Q: We’re considering a major remodel of our dining area. The possibilities are exciting, but this is our first remodel and we’re a little stressed out about getting the details right. Any advice?

A: One thing we always hear from first-time clients is that they’re stressed out because they’ve never been through the remodeling process before. Without knowing all the necessary steps, they’re unsure where the project will lead them and what it will involve.

We all fear what we don’t know, and we’ve all heard the horror stories from friends and family who started a remodeling project only to realize — too late — that it was going to take far longer, and cost a lot more, than they thought.

So, how can we avoid becoming a character in our own horror story and sidestep these unexpected surprises? First off, it helps to think about a construction project in terms of planning rather than building. This may seem counterintuitive, but without a well-thought-out plan and strategy to achieve your vision, you won’t have a clear picture of how to achieve results.

The horror stories usually start with the same misguided approach: We know most of what we want, so let’s just start and figure out the rest as we go. This may work well for some things in life, but improvisation is a terrible approach for a remodel. There are simply too many small pieces and critical details that must come together seamlessly. A good remodeler knows that jumping blindly into a construction project is highly risky and they will make sure that you start with the design.

The time and energy that goes into the design phase can be a little frustrating because when you approach a remodeler, you’re ready for the change now. But a professional knows that how you start a project will greatly impact how you finish it. They will take the time to put together all the necessary elements for you and make sure that you are happy with all of them before beginning.

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This may mean multiple rounds of looking at conceptual drawings and sampling materials. But be patient. The time to experiment is during the design phase and not during construction, when experimentation can be costly.

For accomplished design/build remodelers, the construction phase is the easiest part of a project. All key decisions have been made, and all parts and pieces have been selected, laid out, and accounted for. We know everything fits in its proper place and will perform as designed because we have put the whole project together already — on paper and in specifications, probably multiple times.

With effective planning, the vision is already in place. The only thing left to do is install that vision in your home. Now comes the fun part!

 

Gary Potter is president of Potter Construction, 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 MBAKS’s nearly 2,800 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.