Q: After spending a lot of time at home during the pandemic, we’re eager to start a remodel project to make our space work better. What should we prepare for in these unique times?

A: Seattle-area homeowners looking to remodel have been shocked to discover significantly longer timelines all around. Even scheduling an initial conversation with a company or contractor can take weeks.

Unfortunately, the remodeling industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, a skilled labor shortage and manufacturing supply issues. Local projects that once took a couple of months can now stretch on for six or seven months, sometimes even longer. If you’re planning to remove walls or relocate plumbing, you’ll need a building permit. In Seattle, the permitting process used to take six to eight weeks. Now, some contractors are waiting 16 to 18 weeks due to a massive backlog at the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections.

But there is hope. Despite these challenges, many homeowners are still succeeding with remodeling projects. The first step is accepting the reality of longer wait times to get started, design and build. Once you adjust your expectations, you can focus on the benefits — yes, benefits — of longer timeframes.

Define what your home actually needs

Most well-qualified Seattle designers and design-build companies are booked months out. While you await your first consultation, you can take advantage of the time by undertaking a major decluttering project. 

One of the biggest challenges facing homeowners is a lack of storage space, but sometimes it’s less about storage and more about holding onto things you don’t really need. Instead of remodeling around clutter, make sure the stuff you want to store is actually worth it. It may seem trivial, but the last thing you want to do is commit to extra storage or cabinetry for items you don’t need or want anymore. Develop new spaces around things you use and enjoy. Maxing out cabinetry and closets to avoid a major home organizing project often results in wasted time and money. 

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Dial in your design

When undertaking a remodel, hiring a professional interior designer to help is beneficial, especially for major projects that remove walls and relocate plumbing. Even with hundreds of hours of HGTV under your belt, there’s no substitute for a trained professional. There are many Seattle-based interior designers to choose from, and design-build firms have both designers and builders under the same roof so you can work with one company for the entire project.

Hiring a designer will increase your initial budget but will also help you avoid the cost of fixing mistakes after construction begins. Local designers also have access to more products than what’s available in big-box stores — which are usually of higher quality — and can confidently recommend selections because they know and trust the manufacturers or have used similar products in other projects. These recommendations can save you time and money in the long run and reduce the stress associated with choosing fixtures and design elements.

Focus on connection and communication

A longer timeframe will allow you and your designer to get to know each other. Qualified designers can produce better design results when they understand the client and their intentions for their new space. Connect frequently with your designer during the wait so you’re aligned about what the project needs to be successful.

Once construction is underway, insist on regular updates — even if the work is postponed due to a permitting backlog or a materials delay. While no news may feel like good news, stay connected so the builders are aware of changes in the home or project scope. 

Sometimes a construction delay can give you time to experience your space in the in-between stage. We once had a client decide they actually loved the rustic look of a new support beam — andsso they took the liberty of staining the beam themselves. Without regular communication, we would have ordered materials and scheduled staff to enclose the beam as originally planned. By reaching out to us, the client saved everyone time and money. (And, for the record, the beam looks incredible!)

Longer timelines may test your endurance, but when homeowners choose the right builder, the discomfort and annoyance of waiting can be successfully managed. My advice to any homeowner considering a remodel: Take a deep breath, muster all of your patience and commit to pursuing your vision and dream for your home.

Teri McDermott is CEO and owner of CRD Design Build, a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling, or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s more than 2,700 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.