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A kitchen is illuminated by relocating windows.
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Before you remodel: 10 quick tips

Thinking of remodeling? You won’t find a better time than the present. The downturn in the housing market makes this a great time to invest in improving your home. Designers and builders are available to move quickly on projects—assuring a lovelier home for you and increased value if ever you opt to sell. As you envision your project, keep these ideas in mind:
  1. Consider a full-service building and remodeling firm. It's the best way to assure that your building or remodeling project is handled creatively and smoothly from start to finish.

  2. Depend on architects/designers to help bring your dreams to life.  Indispensible members of the remodeling team, designers can offer insights and solutions that may not occur to homeowners or other experts. They’re adept at creating plans focused on optimal “livability,” attractive materials and reasonable cost. And, most design professionals have great connections to reputable contractors.

  3. Select a contractor sooner, not later. It’s often helpful to involve representatives of the major trades in the design process. They can identify opportunities to improve the final product and reduce cost.

  4. Start asking questions early about costs. It’s essential to work closely with your consultants to determine a realistic budget for your project. Make sure to build in a contingency fund of 5-10% for new construction and 10-15% for remodeling. These “cushions” are necessary to cover unforeseen circumstances or last-minute plan changes. And it’s often wise to ask a local realtor how the improvements you’re considering will affect your home’s value.

  5. Agree upon a payment schedule. The project schedule provided by your contractor is a good starting point for discussing the timing of payments. 

  6. Determine your home’s current condition. Doing so will avert surprises and unexpected costs as the project proceeds. It’s important to measure the building’s air leakage, insulation levels, combustion safety, and mechanical systems—and to inspect its exterior components (roofing, siding, etc.). Also check for the presence of any hazardous materials.

  7. Try to make use of sustainable building practices. Consider having your project certified through the Minnesota GreenStar or LEED programs. It’s always smart to minimize your home’s use of energy and water—a goal easily achieved by investing in efficient appliances.

  8. Consider using universal design principles—new but simple strategies to make living in your home easier as you age. It only makes sense to choose a design that can be modified as the needs of a home’s inhabitants change. Building in “accessibility” makes your home more welcoming to people with limited mobility and is another way to broaden its sales appeal.

  9. Make sure your contractor provides all necessary legal documents—including a written contract, workers-compensation insurance, proof of general liability and a release of lien rights for all monies received. Don’t forget to decide which party will be responsible for insuring the work in progress (commonly called Builders Risk Insurance). Also, notify your insurance agent to ensure your homeowner’s policy is up to date.

  10. Think ahead about logistics. If you’ll be living in your home as it’s remodeled, discuss concerns about your comfort and privacy—and about what you expect of workers. (What schedule will they keep? How will they gain access to the worksite? To toilet facilities?) And, don’t forget to consider the project’s impact on your neighbors. It’s wise to agree up front on a plan for minimizing the amount of noise, dust and other disruption produced by the project. If a nearby neighbor is especially sensitive about the project, give the contractor a head’s-up.

Managed thoughtfully, a home-remodeling project need not be a journey into the Valley of Chaos. It can be an exciting adventure that brings people together in pursuit of a vision. The completion date will arrive sooner than you think, enhancing the lives of home-dwellers—and even of friends and neighbors who come to call.

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