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Home Remodeling 101

Experts offer suggestions for a timely and efficient renovation.

Bob Gallagher, president of Sun Design in Northern Virginia, remodeled the kitchen and dining area of this Fairfax Station home. Local contractors say coming up with a budget can help ensure a smooth and efficient construction process.

Bob Gallagher, president of Sun Design in Northern Virginia, remodeled the kitchen and dining area of this Fairfax Station home. Local contractors say coming up with a budget can help ensure a smooth and efficient construction process. Photo Courtesy of Sun Design/Hadley Photography

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This bathroom, in a Potomac home, was remodeled by Case Design/Remodeling, Inc. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry advises homeowners to develop a budget before calling an architect or contractor.

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David Vogt of Case Design Remodeling, Inc. created an open kitchen and dining area in this Falls Church home. Local contractors say developing a list of everything that one might want in a dream home is a good starting point when remodeling.

Whether expanding a home or just remodeling an existing interior space, building projects can be daunting, especially if the goal is to be finished by a certain date.

"If you wanted to get going on a project and your goal was to be done by Thanksgiving, the planning process and permit process is probably as long as the building process, but you don’t want to rush through those aspects of it and then wish you’d done something differently," said David Vogt of Case Design/Remodeling, Inc.

LOCAL CONTRACTORS say there are a few things that homeowners can do before the first nail is hammered to ensure a smooth and an efficient construction process. Creating a list of everything that one might want in a dream home is a good starting point.

"A client can benefit from doing their homework and being engaged in the selection process early on," said Vogt. "Maybe start by collecting photographs and magazine articles of things you like. That will help paint an overall picture of the feel that you want for the space."

Bob Gallagher, president of Sun Design Inc., in Burke, says a good source for ideas is the Houzz Interior Design website www.houzz.com as well as the iPad and iPhone applications. "It is phenomenal. There are many amazing photos on there."

The next important step in the process say experts is determining a budget. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry advises homeowners to decide how much they are going to spend before calling an architect or contractor. "The truth is not many people enjoy establishing a remodeling budget," said Dean Herriges, National Association of the Remodeling Industry National President in a statement. "Many homeowners prefer to call a contractor and expect him or her to create the budget for them, which is not the best way to begin."

"I’d love for a client to have some numbers of how much they want to spend," said Jeff Pregman of Two Poor Teachers in Annandale. "I’d rather have a client that has a little bit of knowledge, a budget and a timeline so I can come in and give them everything they need."

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry recommends that homeowners decide how long they plan to live in their home before deciding how much to spend on remodeling costs. "If you are going to stay in the home for more than 10 years, you should spend as much as you are able to create the home of your dreams," said Herriges. "However, if you are planning on moving in the near future, you should take care not to over-build for your neighborhood."

AFTER A BUDGET is established, experts say homeowners must tackle the task of interviewing and selecting a contractor. Contractors can be found through the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Homeowners should ask prospective contractors for references and proof of insurance. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry also suggests checking with the government Consumer Affairs Office and the Better Business Bureau for complaints on record for the contractor.

Once a decision is made about who will do the construction, it is time to seal the deal. "The contract is a critical step in any remodeling project. This is the one item that holds the job together and ensures that all parties involved agree to the same vision and scope for the project," said Herriges.

The contract should detail what the contractor will and will not do, and should include a list of materials for the project, including size, color, model, brand name and product, said Herriges. Homeowners are advised to make sure financial terms, including final price and payment schedule, are spelled out in the contract.

"The homeowner could and should ask questions about the process for the project’s development. They should make sure they understand the sequence of things that are being done so that decisions needed are made when they are needed," said Potomac resident Susan Matus of Case Design/Remodeling, Inc. "Don’t design while you are under construction. Spend the time in the beginning so that you are not making changes constantly during construction. A good remodeler will have helped you make the right decisions before the project starts."

Maintaining a good relationship with a contractor is paramount to bringing a project to fruition. "The key to a good homeowner-contractor relationship is open communication," said Herriges. "Start a dialogue over issues you have, no matter how small you think they are. Chances are the problem can be overcome."