What makes one take the leap into renovation; Maybe the purchase of a new apartment, years of cooking in a dark galley kitchen, a baby on the way or a promotion. Putting the idea of renovation into action can often be both exciting and overwhelming. Often the first question clients ask us is “Where do we start”?
Mapping out the steps of the renovation allows the process feel less stressful and a lot more fun. While our forte is working within the concrete jungle, known as Manhattan, these steps can translate to most any city. We love the entire process of turning an apartment into a home and are happy to share our knowledge to start you off on the right foot. Are you ready to give your living space an upgrade? If so….
I. Make a wish list. Yes, the obvious: new kitchen, bathroom, flooring, lighting and painting will likely be on the top of every remodelers list. However, it’s great to take your wish list to the next level of detail to include specific materials and layout.
With a smart phone, or old fashioned pen and paper in hand, walk around your apartment as though you were seeing it for the first time, what do you notice? Do you feel cramped, is the apartment dark, is there lack of storage space? Write down the things that don’t feel quite right even if you don’t know exactly how to fix it. At the same time, note your lifestyle, do you entertain a lot? Work from home? Have an impressive shoe collection? Remember, remodeling is about aesthetics as well as function and form. If your “this bothers me” list has a small kitchen on it for example, the remedy may be removing a wall to create an open concept. Once you begin recording what you would change and what your needs are, you can begin the fun part, finding your style.
Thanks to an amazing website, www.houzz.com, you do not need to be a contractor or designer to develop a fabulous design portfolio. On Houzz you can put together an idea book with photos of work you love. You can even click on the picture and comment what detail you specifically like, i.e., the kitchen cabinet handles (but not the cabinets). Start to notice color and texture: light or dark floors, white or grey walls, brass or polished chrome fixtures. Do you like classic shaker style kitchen cabinets, or something more modern with flat panels. Is a carrara marble bathroom your dream, or is a rustic porcelain wood-look tile your vibe. Check out our Houzz profile at: https://www.houzz.com/pro/beemnyc/beemnyc-home-design-and-renovation
Remember, not all contractors are designers and not all designers are contractors. Therefore, the more you know about your own needs and taste the better your professional will be able to serve you.
Last on the list, budget! Yes, sounds boring and maybe even stressful to many because the word “budget” alludes to…limitations. When it comes to a dream home, you want it all! Ideally, everything on your wish list will fit into what you allocated to spend on your project, however sometimes you may need to prioritize. If you are a first time renovator, you may be completely clueless about what renovation costs. Come up with a range that feels comfortable to you, minimum and maximum. Remember, however, it may be more cost effective in the long run to do your entire renovation at once, rather than breaking it up into sections.
When budgeting keep in mind that every project has unknowns. Once the walls are open, surprises are found. Often these surprises are good, such as more space behind a wall, giving you the option to use it or loose it. Other issues like mold or water damage need to be remedied immediately without question. If you are into HGTV renovation shows, you have probably seen an episode where the Property Brothers or Chip & Joanna make that uncomfortable phone call to the client saying, “You have a crack in your main support beam.” Then, the homeowner must to choose between their Man Cave or staying on budget in order to keep the open concept design…uhh who wants that! In such scenarios, it is important to figure out a new route with your contractor together as a team to keep your wish list in tact as possible.
II. Reach out to a trusted contractor, or three! We are honored and humbled by the fact that our business runs on referrals. We so greatly appreciate when a former client refers us to a family member, friend, coworker, neighbor, doctor, dentist and the list goes on. We truly care about our customers who become our friends.
With that said, not every contractor has the same level of caring. In fact, contractors along with mechanics, don’t always have the best reputation. We recently went to visit a very good, old friend who 3 hours away from NYC, and during our visit, she shyly admitted that the contractor she and her husband hired to renovate their bathroom not only ruined the bathroom, but ran away with their money. Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common which is why you, as a homeowner must do your homework.
Due diligence before hiring a contractor:
A. Referrals: If the contractor you are seeking to hire completed a project for someone you know in the past, excellent! Take it one step further to ensure the quality experience your friend had is consistent with others by requesting one more referral. Another way to find a contractor is via online search. Websites such as Home Advisor have a list of “pre-screened” professionals with customer ratings. This is also great, however dig deeper and speak with former customers, at least two or three. If the contractor is a good one, they will likely have a list of clients happy to sign their praise. If anyone refuses to provide references…Red Flag.. go with someone else! https://www.homeadvisor.com/rated.LoescherRemodeling.26797160.html
B. Estimates: Reach out to three contractors, give them your wish list and have a conversation about your vision. Impressions count, make sure you feel comfortable and have good communication from the start! After coming to your home and evaluating the current conditions, the company should provide a free estimate on paper. Make sure the estimate is detailed and addresses everything you discussed. There should be clarity about what the contractor is providing and what you as the client are expected to buy (if anything.) In our company, we usually provide everything for the client except for appliances, however your company may ask you to provide particular items such as door hardware or plumbing fixtures for example. Make sure materials for big ticket items are specified in the estimate such as: countertops (natural stone or man-made), woodwork (painted wood or formica), flooring (pre-finished engineered wood or unfinished solid wood), plumbing fixtures (brands & finish), tiles (marble or porcelain), recessed lighting (LED or Halogen). Compare all three estimates in detail noting all of the above, not just the price. Remember the cheapest may end up being the most expensive if the work is not done correctly.
C. Visit a job site: When you have narrowed it down to one or two professionals, ask to visit a job site. Ideally, one in progress and one completed. Seeing work in progress allows you to evaluate several qualities: are they organized, are the hallway floors covered, is there respect between employees, who is managing the project and so much more! However, not every contractor has an in-progress project all of the time. In the case, visiting a completed project can do the job.
D. Insurances: Always confirm your contractor is Licensed, Bonded and Insured. The standard requirements to work as a contractor are either a HIC (Home Improvement Contractor) or GC (General Contractor) License valid in New York City. Contractors must also maintain General Liability Insurance and Workers Compensation Insurance. Many companies, like ours, have additional licenses and certifications, beyond the basics, that some buildings require. This will be determined by your building management which leads us to the next topic.
III. Paperwork & Approval. Once your homework is complete and you have
chosen your contractor the next step is project approval. Depending on your scope of work your building will provide either an Decoration Agreement or Alteration Agreement which needs to be signed by the homeowner. A deposit and processing fee are usually required for the building. The management will ask for the contractor’s license and insurances. The insurance certificates will be made out as per your building management requirements and should always list you, the homeowner either as certificate holder or additional insured. Being the full service company that we are, we manage the paperwork from A to Z, however some contractors may ask you to drop off the renovation package to the management yourself. Large projects such as converting two apartments into one will require an architect (in addition to your contractor) and DOB (Department of buildings) approval. Simple projects such as painting or flooring usually require only building approval. Your contractor should help you navigate the approval process as every project has its own particular needs. Once your project is given the green light by the building and/or DOB you are on your way and construction can begin!
Happy Demolition Day!