Planning Makes Perfect

by Liz Hunter | Feb 22, 2015
Planning Makes Perfect …From the pages of House & Home…

Remodeling projects go more smoothly when there’s a good plan in place.

Do you find yourself looking around your home and noticing all of the little things that are wrong with it? Maybe it’s that one kitchen drawer that doesn’t shut without a good hip check, or the blue tub that screams 1970s.

At some point, the things that were once charming in a home become frustrations, leading many homeowners to pursue buying a new home or remodeling their current one.

Of course, remodeling is something that has to be budgeted for, and in recent years, many people have been holding back on spending on these major projects. But that could be changing. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, spending nationwide on home improvement could easily exceed $300 billion in 2015.

Local companies are seeing this trend for themselves.

“Going into 2015, I am seeing a lot [more] interest in people remodeling their kitchens and bathrooms than in previous years,” says David Gropper of Somerville Aluminum, a third-generation, family-owned and operated home remodeling firm in Branchburg, N.J. “People had been holding back on larger purchases because of the economy, but now things seem to be getting better and they want to work on these larger projects.”

If you’re among the group of homeowners ready to make a change, whether it’s an addition, a new laundry room, master suite or kitchen, there are a number of factors to consider that will help make the outcome just what you envisioned.

Where to start
Big or small, projects have to start somewhere, and in remodeling, that answer can be determined by timeline, budget and sequence.

“It’s usually best to start with designing all the rooms as a whole,” says Stephen Campbell, CR architectural designer at Harth Builders in Spring House, Pa., a family-owned renovation and remodeling business with more than 30 years of experience. “It would be unfortunate to do one room at a time and then realize something could have been done differently, but we’re all the way to room three.”

Campbell says once a design is in place a contractor will then strategize on how best to accomplish it, whether in phases or all at once.

“As a rule of thumb, it is less expensive to do the work all at once. All the setup, management, and cleanup happens at once, condensing the project schedule. However, if a whole house remodel is done at once, it may mean the homeowner may need to temporarily move out of the house for a short time during construction,” he says.

It often comes down to what works best for the homeowner.

“It depends on the scope of the project if done in stages or all at once,” says Todd Wenger, owner of Wenger Contracting in Chester Heights, Pa., a design-build carpentry firm. “Remodeling can be inconvenient, so we need to ask the client their preference. If they have two bathrooms, which one do they want done first? It might be best to do the smaller [or] easier one first. Or if you only have one bathroom, do you have somewhere you can shower, like a relative’s or neighbor’s house?”

Building in stages makes sense for clients who want to stay in their home and want to break the budget down into bite-sized pieces, even if the overall cost is a little higher, says Campbell.

Who to hire
This decision can make or break a project. We’ve all heard horror stories of companies leaving homeowners with unfinished jobs and no way of getting restitution. One of the best ways to alleviate any fears of this is to do your research.

Bill O’Toole, owner of Bill O’Toole Kitchen Remodeling in Blue Bell, Pa., has been doing kitchen remodels for 40 years. “Doing your homework is so important,” he says. “Homeowners need to know who they are dealing with. The best way to do that is to check and call their references.” He warns against trusting a third-party website that verifies a company’s work.

Gropper recommends looking into a design-build firm. “This means the same company that is designing your project is also building it,” he says. “It’s important for controlling the process, from concept to finished product. If you have someone design it and then find a contractor to build it, they might not share the same vision. This can lead to miscommunication between parties and stress for the homeowner. A design/build firm has a vested interest in seeing things through.”

Experts say it’s best to hire a contractor who has connections with other areas of home remodeling, like plumbing and electrical. “Sometimes a homeowner will want to hire their own plumber or electrician separately thinking it will save them money,” says Wenger. “You might think you found a bargain on an electrician, but does their schedule line up? When you’re hiring a professional contractor, you want him to bring all of his resources.”

Communication is also important to keeping the project moving forward.

“Proper planning is key. Before you rip apart a bathroom or kitchen, have all of your contractors lined up, materials ready, etc. The contractor should be able to give you a calendar so you know when things are happening, and if something changes by a day, they should communicate those changes to you. Projects like these interrupt your life and family, so it’s important they stay on track,” say Gropper.

What to avoid
Just like anything else, money is a major factor in the scale of a remodeling project. But this isn’t the time to be frugal just for the sake of it.

“Cost is usually the biggest influence in a remodel,” says O’Toole. “You need to be able to separate the better products from the so-so ones. You get what you pay for, whether it’s materials or the contractor you choose.”

Campbell has seen clients make mistakes when trying to save money.

“One of the biggest mistakes is pursuing a false savings,” Campbell says. “These can be tricky to identify. They are options homeowners sometimes pursue thinking that it will save time or money. However, a false savings will cost the same or more. As an example, a past client remodeling their bathroom wanted to save money on their shower tile by choosing a significantly less expensive marble than other alternatives. However, when the product arrived on site, the tile was very fragile. It seemed to crumble in your hands. Also, the natural veining looked rather odd. In fact, it was so fragile and different looking that we ended up having to order even more tile and take more time to carefully lay out the tile on the wall. The amount of tile needed ended up costing more money than the ‘expensive’ alternative and prolonged the project schedule.”

In the end, it all comes down to planning. Campbell says, “Take the time to plan. Don’t rush into a project for time’s sake. Proper planning allows for swift and effective execution.”


Bill O’Toole Kitchen Remodeling
Blue Bell, Pa.
(610) 279-7247

Harth Builders
Spring House, Pa.
(215) 654-0364

Somerville Aluminum
Branchburg, N.J.
(800) 346-3693

Wenger Contracting, Inc.
Chester Heights, Pa.
(610) 361-2860

Published (and copyrighted) in House & Home, Volume 15, Issue 8 (February, 2015).
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Author: Liz Hunter



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