9 of Our Best Remodeling Tips

When your home no longer serves the needs of your lifestyle or your family, doing some remodeling is often a good solution to adapt your current home and avoid having to move. Unfortunately, the excitement that comes with home renovations can quickly be overshadowed by unforeseen problems, budgets that are stretched too thin, and issues you didn’t plan for.

If you are thinking about doing a home renovation, we hope these tips will help you avoid some unnecessary problems, costs, and headaches that often accompany remodeling projects:

Begin with the End in Mind

You likely have a vision for your renovation project – how the space look once the project is completed. Some solid advice includes having just about everything picked out before you begin the work. There will be lots of decisions to be made once the project is underway, so the more you have determined beforehand, the better off you will be. You will be more educated about your choices going into those other in-progress decisions, your budget will be more accurate, and you will save yourself some stress as well. Talk to your contractor, visit showrooms, and do your online homework ahead of time.

Set a Realistic Budget

Every home project needs a budget to keep costs in check. It can be challenging, however, to stick to the budget once the project kicks off. Supply stores and design houses are like candy to remodelers, and you can quickly find yourself adding in extras because you fall in love with the fancier sink, or “now is the perfect time to do this” thoughts comes into play. It’s essential to get an accurate understanding of pricing, for both materials and labor, before you begin so that you can better gauge expenses and expectations. You will very likely add on extras, no matter how good your self-control, and unforeseen items typically crop up during a project, so plan an overage of 10% – 30% to accommodate these extra costs. If you don’t use it, great, but it’s there so your budget won’t become your beast of burden.

It’s NOT as Seen on TV

Unfortunately, DIY and home improvement shows can be very misleading in terms of costs and time. They make everything look easy and doable in a day! In reality, your remodel will not likely come with dozens of crew people jumping in to finish things quickly, and you want your project to be completed for the long-term, not just to look good for a camera shot. Think practically about what you can and cannot do, and talk to professionals about how much certain aspects of your project will cost and how long it takes to complete them. Even a “simple” bathroom remodel takes far longer than one weekend, and getting yourself in over your head in a DIY project can result in it costing far more in the end.

Determine a Sensible Scope of Work

One of the biggest mistakes people make when renovating their home is biting off more than they can handle by way of costs or disruption. Take some time to ask the tough questions about what you really need versus what you would like. Be realistic not just about how much work you can afford, but also how much disruption you can accommodate in your life. Can you really live without a kitchen for an extended period of time, or sleep in the basement for a few months? Maybe yes, maybe no, but the important step is to think through the project and consider what makes sense for your household. This process also helps in planning the schedule and sequencing of your project.

Get Professional Assistance

Even skilled DIYers usually need some professional assistance during certain aspects of a remodeling project. Whether that is an architect, kitchen designer, or licensed plumber or electrician, find your professionals before you begin your renovation. You may decide to have a general contractor manage your entire project, or you may want to hire individual subcontractors as necessary, but speaking with these professionals ahead of time will greatly assist you in making sure your budget, timeline and construction plans are sound. Recommendations from friends and neighbors are a great place to start, and always check a professional’s references, insurance and certifications to ensure you are working with a qualified professional. Equally important is finding contractors that you feel comfortable working with. You don’t want to get half way into your remodel and realize you need to find someone, that can halt your progress and slow down your completion timeline considerably.

Prepare Your Home

Don’t just move your belongings off to the side and cover them with a dropcloth, or jam everything into other rooms during your remodel. Keep the work zones, and your living spaces, as clear as possible by packing up furniture and personal items. For a large remodel, consider renting a storage unit or an onsite storage pod to keep your belongings secure, clean and safe during the project. It’s much easier to work efficiently when there is not unnecessary clutter under foot.

Keep People and Pets Safe

Home remodeling projects are full-fledged worksites and can be very dangerous. From open wall cavities and stairwells, to sharp tools and electrical cords, and dangerous chemicals, these areas are no place for children or pets. Plan for extra safety gates, sealed off areas, and possibly extra baby- or pet-sitting, to ensure your smaller family members are kept safe and sound.

