Home Renewal: Master Plan

What to know and do before upgrading finishes or beginning a home renovation or remodeling project

Kitchen Installation

If you are thinking about home renovations, there are a number things to consider before spending time and money on a project. The more homework you do in advance, the more money and headaches you will spare yourself down the road.

Once you begin the process, expect it to be time-consuming and arm yourself with large amounts of patience. Architectural Digest notes that many people want to start renovations shortly after moving into a new house. This is a mistake. You should live in it for a while and truly get a feel for the space and the traffic flow within it before you make any decisions with long-term consequences.

Zachary Tyson, co-owner of Tyson Construction, said the first step is to investigate anyone you hope to hire. Check with the Homebuilders Association of Greater New Orleans. Also, ask any potential contractor for referrals from previous clients, which they should be able to provide upon request. Don’t be afraid to ask any other questions of your contractor. It’s better to address as many issues as possible before the work starts to limit potential headaches and misunderstandings.

If you decide to move forward, remember it will not be as simple as calling a contractor and receiving a near-immediate estimate.

“An estimate is not going to happen overnight,” Tyson said. “There’s a shortage of skilled labor … This has been a challenging last few years … Everyone seems to be as busy as they’ve ever been.”

Pre-planning is often an extensive process for contractors. Permitting takes time, as does scouting the property and coming up with the best strategy for moving forward.

Part of being patient is managing your expectations. The bigger the scope of the project, the more potential problems that might arise that delay the project or raise the costs. Tyson said if you open up walls or remove floors or cabinets, you never know what you might find.

“You have to be prepared for additional expenses,” Tyson said.

This is especially true in the New Orleans area, where many people live in older homes. If you do extensive work on these houses, the contractor might discover foundation issues, termite infestations or other problems.

For those looking for ballpark estimates on projects, Tyson said he recently did a kitchen and living room remodel that cost about $100,000. The homeowner wanted to create a more open space. Tyson had to open up a wall and reroute pipes. He said it is always good for a homeowner to expect to spend as much as 5-10 percent extra over an initial estimate. He added that retrofitting open concepts onto kitchens and living rooms is one of the more popular renovations people are choosing these days.

Tyson said it is also common for people to remove carpeting and linoleum tile flooring and replace it with ceramic tile or hardwood floors. He said customers should expect this project to cost $5-15 per square foot, depending on the materials and labor costs.

“People have to understand that a lot of labor and time goes into removing old flooring,” Tyson said.

Vinyl plank flooring is a popular budget option. Tyson said it’s replacing laminate flooring in that regard because vinyl looks better, responds better than laminate to moisture, and is more resistant to scratches from pets or moving furniture. There’s also padding underneath that makes it more comfortable to walk on.

If you are looking to do counter work in your kitchen, granite countertops have come down in price. Tyson said marble and quartz look beautiful but will be much more expensive. If you want to jazz up your kitchen but you are on a tight budget, he recommended painting cabinets instead of trying to remove them entirely.

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