By Jeff Streich
On TV renovation shows, there is a lot of fun and laughter between the bland “before” and the big “wow” reveal. But in reality, renovating can be very stressful, especially for first timers.
Here are nine steps to take before getting started (budget notwithstanding):
- Determine scope of renovation—create itemized checklist of each room and what you need to purchase.
- Call your management company for alteration agreement. This explains what your building needs from you as well as your contractor’s rules.
- Decide if you need to hire an architect or designer. This is a difficult decision for most people, as they do not know what is necessary and required. If possible, submit your scope of work to your management company and they should be able to advise you of what you need. If drawings and/or a permit are called for, then you will need an architect. Many architects also design beautiful spaces. Designers are very useful if the budget allows for one, helping in everything from paint color to furniture. If you do not have time to do research for yourself, a designer can be a great resource.
- Choose a contractor: The most important part (I’m contractor so naturally, I’m biased). In any business, there are good and bad, and if you choose “bad”, your life will feel ruined for some time. Meet three contractors and do your diligence. Request referrals; find out from clients about the contractor’s timeliness, budget adherence, how they handled change orders, and overall experience. The best referrals come from your own friends. And be sure to see the contractor’s work in person to judge quality.
- Hire Contractor. Make sure you are comfortable with your choice; it can be like a marriage.
- Choose elements needed. New products hit the market constantly, and there is a lot to choose from. Start with showrooms, magazines, and the internet. For tile, my favorite place is Nemo Tile. They have been around since 1921 and are constantly updating their selections, including their own exclusive product line. For plumbing fixtures, AF Supply in Brooklyn, Davis & Warshow and Smolka Plumbing in the Bronx are all worth trips to their showrooms. For Hardware, I love Simons Hardware. They’ll have everything you need. Your architect or designer will help you choose, but if you are flying solo, you can ask your contractor for choices (some can help, some may not). Make sure everything you want is in stock, or you may be told that items will come in 4-6 weeks and then they’re delayed longer, or worse, it arrives and is wrong. Have the contractor check all deliveries to ensure everything is as ordered.
- Ask your Contractor for a schedule to keep track of progress, and have weekly or bi weekly meetings for ongoing review.
- Towards the end of the project, walk through the apartment and if something isn’t finished or not correct, jot it down and share with the contractor. Hold 10% of the contract until this punch list is completed.
- Have a big party celebrating your beautiful new home.