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Remodeling University: ‘Best Practices’ When Remodeling

So, you ‘pulled the trigger’. You decided to remodel. You chose a Los Angles general contractor for your work. You settled on a design. You secured the permits and the source of financing. Maybe you even packed and moved out for the duration of the work. Now what? What can you, as the homeowner, do to improve the odds of a successful project?

The homeowners’ dos and don’ts when remodeling:
1. It’s YOUR project: while there may be strong personalities involved (your general contractor and/or your architect come to mind), this is still your home and your money and you are the most important person in this team. This is both a privilege and an obligation.
2. Meetings: Insist on weekly meetings with all key personnel. In these meetings progress should be reviewed and looking ahead, items you need to choose, order or decide upon need to be brought to your attention.
3. Everyone should be kept in the loop: whatever decisions, changes and selections are made, should be brought to everyone’s attention. To minimize costly hick-ups, everyone on the project needs to be on the ‘same page’ at all times.
4. Job book: A great way to keep everyone ‘on the same page’ is to have all key players keep an up to date job book. This 3-ring binder should contain all selections, changed details, designer drawings, fixtures, appliances, etc. The key here is for any team member to distribute any new item to all team members and for them to keep their book updated. The ‘music’ will sound wonderful only when every ‘player’ is ‘reading off of the same sheet music’.
5. Mindset and attitude: Remodeling projects are labor and detail intense. They also involve several key persons and a rather larger number of individuals. As such, there is a lot of room for personality clashes, misunderstandings or miscommunication. Plus, if you are living in the home while a major remodeling project is underway, there are all sorts of additional sources of stress. You need to remember that you are a central key member of the team. In fact, you are the team leader. If you ‘loose it’ on a regular basis, or if you routinely inject negativity and stress into the situation, the performance of other team members will likely be adversely affected. That is to your detriment as it is your house everyone is working on…and your money is paying for it. Keep you cool!
6. Payments: while you might be a member of equal standing in your remodeling team with regards to input and decisions and perhaps you develop a personal friendship with your contractor and others on the team, payments should be made based only on a predetermined Payment Schedule. All payments should be made for items completed – not for items about to start. Make no exceptions and you will be in great shape.
7. Documentation: before and during the work take a lot of pictures. Make sure all changes are in writing and that all Change Orders specify the changes agreed to, the amount of money involved and the impact the proposed change would have on the completion date. Get an Invoice and a Release for all payments. If subs or suppliers are involved, make sure they are paid as well before paying off your general contractor.
8. Hire help: Depending on the size of your project, you might want to hire additional team members to help you with the work load. An interior designer can be a God send when you need to make endless decisions regarding style, color, fixtures, etc. Also consider a Construction Manager. A CM could be of great help in overseeing your general contractor or the subs you hire.
9. Do your part: When decisions are expected of you – make them timely. When you need to order items – do so. When payment is due – cut the check. Delaying any of the above would adversely impact the work schedule and the working relationship you have with your team.
10. Insurance: Aside from making certain the contractors on site are covered with Liability and Workers’ Compensation insurance policies, you be covered as well. Speak with your agent about amending your Homeowner’s policy and about adding a special policy to cover risks particular to the construction process.
11. Celebrate: Recognize great work. Compliment others. By all means, bring family and friends along to see the progress and to explain to them what is being done (do so only when job site conditions are safe). Recognize for yourself the progress that is taking place. When things get a little tough, look back and review all the progress made on your home. Adopt an attitude of can-do and of a problem-solver. Enjoy the process as your remodeled home is taking shape.

If you have chosen your team well and are following the above advice, your project should be a smashing success.

Happy remodeling!

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