insights on creating innovative spaces

Helpful Tips for Surviving Home Renovations

Outside and inside — time to blend your design styles

It’s been a lovely – though very hot – summer, and now that fall is fast approaching, I’m back in the thick of design projects in New York and New Jersey. I hope you’re starting a successful new season, too.

I’ve realized that one of the most common questions from my clients is what to expect when their homes are being renovated. Construction projects at home can be exciting: You get a partially new place to live without having to move. However, the process can be intimidating and surprising for those who haven’t done it before.

My biggest tip? Consider the budget before starting. Although clients tend to ask what projects will cost, expenses can run the gamut, and I can’t answer that directly without knowing specific information about clients’ needs. Will you use high-end appliances? What type of flooring and lighting do you prefer? What upgrades do you need? I recommend compiling two lists: a wish list and a need list. What seems like a great cost-saver at the beginning might end up adding a fortune to the total price later, so it’s important to be realistic (though budget-aware) upfront. Beyond that, I suggest choosing a contractor you feel comfortable with and can trust. I have a few wonderful contractors in my network that I collaborate with over and over again for that very reason.

The “after” shot, with soothing new accents

To give you a few more tips from a contractor’s perspective, I consulted Nina Simon, founder of Renaissance Renovations. Nina’s worked in construction for 20 years, and she’s been a licensed contractor in New York since 1996. Here’s what she had to say.

What should you expect when your place is under construction?

Many people think they can live through a renovation. The truth is, renovations are noisy, dusty, disruptive and invasive. They always take longer than expected and affect more areas that one thinks. For example, if you’re having your kitchen done, then the workers will probably also need your dining room as a work/storage or staging area. They’ll definitely need your bathroom for their personal needs, as well as a water source for mixing plaster, cement, thin set and grout, and for cleaning brushes.

Another after shot, with chic furniture upgrades

How can someone find the right contractor?

When interviewing contractors, it’s important to remember that this is the person you’re trusting with your home and your money. You must feel that you can trust and communicate with her/him and that your concerns will be heard and heeded. Go with the vibe you get. You want someone who is smart, articulate and patient – someone who understands.

While price is important, as with most things, if it seems too good to be true it usually is. The lowest bidder is not always the least costly. Sometimes, a contractor will present a low price in order to get the job and then inundate you with change orders. The only legitimate reason for a change order is if you add to the scope or there’s an unforeseen condition that only presents itself after demolition.

I hope this helps with any renovation-related issues that might come up at your home. Have any questions? Feel free to reach out to me directly. I’ll be having more experts chime in over the coming months.