Home Life Don’t skip planning & design phase when you are remodeling

Don’t skip planning & design phase when you are remodeling

Most homeowners have a pretty good idea of what they want their kitchens, bathrooms, room additions and other remodeling projects to look like when they’re finished.

So they explain what they want to a contractor, and the contractor might nod in understanding. So far, so good.

A problem arises, however, when the contractor’s interpretation of what you want differs from yours.

This is actually a big problem, not a small one, and it occurs too often.

The fact is that unless you draw a picture of your remodeled room with every piece in place—to scale—your contractor isn’t going to be able to precisely duplicate your description. And very few homeowners have the ability or the time to do that.

So before you agree to hire a contractor for your job, it’s important for you to ask him to draw that picture for you.

Most people do better with visual cues than with verbal ones when it comes to remodeling. Once your contractor shows you a drawing—one with cabinets, countertops, plumbing fixtures and room sizes drawn to scale—you’ll know if he really understood the vision you described to him.

A three-dimensional computerized drawing is an even better gauge of whether you’re getting exactly what you want. Plus, once you see a 3-D model of your new room, you might discover that you want to change a few things. This pre-construction planning is quite effective in determining whether you are satisfied with your “new” space.

However, not every remodeler is willing to take the time to do this kind of planning. Some contractors figure out where things go bit by bit as they work on the room. Instead of taking the time to help you decide how big the shower will be and whether it will overwhelm the size of the bathroom. For instance, they might agree to execute your vision for an oversized shower—and you could wind up having to squeeze into the bathroom to use the sink or toilet.

Planning takes time—and it isn’t done on the back of an envelope. Beware of the contractor who looks around your room as you describe your dream kitchen or bathroom, scratches a few notes onto a piece of scrap paper, and then says: “I can start on Monday.”

Jeb Breithaupt HeadshotThat same guy is the one who will tell you, when you ask him how big the sink can be, given the size of the shower, “We’ll figure all that out once the plumber gets here.”

I’ll never forget the couple that needed help to add a master bathroom on to their house. They needed an extra-large, roll-in shower because the husband uses a wheelchair. They needed a sink and countertop that was wide enough and tall enough for him to roll his chair under and use comfortably while seated. And the wife wanted a laundry room built into that huge, new bathroom.

They brought their project to us after asking the first contractor they hired (and fired) how big a room they would need to accommodate all of that. He took them outdoors to the side of the house where the bathroom would be located, and hammered four stakes into the ground. “How about this big?” he asked, without first determining the measurements of the shower, the sink, or the washer and dryer. “Maybe we could stick the shower over in the corner.”

That contactor is a really nice guy, and the couple liked him—personally. But as a builder/remodeler, he clearly skipped a few steps when he accepted their job for a room addition.


Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, has been president of JEB Design/Build, an Angie’s List Super Service Award Winner, in Shreveport since 1983. You can contact him at 318-865-4914 or by visiting www.jebdesignbuild.com.

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