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How to maintain control and survive your remodel

If you want to avoid unpleasant surprises with your remodel, you must have a comprehensive plan. Start with a professional interior designer, architect, kitchen or bath designer who can develop a detailed plan for your project.

How do you take control and survive the stress of a major remodel? The answer is easy. Plan, plan, plan!

My mantra is, "Fail to plan, plan to fail." But enough of the Patricia-isms; let me explain to you how having a plan puts the ball in your court and allows you to get apples-to-apples bids for your project.

Step 1. Hire a professional designer

The mistake most home owners make when starting a remodel is talking to a contractor before they have developed a plan. The first person you want on your team is the professional who will design your new dream space. This person could be a professional interior designer, architect, certified kitchen or bath designer. Hiring a professional designer or architect is the best money you will ever spend and is the only way to have a smoothly running remodel.

Step 2. Develop the remodeling plan

A complete plan will consist of a dimensioned plan view, showing the existing and new space. Your plans should include elevations, showing details of each wall. If a kitchen or bathroom is involved, include the centerline dimensions of all new electric and plumbing locations. This eliminates labor costs to move them after the fact leaving you with a costly change order.

Step 3. Plan your lighting

Last, but certainly not least, there is the all important--and often forgotten--lighting plan. I can not tell you how many times a home owner has written me to complain about the new kitchen having poor lighting. The lighting plan should have a legend specifying where each of the lamps goes so the electrician does not have to decide on the fly. There should be centerlines of where each fixture should be placed. A misplaced fixture could result in an undesirable scallop of light on the face of your new cabinet or a chandelier not centered over your dining table.

Don't forget the documentation

Your plan should come with a set of documents: a list of materials and a scope of work.

A materials list specifies the materials you select. This is important during the estimating phase. The estimate should include the quality and quantity of the materials you have specified. Because there is such a wide range of pricing in materials, you should not leave it up to the contractors to pick materials when they are competitively bidding your job. They might not pick a premium material for fear of losing the bid.

Without this document there can be no clear estimate for your project, and that could result in an unexpected--and possibly expensive--cost over run for the job. Having an accurate estimate will also allow you to determine whether you can afford to do the project--or how much you may need to cut or add to the budget.

The scope of work is an overview of the project and of who needs to make what happen. Each trade is listed with the exact work expected, once again eliminating any surprises.

Your full set of plans is your communication with the professional contractor, leaving no room for misinterpretation and providing for a smooth remodeling process. My final advice: choose only licensed professionals who meet the standards of their respective fields, and you can look forward to relaxed remodeling!