What Research Do You Need to Do Before Tackling That Remodel?

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Whether you’ve purchased a fixer-upper or your expanding family requires it, you might have your sights set on a remodeling project. Although building out your house might be appealing, it’s also a huge undertaking and not one that should be rushed into. We spoke with home repair experts to find out what steps you should take before starting that long-awaited remodel. Here’s what they recommend.

Determine what your desired remodel will need.

Before you start seeking out contractors, take the time to determine what your dream remodel will need. “Research all the different items required for a particular remodel. As an example, remodeling a bathroom requires a long list of things including the bathtub, shower tile, floor tile, cabinet, sink, wall fixtures, ceiling lights, faucets, toilet, etc. etc.” John Bodrozic of HomeZada explains that this is an essential part of the process. Why? Because it helps you…

Establish a realistic budget.

Bodrozic explains, “Research different products and brands for each item. The consumer should research five to 10 different products/brands for each item. In my bathroom remodel example, this might mean researching five different bathtubs, 10 different shower faucets, five different shower tiles, etc. The reason for this is to help the consumer establish a budget. The cost of a bathroom remodel can vary widely between the high-end products and the basics. Is this a $15K or $5K remodel? This budgeting process is helpful no matter whether they plan on hiring a contractor or doing it themselves. It helps a couple analyze different combinations of what they like versus what they can afford.”

Seek out bids from more than one contractor.

Like researching the prices for all the products your remodel would require, getting quotes from a variety of contractors will help give you a realistic idea of what the total project will cost, and what you can afford. When seeking these quotes, though, be sure to…

Seek reputable contractors.

Finding and hiring a reputable contractor is a huge part of the remodel challenge. Debbie Farson of HomeWise Referrals, Inc. has a list of essential things to search for when researching a contractor:

Make sure the contractor is properly licensed for the work the homeowner needs done. 

  • Don’t take the contractor’s word for it; verify it with the licensing agency.
  • A business license isn’t enough; they must also have their state’s required contractors’ license, with the appropriate designations attached for the sort of work they’re doing.

Make sure that the contractor is insured (at least for liability and workers’ comp).

Make sure the contractor has strong references.

  • This includes references from other homeowners, suppliers and subcontractors. These last two types will provide a picture of financial stability (i.e., does this contractor pay his bills?).

Make sure the contractor has clean complaint histories from a variety of places, including:

  • The state or local consumer affairs office
  • The state licensing board
  • Local branch of the Better Business Bureau
  • Internet review sites (one or two bad reviews aren’t an automatic disqualification if they are outliers among a great number of positive reviews)

Make sure the contractor has been in business long enough to show staying power.

  • A good rule of thumb is five years. If they’ve weathered that period of time with their reputation intact, then they aren’t “fly by night” and are probably relatively stable.

Examine the short term and the long term.

As HGTV host and “The Greened House Effect” author Jeff Wilson details, “A general rule of thumb about remodeling is to look at the whole lifecycle cost of a given improvement. A roofing product with a 50-year warranty may be more expensive now, but consider this: If you buy cheap roofing with a 15-year warranty, you’ll pay for labor two more times over the next 50 years to replace the cheaper roof (or the person buying your home will calculate how much they’ll end up paying to replace the roof and lower what they’re willing to pay for the home).”

Get a home energy audit.

Wilson also recommends, “Start any remodel project that will deal with roofing, siding or windows/doors, or that will employ interior gut-remodeling techniques, with a whole home energy audit by a building science professional (find them through www.bpi.org or www.resnet.us). This energy audit (called a HERS rating by RESNET) not only shows where your home is failing from an energy efficiency standpoint, but also will give you an idea of the most cost-effective ways to address those problems. Addressing energy efficiency in a remodeling project, no matter how small, can make many projects pay for themselves over time.”


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