Advance planning may not sound glamorous, but it’s crucial a step that owners often overlook according to Tim Hebert, owner of Hebert Design Build. “Good planning ensures the project meets your needs and budget, and helps ensure the project progresses smoothly,” he says.
The key is to consider your long-term goals. Will you need more rooms to accommodate a growing family? Is this your forever home that you will stay in after you retire? Do you plan to sell in five or ten years?
Planning also helps avoid the most common renovation mistake: making changes after the project has started. “Changing any aspect of the renovation requires a change order, which is usually expensive and can cause delays,” Hebert explains. “Careful planning avoids delays and additional costs.”
Alex Mitchell of Meridian Custom Homes agrees. “Make as many design and specification decisions as possible before you start building. This will allow you to better control costs and allow the process to flow much more smoothly,” he says. “Then once you pull the trigger, enjoy the process.”
If you have a historic home, this may require additional time and investment. “Regulations are constantly changing, and getting approvals can take a long time,” says Hebert. “And, your home might have outdated electrical or plumbing fixtures that may need to be replaced. Sometimes you don’t know until you open the walls.
Your plan should include structural changes as well as colors and finishes, says interior designer Kim Peterson, who has done dozens of whole-home renovations over her career. “If your design plan isn’t right to begin with and the color of your flooring and walls don’t go well together, then it’s hard to choose furniture that works. It is this cohesion in a room that makes it comfortable.
It is also important to involve professionals in your process early on: architects, engineers and designers. “You don’t know what you don’t know, and mistakes are expensive. If you can’t afford to have a professional throughout the project, it’s more important to have them early in the planning process, rather than calling them at the end when something goes wrong,” explains Peterson.
Start by identifying the problems of the house: what is not working, what is your end goal? Do you want to change the location of major items like the kitchen plumbing? Then sit down with your builder or designer to help you take the next step: the dreaded budget.
“Decide what you can really afford to spend and discuss how much it makes sense to spend. I see people putting a ton into a house that doesn’t justify it. If you stay forever, great, but if you don’t, consider your return on investment,” advises Peterson. “The pros can tell you what’s realistic, where you can prioritize, and where you can get the most bang for your buck.”
Choosing the right professionals to work with takes homework. Ask anyone you know who has been really happy with their home improvement results to recommend tradespeople, designers, and contractors. On a big project like a whole house renovation, one thing that falls through the cracks will create a snowball effect.
As for timing, Peterson says he expects things to take longer due to the pandemic supply chain disruptions. “Everything takes longer and costs more right now.”