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Remodeling, Room Addition, Second Story Addition, Home Improvement & Construction

So many words of advice have been inked for homeowners looking to remodel or planning a new house construction. Most homeowners tackle the remodeling process fairly well informed. Unfortunately, though, for most homeowners being prudent means getting three estimates for the work and checking some references. If that is a reasonable prescription for success and most everyone practice it when remodeling, how come the vast majority of homeowners report an unsatisfactory or a down right terrible experience with their remodeling contractor?

Home remodeling (Los Angeles or anywhere else, for that matter) is a peculiar and hazardous undertaking. There is typically a large sum of money involved; there s a very low entry threshold to be a practitioner, it is detail and labor intense thus requiring competent management and established systems of work (that most contractors lack); and it is not a shelf item. That is, you are buying something that hasn't been made yet. You are buying it without really knowing the “factory,” the quality of its “workers,” its quality-control procedures, professionalism of the contractor, Los Angeles supply of required materials, and so on. No wonder so many homeowners experience a rude awakening while remodeling. Although there is no guarantee that your remodeling process will be a success, you could tilt the odds in your favor.

The following is a step-by-step approach to the decision-making process. Principally, who you hire for the work will have the greatest amount of impact on how well your project will turn out. In the following list, we have used a remodeling of a kitchen as an example. This process is valid, however, for any other kind of major remodeling projects you may be considering, such as a second story addition, whole house renovation, etc.


1. Define your objectives: What is good/bad about your present kitchen? Has anything annoyed you repeatedly? Do you find yourself wishing for something different? What are you missing? Have you seen something which you like (or do not like) for your new kitchen? If cost would be no object, what would your dream kitchen be like? Are you an avid cook who requires a lot of food preparation space and heavy-duty appliances? Will there be more than one person cooking in the kitchen at the same time? What style do you fancy (modern, traditional, etc.)? What are some of the green options and alternatives available to you? Such distinctions may have a profound impact on the kind of kitchen you want to have. Asking yourself these questions will result in a comprehensive "wish list." You should use this list as a point of departure. If new information or insight becomes available, do not get hung up on your list. Feel free to incorporate all constructive input into the list and your dream kitchen.


2. Prioritize: In the real world, we have to make compromises. Budget, available space, accommodating tastes, and wishes of other members of the household, prevailing codes, etc. all play a part in shaping what we can and cannot do. Organize your construction plans by prioritizing your objectives (from your "wish list" above). Your highest-priority item should be first on the list. Subsequent items will represent lower priorities in a descending order. Highlight those items which are a must, and once done, review the list one more time. If you are comfortable with what you have, you have made significant progress towards a sensible kitchen remodeling that will serve you well for years to come.


3. Budget: Now it’s time to spice dreams with a pinch of reality. You need to realistically articulate a budget for the project. According to Remodeling Magazine's often quoted "Cost vs. Value" report (, a full kitchen remodel in the Los Angeles area on average is likely to run between $40,000 and $90,000. While high-end kitchens, very large kitchens, and kitchens with unique features can surpass these numbers substantially, this is a fairly accurate average for a Los Angeles remodeling. Assess your available resources. Many homeowners turn to financing for such a major project. Home equity loans and refinances are two most popular approaches to home improvement financing. Constructions loans (which are more difficult to come by these days) are another option, mainly for major renovations and additions. Such an approach may hold some tax benefits as well. It may be a good idea to consult your accountant for a more particular advice. Remember that the kitchen of your dreams may cost more (its rarely less, isn't it?) than your allotted budget. You should reserve a lot of flexibility at this point. It is only with input from trusted professionals, such as a competent Los Angeles residential builder, that you can finally nail down an exact cost for your kitchen.


4. Design: It's time to translate your wish list into a functional and visually striking floor plan. The help of an experienced professional should be sought out for a successful architectural design. To ascertain a seamless integration of the design with the physical work and to avoid designs which would be "budget busters," engage a design/build firm. Focus your search on the general contractors, that Los Angeles is home to, who have specific expertise in kitchen design and construction. A remodeling outfit with facility in design is indispensable at this stage. You should share your budget guidelines with the company you deal with. They, in turn, should be able to tailor a solution that will reconcile your "wish list" items and your budget. The trick is to actually find the right company to accomplish this phase with, as it is the most critical for a successful project (for more on the design/build process, please visit our design/build page).


5. Hire a contractor: It's hard to summarize all the elements that should go into a good "Whom to Hire" decision in such a small space. Naturally you need to insist on a company that can demonstrate abundant experience and expertise in kitchen remodeling and (in California) a blemish-free record with the Contractors State License Board and the Better Business Bureau. You will be well advised to invest time interviewing past clients (preferably in person) and looking at some recent projects. Remember, though, that even bad contractors may have a few happy customers. These criteria may be meaningless if you do not get along with your Los Angeles building contractor. You should be comfortable with the people you deal with and a genuine, heartfelt rapport should be present. It is advisable, when possible, to deal only with a company that will guarantee a fixed price for the work and a completion date in writing. A complex project, such as a kitchen, introduces ample opportunity for miscommunication, misinterpretation, arguments, and dissatisfaction. Ultimately, it is the contractor's steadfast dedication to a satisfactory completion and your ability to “navigate choppy waters” that will define your remodeling experience.


6. Manage Your Expectations: You should be prepared for the challenges of such a project. Kitchen remodeling is a multi-trade, detail-intense undertaking. Such a project involves noise, dust, and disruption to the household routine. While you may tolerate it easily for the first few days, it may grow old very quickly. Be prepared for the inconvenience to last longer than you care for it to. You should also be aware of the variations in the pace between different project phases. While the demolition and "rough" stages may produce blazing progress, the wall-work and paint phases may seem to barely snail along in comparison. Managing your expectations does not mean lowering your standards. It merely suggests a healthier and more pleasurable way for you to experience the process of remodeling.


7. Be involved: Do not manage the job by abdication. In other words "do not expect—inspect!" Remember, it is you who ultimately has to live with the results of the project, not the Los Angeles home improvement contractor that you hire, so stay involved as the project proceeds. Even the most competent and trustworthy of contractors can use and benefit from your ongoing input and involvement. Being around and "on top" of the job will help expedite the project. It will also keep everyone involved striving for a picture-perfect outcome. If you choose your Los Angeles contractor wisely, this may actually be a rewarding experience you will get to brag about.

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