San Francisco Chronicle Article:
James and Morris Carey
January 1, 2005
Get Paperwork and planning out of way now
If you expect to take advantage of low interest rates so that you can better
afford to do your kitchen or bath remodel or that special room expansion or
addition, then now is the time to begin planning. In an improving economy,
interest rates and construction prices typically rise with spring flowers and
if your planning doesn't begin soon then you probably will not do as well
dollar-wise as the early birds.
Get serious about talking to designers, architects and contractors now. These
are the folks who will be able to offer money-saving alternatives as well as
valuable suggestions that you may not have considered. Give yourself the time
it takes to make the most informed decisions possible.
Planning, the most important part of any construction project, almost always
takes longer than the project itself. Beating the early spring remodeling rush
is a must when it comes to getting personalized service before everyone in the
industry becomes overwhelmed with work. More important, beginning early gives
you more choices. Construction slows down in the winter.
As you plan your budget, be careful! Brand alone is not the way to establish a
budget. For example: If you are working on plumbing fixtures and have decided
to use the Grohe brand, keep in mind that their basic facets range in price
from $300 to $700 each. As an allowance, $500 would be OK - its right in the
middle price-wise - but what will happen after you have your bank loan in place
and then you decide on a more expensive model? This holds true with Kohler,
American Standard, Moen and all other well-known plumbing product
So, too, for every type and kind of product that you will have to purchase for
your project. So, the more time you take getting specific about the style and
finish, the better off you will be in establishing the bottom line before the
project begins. If nothing else, at least ask your designer or contractor to
show you specific examples of what can be purchased for the budgeted amount.
Collecting photographs of what you really ant helps construction professionals.
Also, keep in mind that lasting quality has a lot to do with the "real cost" of
your project. A $300 faucet that might last for five years is a far better
investment than a $100 faucet that only lasts two years. How can that be you
ask? Three $100 faucets will last longer by a year in this example. Well,
factor in the removal and installation costs - not to mention the inconvenience
- and the right decisions becomes light work.
Once the plans and specifications are complete and after you have entered into
a construction contract, you can count on engineering and permits taking
another couple of months. In other words, if you decide to begin a project
today - and actually do your homework - it may not actually come out of the
ground until late spring or early summer (5-8 months out). Smaller projects can
begin far more quickly once the decisions are made, but projects that involve
structural changes can take what seems like forever.
An important thing to remember: When searching out a professional, remember
what it's like when you apply for a bank loan. The lender makes you fill out
all kinds of forms (a credit application is just one of them) to find out if
are capable of paying back the loan.
You may want to take this same precaution before a choosing a construction
professional. Borrow a blank credit application from your local bank. Have the
contractor fill it out. Then don't hesitate to pay someone $15 to have the
report run. Also check with local, county and state agencies that control
construction projects in your area for other things you should be aware of as
When it comes to planning a home improvement, the early bird really does get
the best bang for the buck.