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Express your tastes and your personality…

RENOVATION TIPS by Design Uniform

Renovating your apartment is an exciting process. You are able to express your tastes and your personality. Your emotional well-being improves in a new, fresh environment. If you own the apartment, you will most likely add value to it by renovating it.

Keep in mind though, that renovations rarely go smoothly and are without problems. Below we list several issues that may arise. We believe that being prepared for those challenges will help make your renovation go as smoothly as possible.

The Budget

Plan your budget carefully. The main reason for underestimating the cost of the renovation is underestimating the amount of work involved. This is especially true for bathrooms and kitchens, where a lot of the work will eventually be hidden from view. This may include but not be limited to relocation of plumbing lines, installation of plumbing fixtures, electrical wiring, framing of wall areas in preparation for recessed cabinets or wall hung toilets.

The Contractor

The most important decision that you will make in the renovation process (following the decision of your design of choice) is the selection of the right contractor. Regardless of how extensive the renovation is, it is crucial that you have a contractor who performs quality work, but that is a person with whom you can also communicate well. Please see our tips on how to select a good contractor here.

Time

When will the renovation start? How much time will it take to complete? Discuss these questions with your contractor prior to signing the contract. The answers to these questions depend on the contractor’s availability, the number of people that will be working on the job at any one time, the hours in which the work can be performed, and of course the project’s size and complexity. Be prepared, however, that renovation projects sometimes run late, because of so called “unexpected field conditions,” delays in material deliveries, and other unpredictable circumstances. Always give your schedule some latitude – for example do not plan to move into your apartment on the day after the renovation is supposed to be finished.

Bids

The industry standard is to ask at least 3 contractors to price your job. This way you will assure that you are getting the best and competitive price. The contractors should meet with you and look at the apartment prior to giving you a price, so they can asses existing conditions which may have an influence on the price. Ask the contractors to list what they understand the scope of the project is. Also ask them to give you a bid with numbers broken down into categories, i.e. electrical work, plumbing, fixtures, accessories, tile work etc. This way you will be able to compare apples to apples when it comes to comparing the bids from various contractors.

Know what you are getting for your money

We realize that reading design drawings may not be your forte, but we encourage you to make an effort to understand what is included in the design documents, and request that the entire scope illustrated in the documents is accounted for, priced, and built by your contractor.

Negotiate

At least give it a try. Of course negotiations are possible only prior to contract signing.

The Contract

The expression “contractor” derives from the word contract and for good reason. It is extremely important to have a written contract in place with your contractor (builder). Depending on the size of the job, the contract may range in size from a one page document (for a small size bathroom) to a multi-page document with many appendices and riders. You can prepare the contract yourself, or purchase and fill out a document from a design association. Make sure that the contract contains at the minimum the following information:

  • The client’s (your) name and the address of the renovation
  • The contractor’s name and address
  • The total cost of the project
  • The schedule of the project (when will it start and how much time will it take to complete)
  • The scope of the project. This can be a description of what needs to be done. Do reference the design documents you have – this way they become part of the contract and the contractor is obliged to follow them. Be as specific as possible. (For example you can state: Scope of work is to complete a bathroom renovation, including removal of existing fixtures, accessories, lighting, tile etc, and installing new fixtures, accessories, lighting, tile etc as shown on design documents 1-8 attached to this contract).
  • Work excluded from the contract. You may be supplying some of the items listed by yourself or through a vendor. Those items should be clearly listed.
  • A payment schedule. Usually the contractor requires a deposit to start the work, and then receives one or more payments while the work progresses. Never pay the contractor the full amount until the work has been completed and inspected by you and you find it satisfactory. This is the best and often only way to make sure that your work will be completed!
  • Any other information that may be important for the project, for example that the contractor must follow renovation rules required by your condominium association, that work must be performed by licensed individuals, that the contractor must carry a certain amount of insurance, etc. For larger renovations we do recommend that you purchase a contract prepared by a professional association, which has a lot of the above information already built into the document.

Changes

If you want to make changes in the design – try to make them before you sign your contract with the builder. Changes during the course of construction may be very pricy, but sometimes unavoidable. A document that lists additional cost due to a change is called a Change Order. Request that the contractor issues a Change Order and you approve it before the contractor proceeds with the additional work.

Permits

The work you are performing may require permits by your city or county agencies and/or by your condominium/coop association. Make sure you have all paperwork and permits in place before the work starts. For city/county permits you will most likely need the services of a registered architect.

Materials

Purchase or have your contractor purchase all materials prior to renovation so that there is no stopping once the project starts.

Samples

Request samples of tiles. Keep in mind natural stone varies as it is a natural material. Some stones are more uniform than others.

Supervision

If you hire an architect or designer, their scope of services usually includes construction supervision or observation. If you did not retain a professional for this purpose, you will need to perform supervision yourself. Stop by on a regular basis and observe the quality of craftsmanship, the speed in which the work progresses, and whether you can spot any problems, errors or omissions.

Something goes wrong

Even highly experienced professionals who have been working in construction for many years will agree: mistakes happen. To avoid disappointment try to understand that this is normal. Usually the contractor will admit that he made a mistake and will fix it at no additional cost. However, you will want to carefully watch what the contractor is doing, and notify him immediately if you think something is wrong. Changes are much harder to make and much more costly if they are discovered at a later time.

Payment

Request a waiver of lien for each payment you make. As mentioned above, the final payment should be made after you have inspected the completed work and are satisfied with it.

Uniforn Design. (n.d.). Renovation tips. Retrieved from http://uniformdesign.us/renovationtips.php

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