Planning Ahead

Want to hire a remodeling firm to do work in your home during 2007? You have some important  decisions to make in the next six months. Follow this timeline and you'll be mentally and financially prepared for the undertaking long before the dust st

Playing host is not always fun. It can be stressful, tiring and inconvenient. This is especially true if those guests are workers you’ve paid to tear up your home. But with a remodeling project, just as with a dinner party, there is etiquette to follow, and knowing what to expect as well as how to plan and ready your home, can make all the difference. Starting early is always a good call. The following timeline will help you plan a project, hire the right firm for the job and ready your living space for the workers’ arrival.

Six months to one year before

Pete Chaky, owner of Chaky Remodeling Inc. of Cleveland, says homeowners should start thinking about their remodeling project a year to six months before they’d like it to begin. Home remodeling firms always get a surge of business in October, just before the holidays, so the earlier a homeowner can schedule and start the process, the better.

He says the most important part of any home remodeling process is proper planning in the months leading up to that first day of construction. A crucial part of that planning is selecting a contractor, and that decision depends greatly on a homeowner’s level of trust.

“When we’re done, you have to live with it,” Chaky says. “The most important thing is to feel comfortable and to trust workers in your home, so they can have keys.”

That trust comes from doing your homework. Begin by asking people you trust for referrals, Chaky says. Start with friends or contract suppliers and wholesalers.

“There are a lot of fly-by-night guys who get a pickup truck and become a contractor,” Chaky says. He says homeowners are normally looking for three things: price, service and quality. He recommends homeowners focus on the two that matter most to them, because it’s hard to come by all three.

The first six months of a yearlong planning process should be focused on finding a good remodeler, according to Ken Badalamenti, owner of Riviera Construction Inc. in Solon. He estimates it could take six months to go through the design of a project, so planning ahead is always important. Badalamenti says hiring a contractor is the most important part of the planning phase. If done properly, everything else should fall in line. “You have to find that trust,” he says.

One to three months before

This is a crucial preparation time. By now, the strain of the design should be winding down and it’s time to get to the details of preparing to host workers in your home.

Schedule a time to sit down with the contractor and plan, Badalamenti says. Parking arrangements, guidelines for work hours, stop and start times — all things that fall under the category “job site etiquette” should be discussed during the final contract negotiations.

Even details such as coarse language, smoking, radios and use of certain bathrooms and doors should all be discussed ahead of time.

Depending on the job size, the contractor will need an adequate place to store equipment. Badalamenti recommends clearing a space in the garage. A dumpster in which to store debris and keep the work site clean also should be discussed before workers arrive.

Analyze the room being remodeled. Badalamenti explains that, especially in older homes, some materials are unique and the homeowner should decide before construction begins if there is anything he’d like to try to salvage before they start tearing up the room.

Consider how remodeling spaces such as your kitchen, bathroom and basement will affect your day-to-day life. Badalamenti says firms can often build a temporary kitchen or move laundry facilities for the duration of the project, but those details need to be discussed before work starts.

If you insist on being home, Badalamenti says it’s important to let the crew work without interruption. Know that job sites are often dirty, loud and hectic and remember that constantly watching over workers’ shoulders will adversely affect morale.

“Remodeling is a service, not a product,” Badalamenti says.

Leaving workers alone in the home is a personal choice, but most reputable contractors will have insurance in case something bad happens. Trust will allow the contractor to do his job and not have to worry about damages to property, Badalamenti says.

Some firms offer some added peace of mind. For the past year, Pat Hurst, vice president of Hurst Construction Inc. has offered a service that makes many customers feel comfortable enough to plan vacations while workers are in the home: Hurst has set up a Web site that allows homeowners to monitor job progress from afar.

In these months leading up to the start of work, you should consider living arrangements and whether moving out of the home as work commences would be easier for all involved.

One week before

The lines of communication with the contractor should always be open at this point. Badalamenti says any good contractor will be in constant communication, but a client should never hesitate to call with questions or to confirm work schedules.

Start surveying your home and consider moving breakables and taking down wall hangings around areas workmen might be constantly moving through. Chaky says it’s always good to have paths cleared in the areas workmen will be walking. While he says most contractors will bring their own plastic tarps and covers, it’s never a bad idea for homeowners to cover additional furniture because dust has a tendency to spread. Prepare yourself for plenty of dust, regardless of the project.

The day before

Today is a time of mental preparation for homeowners.

“Remodeling can turn home and life upside down,” Badalamenti says. “I go home at 4:30 p.m. They have to live in it 24 hours a day. There will be dust no matter how hard a remodeler tries, and the homeowner needs to be prepared.”

Remodeling is an “emotional rollercoaster,” he explains. Homeowners tend to get very excited during planning all the way up to the day construction starts. But then things get messy, noisy and draining. As the weeks go by and the job nears completion, Badalamenti says residents are back in good spirits and ready to see the end result — the most exciting and rewarding part of all. Know it’s going to get stressful, but it will get better. Pump yourself up and enter the project with a positive attitude.

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