how to prepare for a home remodel in San Diego

The Smart Remodeler’s Guide Through 4 Phases of a Home Remodel

Do you know what to expect during a remodel?

There’s nothing worse than being unprepared. At Design Studio West, we’ve been through the process enough times to know! That’s why we decided to cover the four phases of a remodel, and a few steps to get through them.

Keep in mind your process may look very different if you don’t choose to work with a quality design and contracting firm. If you’re managing designers, permit processors, and contractors yourself, expect more unexpected delays and cost overruns—it just comes with the territory!

Don’t be left in the dark on your next home remodel project. Get a glimpse into your bright future and prepare with the following concrete steps. By the way—if you’re looking for a free downloadable checklist, we’ve got you covered.

Planning Phase 1: Goals, Budgeting, and Inspiration

  1. Write a list of your needs vs. your wants. It’s important to write down your prioritized list of your basic needs versus your prioritized list of wants. Those lists are going to be your guiding light during the design and budget consideration process.
  2. Determine your budget. Most people don’t know how much remodeling costs, but everyone has a maximum budget. The best remodel for you will be the best balance between your prioritized lists and your budget.
  3. Gather inspiration. This is the fun part! Collect inspiring photos from magazines and peruse Pinterest and Houzz for ideas. It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words. Looking for more ways to get inspired? Check out our recent post for ideas.

This is the period of time when you and your family get to be ultra creative and think about what’s possible! Have fun, and know that once you reach Phase 2, you can get more concrete.

Design Studio West Remodel Checklist

Planning Phase 2: Choosing a Design/Build Firm

A good design and contracting firm will work with you to design, select, and provide everything for your remodel. On top of this, they will pull the permits and complete the entire remodeling process for you. This firm will be your remodeling partner for the entire experience, so it’s important to get it right! Here are the steps you can take to make sure you select the best firm:

  1. Interview only licensed and insured remodeling firms who have been working in your general area for many years. Long term company success and stability are important requirements in the construction industry, and a good reputation can go a long way.
  2. Share your priorities lists and ask for preliminary cost and time frame expectations. Since there are no designs or plans yet, the answers you will get are essentially educated guesses based on a firm’s experience. However, they should be able to help determine whether your budget is realistic. Use these meetings to ask questions and gauge your comfort level with the designer and the company. Your goal at this meeting is to learn as much as you can about the company and their design and remodeling processes.
  3. Check out a design firm’s showroom if possible. This will give you a better handle on the design and materials selections process, and you’ll be more creative, productive, and efficient.
  4. Ask for and check references. It’s a red flag if the references are not fairly recent, or if they are not excited and very positive about the contractor you are considering.

The design and remodeling experience will require trust, understanding, and some level of flexibility between all parties to be a success. Until you find a company who you trust and respect and that is organized and efficient, keep interviewing.

Planning Phase 3: The Design Process

This is the most important part of the entire remodel—and it’s where your goals and budgets will be met or lost. Your designer should be a good listener and note taker, and they will guide and educate you about your options, materials, and projected costs without pressuring you. The design process will start with generalities and concepts, then becomes more specific as you make your choices. Here’s how you can maximize the effectiveness of this phase:

  1. At the first design meeting, share your priorities lists, inspiration photographs and your maximum budget with your designer. Sharing your budget with your designer is very important. After all, your designer will be unable to design within your budget if they don’t know what your budget is!
  2. Focus on products and materials. The design showroom will become very important as you firm up your ideas. See for yourself what some of your choices look like and how they work.
  3. Reassess projected costs. Even at the last design meeting, you can change your mind from $5 per square foot tile to $50 per square foot tile. Hey, if you have room in the budget, it could be your best decision!
  4. Check out and sign the finalized project agreement. This agreement should include your final plans with elevations and specifications, a line item breakdown report showing all of the materials and construction categories, information about building permits, the start date and projected timeframe, if changes are requested or required, an overview of the process, an explanation of how charges are calculated, and the details of the invoicing process. Read everything and ask all of the questions you have—you should expect to sign several pages of information.
  5. Decide if you should move out during the remodel. You, your designer, and your project manager should discuss the livability of your home during the remodel. If you are going to move out, decide approximately when, and for how long. (You’ll thank us for that later.)

Planning Phase 4: The Remodeling Process

Before construction begins, have a pre-start meeting. You, the designer, and the project manager should answer the following questions:

  • Will you live in your home during the remodel?
  • If you decided to live in your home during the remodel, how will the remodeler protect spaces in your home for you to live in?
  • What items in the house should be removed or relocated?
  • What time of the day should the construction workers start work?
  • If necessary, where should the port-a-potty be placed?
  • Where is the key and alarm code information?
  • Where will materials and deliveries be received and staged?
  • Where will the manpower park?
  • How and when will you communicate with the owner, designer, and project manager?
  • What is an acceptable amount of time to have calls and emails returned?

Include any other questions you have to make sure everyone is on the same page!

Things to Keep in Mind During the Remodeling Process

Even when working with a professional and expert remodeling partner, there could be bumps in the road that could affect the cost and the schedule. Your remodeler should follow the protocol specified in the project agreement to address these items as efficiently as possible to minimize the costs and lost time.

Keep in mind that the process will take longer if you continuously change the scope of work, limit when and where your contractors can work, or don’t respond to questions in a timely fashion. It’s a working relationship that requires all parties to be communicative, honorable, and committed to a quality outcome.

If you select the right remodeling partner, you will likely enjoy a lasting relationship. Quality remodels takes time, and can be noisy and disruptive. But the reward is a beautiful, functional home you’ll love for decades!  That’s the ultimate goal of all quality design and remodeling firms like Design Studio West.

Download our free remodeling checklist! You’ll have everything you need to get started.