Remodeling Project Do's & Don'ts

By: Chris Putman | Category: Home Improvement | Issue: March 2020

A house has a tall order to fill. It is the biggest financial investment most people will ever make. It is a place where children are raised, and memories are made, and it has to function well to serve its occupants over the years as needs grow and change. So what happens when those needs do change, a look needs to be updated, or the family outgrows the home? If the house is situated in a desired neighborhood—close to work, close to school—and no one wants to move, then it’s time for a remodel.

“I have lived in this home 20 years, and I was really ready for an update,” Gayellen Johnson, a homeowner in the south Tulsa subdivision The Park at Southwood. “I saved up for it. I had 900 square feet of tile installed. It was the biggest mess; I even had to stay with my mom awhile. The end result was well worth it. It’s a good feeling to keep up a home.”

Remodeling a home can be an overwhelming undertaking, and many property holders may not know where to start.

The household needs to put their heads together and assess their skill level.  Let’s say there’s a handyman under the roof.  If the homeowner chooses to do all the work, a good resource for assistance is the local home improvement store like Lowe’s or Home Depot.  They have a friendly staff with expertise in each department and can help recommend products and provide resources on how to tackle a project. 

Another valuable tool is YouTube instructional videos.  Watch three to five videos, not just one, on the subject to ensure you are getting sound step-by-step instruction. 

Realize, a home renovator needs to be savvy enough on construction concerns to recognize which wall is load bearing, what years lead paint was used, and if the popcorn ceiling, floor tile, or house siding is made of asbestos.

A decision needs to be made concerning tools, whether to purchase or rent equipment like a power washer or a table saw.  If it is a one-time chore, then rent; but if the task is ongoing, then purchase. 

Also, building permit knowledge is a must. Those permits are mandatory to meet structural, fire safety and code requirements. If work is done without a permit or not up to code, then code inspectors can mandate the work done is ripped out.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if self-evaluation reveals dad is all thumbs when it comes to construction and repairs, then a professional should be contracted.  Depending on the size of the project, there is a difference in how a remodel is handled.  Is there enough knowledge of the project to know what repairman to schedule and in what order?  If homeowners are at a loss, then a contractor should be contacted. 

A contractor should be licensed and will likely have a team of repairmen like plumbers, electricians, painters and carpenters. The contractor will most likely have screened out the poor hires and have a crew he can rely on.

When searching for a contractor, ask around for references and then contact those individuals about their experience with that contractor.

Search for their name on the Better Business Bureau website to uncover their rating and to review any complaints and resolutions they have had with previous householders. 

Request a letter of insurance written in your name from the insurance company.  A generic insurance letter won’t do.  It has to be issued in the homeowner’s name and come directly from their insurance company.  This coverage will protect the property owner if inadvertent damage occurs. 

One last check, do a Google search on the contractor.  If lawsuits or other issues have taken place, then the property owner can be all the wiser and move on with their contractor search.

One last step, get the job in writing. Don’t just rely on the bid paperwork. Documenting the job to include start dates, end dates, specific materials used, how the completed remodel will look with a sketch, a statement on clean up, and signatures blanks is just smart.

HomeAdvisor is another reliable source. HomeAdvisor is a site that connects homeowners with screened, local service specialists to provide home improvement, maintenance and remodeling projects. This is a fairly safe bet because these professionals rely on their reviews to gain new business.

Tulsa-based ANDY OnCall is a one-stop service provider of specialists in their field, whether for fence repair, gutter installation, drywall work, fall cleanup, or a full gut and remodel. They claim no job is too small. Most of the heavy lifting has been done for the householder as they are insured, provide free estimates, a one-year guarantee and price by the job, not by the hour.

“We’re here to serve the Tulsa area,” ANDY OnCall General Manager Jason Baker said. “We’re passionate about what we do. We established the business in 2003, and we do quality work.” 

Decide on a budget. The cost of materials and labor is never enough. More times than not, the job may hit a bump in the road. For instance, when tearing into a wall, the contractor may find plumbing not hooked up correctly, and that diagnosis explains why the kitchen sink runs slow. That’s great news, but that discovery is going to cost an extra visit from the plumber along with an extra charge — always factor in a contingency budget.

Scheduling the job can be problematic if property owners don’t think through their daily schedule. Would it be smarter to plan a construction job to be ongoing during the school year when the kids are gone for the day and not underfoot of workers?  Homeowners should plan for power outages when electricians are working and water shut-off when plumbers are on the job. Consider the weather when remodeling. Will workers need to move the A/C unit leaving you without air conditioning on the hottest day of the year?  Consider all the potential issues before launching into the project.

Finally, realize the upheaval in a daily routine a reno can provide. Homes can be a dusty mess, children’s routines may be disrupted, and the loud noises and strangers in the house can be upsetting for furry friends. Also, realize that damage can be done to surroundings if household items are left in a worker’s way. Put plastic down on all floors in the area, cover upholstered furniture with sheets and just know that dust will settle everywhere, even rooms away from the work site. Change air filters before and after the project.

But once the job is done and the mess is cleaned up, homeowners are left with a like-new house they can enjoy and be proud of.  A side benefit of all the effort, the resale value just may increase enough to cover the cost of the remodel.

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