Prepare for Inconvenience and Discomfort

Unless you are fortunate enough to have another home to move to during your remodeling project, plan to have your life turned upside down for a period of time. There will be days without running water or electricity, areas of your home will be a messy construction site (and potentially a dangerous one!), and construction projects are noisy and dusty. If you are prepared ahead of time to live in discomfort, you will probably handle it better.

Maintain a Positive Attitude

One thing that can be guaranteed about all remodeling projects – things will go wrong and some days will be very frustrating! We all like things to go according to plan, but the reality of renovation projects is that unexpected issues will occur, sometimes designs have to be adjusted, and not everything will turn out the way you imagined. It can be easy for tempers to flare. Stay out of the blame-game, and look to solutions and compromises. Keep your eye on the prize, and remember that this won’t last forever. In the end you will have your newly remodeled area that serves your needs and shines with its new products and surfaces!

At Nautilus Construction, we specialize in custom home remodeling and home renovations. We work in partnership with our clients to design the remodel you are envisioning, and our expansive resources in the design and custom fabrication areas allow us to accommodate whatever your needs may be. Please contact us to discuss your ideas – we’d love to help you build your dream!

We really enjoy helping homeowners make their homes more comfortable by creating an addition that meets their current needs, and blends architecturally with the existing structure. Planning an addition is exciting and nerve-wracking, check out our five best tips to get started on your way to success:

Know Your Property Options

Before you even get started with design, figure out what you are actually allowed to do about adding on to your property. You’ll need an accurate plot plan that shows exactly where your property lines are, and the location of any existing structures on the property. Your town’s zoning laws will determine what your required setbacks are which may have an impact on the options you have for the placement and size of your addition. Your local Zoning office or your local Registry of Deeds should have this information available for you. You absolutely should not skip this step! Any building too close to property lines or not conforming to your local zoning may have to be torn down, so this is a very costly mistake to make.

Needs versus Wants

It’s easy to be planning for the new bedroom you need, and suddenly find yourself designing a master bathroom with double sinks and a jacuzzi tub. It’s important early on to make a list of what you actually need that is motivating you to plan an addition so you don’t lose sight of that in the excitement of design possibilities. Be clear about what new functions you need from the additional space, then you can add in some special items or splurges if they fit in the budget. The clearer you are about what issues the addition needs to solve, the better you can describe your needs to your designer or contractor.

Budget Realistically

Your designer, architect or builder will help you determine the costs for your addition, but you need to have a number in mind that is affordable and fits in your overall household budget. There are also a number of costs to additions that are not direct building costs – items such as increased property taxes, utilities expenses, and the cost of new furnishings all impact the bottom line of the total cost of your addition. You should also plan a contingency budget, because all construction projects seem to go over for one reason or another. Sometimes materials have to be swapped out based on availability, or you might realize you want to add a design feature after-the-fact. Get real with your budget and stick to it so that your addition doesn’t stress you out financially.

Hire Professionals

Additions are not DIY opportunities. Find a designer, architect or builder that you are comfortable with and let them help you design an addition that meets your needs and adds value to your property. When you are adding on to the structure of your home, you want to know that all the code and safety requirements are met, and you want this project to be completed in a timely manner, not drag on endlessly while you try to fit it in on the weekends. If you are financing your project, your bank will likely require a licensed contractor. A good architect or contractor will listen to your ideas, work to meet your needs, but also not lead you down a path that isn’t feasible. Not to mention, these folks do this every day so their knowledge and creativity is likely beyond what you are capable of coming up with. These professionals also know other quality vendors you may need to handle other aspects of your project. Not sure where to start to find someone? Check out our blog about hiring contractors.

Have a Construction-Free Zone

Having construction in your home is disruptive, no matter how carefully you plan everything out. Work into your plan some livable, construction-free areas where life can go on with some normalcy. If you are redoing your kitchen, for example, create a small temporary area with a small refrigerator, microwave and hot plate. Create a space where you can escape so the inconveniences of an addition don’t get to you – this is when people make rash decisions that they regret.

