had a large open area on the second floor, about 170 square feet, that was useless wasted space. The laundry room was adjacent to this room. I designed a wall along the upstairs hallway to enclose the room and converted the laundry room to a bathroom with a neo-angle shower.

LAUNDRY ROOM: Borrowing about 10 feet from the large room allowed enough space for a laundry room accessible from the hallway. It has storage cabinets, a large single sink, a built-in ironing center, and pull-down rods for air drying clothes.

PLAYROOM: The perfect location for this was a large corner bedroom separated from other bedrooms. A state-of-the-art ceiling projector and built-in speakers are the heart of the environment. We added a platform for two levels of comfy theater seats to watch TV, movies, and play video games on the humongous screen.

MORE STORAGE: One storage area is a cabinet that’s cantilevered into the garage for bulk purchases. It’s high enough so no one will bump their head. Another storage area was achieved by redesigning the upstairs hallway to allow the addition of two deep closets. The loft above the husband’s garage workshop will also provide a lot of storage for seasonal accessories, luggage, and more.

Success!

We worked on this whole-house remodeling project for 15 months. The plans I prepared totaled 26 pages on 24” x 36” paper. The plans included 40 interior elevations, four exterior elevations, and eight virtual-reality perspectives. The general contractor called me the day he went to the building department to talk with the building inspector. He said with excitement, “The plans were approved with no comments and no red marks!” He told me this is the first time in over 40 years that plans were approved quickly without requiring additional information or revisions. I was happy to hear this, but this has happened with my plans many times. Details are important!

It was a joy to attend the housewarming party, see the homeowners enjoying their new home, and witness the transformation’s guests’ reaction. One of the guests was the agent who helped the couple find this home. He told us he couldn’t believe that it was the same home. It was a major transformation that the couple will love and enjoy for years. This is what makes me happy when I know we’ve achieved my clients’ goals.

See all of the virtual-reality renderings I prepared for the project.

“See the Possibilities. Create a Positive Difference.”

If you have an existing or new home that you’d like to transform, I can help you! I listen and give honest feedback. I prepare detailed plans to help everyone involved in your project help you achieve your goals. Call me today to chat about your home remodeling desires!

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ is a Homeowner Advocate who specializes in helping homeowners with remodeling and addition projects. She has been the principal of D. P. Design since April 1984. Diane is the author of the award-winning book “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling” and many design awards.

© 10/2016 D. P. Design – All Rights Reserved; Rev. 1/2021

 

Remodeled Kitchen For Empty-Nester Foodies

With their children enjoying successful careers after college, this couple could finally invest money in the remodeled kitchen they’ve wanted for a long time. The wife is a superior cook with a great sense of humor. While we worked together, I’d refer to her as an “Empty-nester Foodie.”

The Design Process

The couple knew it was time to remodel when their appliances died, starting with the refrigerator. The wife fell in love with a black stainless french-door refrigerator made by Samsung. The has a plethora of baking and cooking vessels, as well as numerous small appliances. Meetings at their home have been mouth-watering, hunger-making experiences. There was always something being cooked or baked, and I’ve often left our meeting with a full container of irresistible nibbles.

When the couple was looking for a new refrigerator, two years before they called me, the wife fell in love with black stainless steel, and decided that all of her new appliances would be that finish. These appliances look striking and the manufacturer, Samsung, has figured out how to make the finish impervious to fingerprints.

I helped them with the layout, and suggested installing the cooktop, hood, and below-counter oven on a 45-degree angle across the corner, which gave more room for cabinets and countertops on both sides. I also suggested moving the refrigerator to an opposite wall, so a microwave could be placed next to the refrigerator enclosure panels, to minimize the depth of the microwave cabinet. Here are challenges and solutions that transformed the kitchen:

Challenges and Solutions Exclusively for Empty-Nester Foodies

#1: The existing builder-grade oak cabinets had useless base corners, and the wall cabinets were dropped down from the ceiling 12”. Both features wasted potential storage.

The wife selected natural Forest Service Certified* Lyptus for the cabinets. The new wall cabinets and tall cabinets will go to the ceiling, providing more storage. The custom cabinets have soft-close doors and drawers and include:

◊  A pantry with rollout shelves for food and small appliances

◊  An angled pantry with a special area for key storage and electricity to charge phones and pads

◊  A standard-depth drawer with two layers for multiple sets of utensils

◊  A heavy-duty pop-up shelf for a stand mixer

◊  Dividers for serving trays, cookie sheets, muffin tins, etc.

◊  Rollout shelves in every base cabinet that isn’t a stack of drawers

◊  A swing-glide half lazy susan for accessible corner storage

◊  Two dedicated spice drawers (holding approx. 40 containers each)

#2: The existing countertop was “Pepto-Bismal” pink laminate.

The homeowners chose an off-white quartzite countertop that will allow the kitchen sink to be mounted below the countertop. Quartzite is natural stone that’s harder and more impervious to stains than granite. It’s also more expensive than other natural or man-made stones.

#3: A 42” table with four chairs was always in the way, especially if the wife needed to access small appliances she stored on a bookshelf adjacent to the back of the peninsula.

A built in “table” made of the countertop material was attached to the back of the peninsula, allowing the peninsula to be moved toward existing windows approximately 12” – this gave more area for storage, and more countertops for preparation and cleanup.

#4: Kitchen lighting was one surface-mounted fluorescent strip which led to shadows where the family needed to work on the countertops.

The new kitchen was improved with dimmable LED self-adhesive strip lighting to light the countertops and provide indirect lighting. There are three dimmable LED pendant fixtures over the peninsula, and six dimmable LED recessed fixtures, in addition to a new dimmable LED chandelier in the eating area.

Products Chosen

All the appliances are black stainless steel, except the dishwasher, which will have a custom panel to match the cabinets. Here’s a list of what they selected:

36″ Magnetic Induction Cooktop

42″ Hood

30″ Oven (installed below the cooktop)

Microwave-convection Oven

Dishwasher

Success for a Deserving Couple!

The couple made sacrifices to educate their children. They provided the best meals possible in a dysfunctional, outdated kitchen. It was finally time to do something for themselves, so they can prepare five-star meals for their family and friends without hassles. It’s a unique remodeled kitchen for empty-nester foodies!

*DESIGN TIP: Many wood species, especially exotic imported ones, are grown in controlled forests so they don’t deplete the trees growing in rain forests. If you are interested in using an exotic wood for cabinets and furniture, please verify that it has the authentic Forest Service Certified (FSC) designation, and verification of where the trees are grown.

If you’re finally ready to remodel your kitchen and want to maximize every inch of space, call me today to talk about your project and hear how I can help you!