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Portland Design Build Remodeling Blog

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Working with a Design Build Company

Deciding to remodel your home is one of the biggest decisions you can make as a homeowner because of the commitment involved – of finances, time, energy, and inconvenience. But at COOPER Design Builders, we have more than 25 years’ experience helping Portland, Oregon, homeowners through the process, and our time-tested system can help you avoid many of the common mistakes that people make when undertaking a remodel.

Here are some of the pitfalls you’ll want to avoid.

Not Counting the Cost

Early on, you’ll need to figure out how much you can spend on the project and where the money will come from. Do you have savings and other assets you can use? How much equity do you have in your home to borrow against? How much of a loan payment will your budget handle? Running out of money before a remodel is completed can leave you with an unfinished home and legal problems with your builder.

Scope Creep

Hiring a contractor for a “small update” can balloon into a massive whole-home renovation if you and your design-build professionals don’t plan properly. This is referred to as scope creep. Any remodeling budget should include a 10 percent to 20 percent contingency to accommodate unexpected problems or modifications, but it won’t be able to handle wholesale changes. COOPER Design Builders’ process is designed to eliminate such creep.

Our design process starts with a consultation at your home, when you will describe what you want from your remodel. We’ll listen to your needs and dreams and discuss with you how feasible they are and generally what they could cost. From there, our process involves initial design drawings, opportunities for you to give feedback, and revisions until you’re happy. Along the way, you will sit with our designers and choose the specific materials, fixtures, and finishes that we will use. We will come up with a specific budget for your project and schedule each step of your build. We will continue to meet with you to keep you informed and hear your input on how the project is going. And we’ll provide online project management software to allow you to stay in touch with the team and access all the information about your project, including the construction schedule, job specifications, and drawings.

Nailing down the details from the beginning, and staying in close touch along the way, keeps your project from creeping into something that you hadn’t first envisioned.

Download the 2019 Portland Home Remodeling Cost Report [PDF]

Changing Your Mind

Tweaking a few things here and there is normal in a home remodel, but completely changing your mind about the design – adding a full wine cellar to the basement or moving the laundry room to a different level -- is a costly mistake. So is making wholesale changes to your materials choices, especially if the job is well along in the build stage. About two-thirds of contractors surveyed say that changing your mind once construction has begun is the biggest, most costly mistake you can make when remodeling. At COOPER Design Builders, we help you think through every tiny detail before you get started.

Skipping Pre-Inspection

Another way to blow your remodel budget is to neglect a pre-inspection. It only makes sense to have an expert check for hidden problems that would cause costly delays, remedial work, and even design changes. Your inspector will alert you to rotten support beams, mold, water seepage, inadequate structural engineering, bad plumbing and wiring, and other unpleasant surprises. Being aware of such issues from the start will help your design team plan for them, and the remediation will be cheaper than if you stumble upon the problems once construction has begun. A reputable design-build firm will insist on such an inspection, and you should, too.

Overlooking the Obvious

Homeowners often have the idea of adding a space such as a bedroom or bathroom without considering the rooms at the heart of the home -- the kitchen and living room. It’s important to prioritize these spaces, which will improve your lifestyle while you live in the home and get you the highest return on your investment when you sell it. Focus on remodeling these areas first, and then see whether you can swing upgrades to bedrooms and bathrooms now, or tackle those projects in the future.

Choosing the Cheapest Contractor

The most economical choice is almost never the best. Sometimes the lowest bid means the contractor will be cutting corners on quality and materials or even skipping essentials such as permits, licenses, and liability insurance. So the most important step in the process of remodeling your Portland home is choosing the right builder. Be sure you do your homework.

That homework should include talking to friends and family members who have used architects, builders, and design-build companies in the Portland area. Then call several companies and ask how long they have been in business, whether they have completed jobs like yours recently, and if they would be available during the time you want your project built. Then go meet with the builders who sound the most promising. Listen to how they talk about their work and your project, and try to envision spending as much as ninth months in close contact with this company and its people. Find out if the company is licensed and insured. Ask for two or three homeowners they have worked with recently, and then talk to those customers and ask if you could go see the builder’s work. You can’t be too careful when you’re making such an important decision.

Failing to Plan for the Upheaval

Thinking ahead to your new and improved home, and seeing that transformation unfold, can be exciting. But, honestly, living in a construction zone can be unpleasant, and you should take steps to lessen the discomfort. If you don’t have the resources to completely move out of your home while the work is being done, at least find ways to separate your family from the work zone and the paths of the crews and their equipment.

Agree with your contractor on acceptable work times and how much the crews will clean up at the end of each day and how they will ensure the security of your home when. If you’re remaking your kitchen, you should set up a temporary place to cook and store food. Make sure any valuable possessions are kept out of harm’s way, and do the same with your children and pets. On top of all these precautions, keeping a positive attitude will get you to the end of the journey in good shape.

Make sure you think carefully and make wise choices as you launch your home-remodeling project. Avoid these common mistakes and choose a design-build firm with a great reputation that you can trust absolutely with the job.

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