How Nautilus Construction Can Help

Who you hire to work with you on your addition or remodel is the most important decision you will make in the whole process. You want to work with someone you can trust, communicate easily with, and who has the experience and expertise to bring your vision into reality. At Nautilus Construction, we offer design-build services to help you from conceptualization of your project, through to the finishing touches of your new addition or remodel, and we can manage all the pieces in between. Call us today so we can discuss your new project with you!

Choosing the Right Contractor

When choosing the right contractor for your project your choice should be based on proven experience and skill, customer service, references, and then on price. You are building a partnership with your contractor, and you will work very closely with this person for several months or more. You need to feel comfortable, like your questions and concerns are listened to, and you need to feel that you will enjoy working with this person. Many homeowners try to force their dream into a budget that is too small, and then decide on a contractor who offers the lowest price. In the end, that scenario is fraught with disaster. It will be a painful process that results in an inferior product, delayed by change orders and disappointments.

You need to find someone with the technical expertise to complete the work and you want to select someone with whom you feel comfortable discussing your needs.

Pay careful attention for cues that you are being listened to, and that your questions are being answered thoroughly and thoughtfully. A contractor should be taking the lead from you as you describe your vision for the project. Their suggestions should reflect your description of what you want, and you should not feel rushed or pushed into any particular decision. Even small jobs can be fraught with complications and present many judgment calls, so you want to be working with someone who is qualified and approachable.

Finding skilled craftspeople can be tough. Always begin with “qualified referrals” from family, friends and others you may know who have completed a similar project. Your neighbors are also an excellent resource. Most professionals in the industry and specialty retailers can also recommend people. Someone who is familiar with a contractor’s work and can speak about his or her experience with that person is invaluable. A random Internet search is best left as a last resort.

Once you have some referrals, then head to the Internet and check out their websites. While contractors don’t generally have all the bells and whistles on their website, they should have some web presence and a site that is professional looking and sounding. They should also have a project portfolio where you can look at pictures and read customer testimonials about their work.

A good contractor should have a professional looking website with project pictures and customer testimonials.

Before you grab for the telephone, take some time to carefully think through your project. For even the smallest renovation you will have a picture in your mind of what you want it to look like. For larger projects prepare checklists, an outline and timetable, budgets, sketches, magazine clippings and pictures. The best contractor is limited by how clearly you can express what you want done. They aren’t mind readers, so the more time you put into preparing and being able to describe your expectations, the better your project will turn out.

When you talk to contractors, be prepared with questions that will draw out their knowledge and working style. A good contractor should be able to speak with technical expertise and describe their approach to you clearly. Expect to be offered several options for your project, ask for clear descriptions of how the options differ, and the pros and cons of each.

If you are unfamiliar with a contractor, ask for several customer references. Take the time to make these calls and prepare some questions. You want to know if the project was completed on time and on budget, what the contractor and his crew were like to work with, did they do what they said they were going to do, and would they hire them again.

The process of checking professional references is very important so don’t skip this step!

Consider the “fine print” and choose an insured professional running a legitimate business. All the contractors you hire should carry liability and workers’ compensation insurance, protecting their workers and your family. You want to be sure that you are not held responsible for any accidents or mishaps. Be sure you are clear on guarantees and any restrictions involved with the work or products being used. State contract law dictates guarantees on work to some degree, but there are always exceptions. Some contractors are committed to certain product lines, and this may or may not fit your project. Layout your timeline and your expectations for the schedule, as there is nothing worse than having someone fail to show up when expected.

Pay attention to experience and technical expertise, how seriously a contractor takes their business, and how they communicate and present themselves professionally, and you will find the right person for your project.

At Nautilus Construction, open communication and customer service is our top priority as our clients will tell you. Our daily attention to project progress means you can get an update whenever you want one, and you will never feel left in the dark. At Nautilus – you get the owner on the phone – call Chris today so we can discuss how we can help you!


© Copyright Nautilus Construction 2022

Chris Legare of Nautilus Construction is a general contractor in Southern Maine, specializing in Design Build Construction, general contracting and remodeling. Serving Kennebunk, Wells, York, Saco, Portland, Scarborough and beyond.

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