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Tackling Your First Remodel? A Few Words of Advice

Posted on Oct 3, 2019 in:
  • Seattle Times HomeWork
  • Remodel
  • Homeowners

Workers remodel a kitchen

Q: I recently purchased a home built in the 1980s with a claustrophobic floorplan and I’m thinking about opening it up with a remodel. Do you have any good advice for newbies like me?

A: Major remodels are never a cakewalk, even for experienced homeowners. But there are a few pointers you should keep in mind. Here are some of the most important:

Plan, Plan, and Plan

The trick to staying on budget and avoiding serious delays is planning ahead. By thinking through every detail from the start, you can make important decisions up front instead of at the last minute. When planning, don’t leave out any details, no matter how trivial they may seem. Everything from floorplan measurements to decorative elements should be included. A miniscule mismeasurement can cause major headaches down the road.

Hire Professionals

Getting your remodel right the first time means hiring experienced professionals who know what they’re doing. Putting friends and relatives to work may seem like a money-saver, but it’s more likely to result in a busted budget when rookie mistakes lead to professional repairs. Don’t throw away expertise, safety, or peace of mind to save money. Get it done right the first time.

Interview Contractors

It might be tempting to hire a company based on an attractive website, word of mouth, or Yelp review. While all these are great for identifying a slate of potential contractors, you should never make any final decision before interviewing each candidate. Remodeling is expensive and time-consuming; having a conversation about the details beforehand will give you a sense of whether working with the contractor will be a dream come true or a nightmare. A gut check never hurts.

Make Site Visits

When making a hiring decision, it’s important to get a sense of how the contractor manages projects on an actual jobsite. Visiting one of their sites is a great way to find out how they work, if they’re organized and efficient, how seriously they take safety, and if their work will be disruptive to your life or your neighborhood’s.

Get a Detailed Contract

We already went over the importance of planning. You’ll want to make sure that same level of detail finds its way into your contract. Without a detailed, unambiguous contract, you’re setting yourself up for ugly surprises during the remodeling process or, worse yet, legal disputes. Avoid misunderstandings with your contractor by spelling out expectations ahead of time.

Communicate Effectively

Remodelers are not psychic and need to be told if an aspect of their work is unsatisfactory or simply fails to meet your vision. If you maintain open lines of communication with the project lead throughout the process, you can avoid unnecessary frustration or, worse, a botched job.

Don’t Panic!

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” offers great advice: don’t panic. This is especially true of remodeling projects, which can be very stressful. The reality is, you’re going to have to deal with unexpected developments such as permitting delays or materials not arriving on time, or the frustration of having your home turned upside-down for the duration of the project. Go with the flow, adjust as necessary, keep your wits about you, and let the results speak for themselves. Only worry about the things you can control.

Check Out Successful Remodels for Inspiration

If you want to see some of the spectacular results of remodels done right, check out the 2019 Remodeled Homes Tour on the weekend of October 26–27. Get a sense of what it’s like to live in a gorgeously custom-remodeled home by touring private residences across King County. The best part is you can circle back with the featured remodelers with any questions you may have about the process. Get your free tickets today at


James Slone is a writer for Master Builders of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling, or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of MBAKS’ nearly 2,800 members, write to


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