ADVICE FROM THE PROS
Experts Discuss the Remodeling and Design-Build Process
by Kai Tong, AIA
from Home & Design Sourcebook, Fall/Winter 2008
What are some common mistakes to avoid when planning a remodeling project? Not having a master plan. Even if you cannot or do not want to implement all your ideas at once, a master plan will allow you to stage the project in an intelligent, orderly and cost-effective manner.
How vital is it that I work with an architect versus a designer? Whether architect or designer, skill, experience, and the ability to listen to the homeowner are key. In general, a licensed architect is trained to think of your project simultaneously on several different planes, including art, design, site planning, landscaping, zoning, code requirements, structure, engineering, cost estimating, contract language, construction logistics and management, and so forth. "Designer" is a broad term that includes individuals who might have such a comprehensive approach to solving a project's challenges, or might be more comfortable working intensely within the scope of one or two rooms.
What should I look for when choosing a company to remodel my home? A relationship you feel comfortable with. Remodeling creates a unique intimacy; one that is enforced for a significant duration of time. Not that one should ignore conventional due diligence, but at a certain point, one must look beyond budgets, referrals, licenses, and insurance, and judge a person on his or her human qualities, like communication skills, empathy and responsiveness.
What are the advantages of working with a design/build firm? Design/build is an organic process, which best assures that what has been created in the planning process will be executed in construction, and that the project budget will be developed seamlessly as the design is developed. Communication is simplified on many levels, and responsibility is centralized. Opportunities for refinement or revision inevitably occur during construction, and a designer who is also responsible for construction will be there to seize that opportunity when it presents itself.
What are some common mistakes to avoid when planning a remodeling project? Sometimes people start with an amazing vision for their remodeling project but allow fear of the unknown, a low-cost bidder or settling for less to take them off the path to their dream.
What is a typical lead time between initial design consultations and the start of construction? Lead times will vary based on the size and scope of the project, as well as the client's comfort with making decisions.
Do you recommend that your clients move out during large-scale remodeling projects? Both safety and comfort are the primary drivers behind our recommendation and a client's decision to remain in their home during a large-scale remodel. In all cases, it is extremely important to ensure the client's specific needs are met.