Preparing for a Home Remodel: Expert Interview with a General Contractor

Are you preparing for a kitchen or bathroom remodel? Or perhaps you are considering a home renovation involving multiple spaces? Home projects of this nature require proper planning and design, and sometimes leave homeowners with a lot of questions buzzing around their heads.

To help you ready your home and family for a kitchen remodel or bathroom renovation, we talked to our general contractor, Paul Averill, who provided some insight into the remodeling process. Paul has more than 25 years of experience in the industry and has been collaborating with Lang’s Kitchen & Bath since 2012.

Q:  What is the top piece of advice you would give someone preparing to undertake a kitchen renovation or bath remodel?

Do your research before selecting a contractor and hire qualified people who have experience completing all phases – from demo to rebuild. You need a contracting crew who has experience in all aspects including tile, cabinetry, and countertop installation. Look for companies that specialize in both kitchens and bathrooms. 

Q:  What is the most time consuming aspect of a remodel?

Tiling is incredibly time consuming. You need to ensure the patterns are placed correctly and the tiles are square, level, and spaced appropriately. As you can imagine, a master bath remodel is one of the most time-consuming and labor-intensive projects because you’re tiling the floor, backsplash, and shower walls.

Q:  What preparations can homeowners take to minimize stress?

Proper planning and flexibility go a long way when it comes to kitchen or bath remodels. A project plan can take alleviate a lot of the client’s stress, since they’ll have an idea of what will happen and when.

It’s also important to keep in mind that sometimes we need to course correct. We always try to prepare homeowners for potential structural issues they may face as the design process proceeds, but we don’t get a full picture until the walls come apart. In rare instances, we find issues we did not expect, so it’s good to be flexible – whether it be on the design itself or time delays that resulted from unforeseen circumstances.

Q:  How should a homeowner prepare the space before demolition day?

The homeowners can do a few things to prep their home:

  • Create a space where contractors can set up, whether it’s one side of the garage or a spot in the yard. Contractors need a place to set up their tools and store different materials.
  • Contractors often move large pieces of drywall, vanities, countertops, etc. and it’s important there is a clear path. Roll up any area rugs and move any furniture, artwork, and décor that may be in the way.
  • Unload all plates, glassware, pots, pans, and utensils from cabinetry and store in a safe place until the project is complete.

Q:  What day-to-day activities can people expect throughout the bathroom and kitchen renovation process?

During the course of the project, we will be moving materials; removing and reinstalling drywall and flooring; installing cabinetry, tiling, and hardware; and painting. There is a phase where the electricians reconfigure wiring for the new design and plumbers set up new equipment. Any and all of these things will happen throughout the course of the day.

Q:  When it comes to kitchen and bath remodels, where should homeowners splurge and where should they save?

You should splurge on cabinetry. A cheaper cabinet may look nice initially, but sooner rather than later the hinges won’t work, the finish wears, and the drawers slide.

Tile is one of the best areas to save money. There are many different types of tile, making it possible to achieve the look you want without spending more for a higher end tile or stone. Paint is another area where people can save. Most latex paints are similar, allowing you to get the color you want while using a less expensive brand.

In the end, it really depends on the client’s vision. Sometimes you have to spend the money to get the look you want.

Q:  What are big no-no’s when it comes to a kitchen or bath remodel?

Don’t cut corners to save money. You will just end up spending more to fix it later.

Don’t hire people who’ve never worked together before. Contractors work with select crews. They get to know the way the other works and, as a result, the bath or kitchen renovation is a more harmonious process.  

Do work with a designer and installation team who have experience in the industry and can see the job through to completion.

Q:  What are some common setbacks that homeowners may face?

We try to keep it as smooth running as possible, but unfortunately setbacks happen on occasion. We’re at the mercy of the manufacturer’s production rate. Deliveries may take six to eight weeks to arrive, or longer if it’s a special order.  It’s also possible parts arrive damaged, and then need to be remade.

Q:  What would you like customers to know about a kitchen or bath remodel to prepare them for the work you do?

Renovations are a process – and not a quick one. They can last anywhere from one to three months depending on the project. Everything has its phase, order and time; and sometimes there are setbacks, like waiting for products to arrive or unforeseen home issues. We work hard to make sure it is as stress free as possible for the homeowner, but it’s important to be flexible when things like this arise.

Q:  Does the family typically remain in the house during a kitchen or bath remodel, or would they move out? 

Some clients take a vacation, but most clients generally stay in the house and are there to consult with during the process.

Q:  If they remain, how do you control dust and mess to make the home livable for the family? 

Every contractor works a little differently. Depending on the space, we put down drop cloths on all pathways, plastic sheeting walls to keep the dust down, an air filtration system that removes particles from the air, as well as opening windows and running fans.  I clean as I go to minimize the mess. Sometimes if doing a room on the second floor we can run a shoot out of the window, but other times we need to remove old cabinetry or equipment down the stairs and through the house.

Q:  Is there a point at which it does not make sense for the family to remain in the house (e.g., where they are doing multiple rooms at once)?

In the event of serious mold it may be necessary to move out. Also, someone who has severe dust allergies may feel more comfortable elsewhere. In general, no one should need to leave during the renovation.

Thank you, Paul, for this excellent insight and advice!  Lang’s Kitchen and Bath is one of the premier design firms in southeastern Pennsylvania, providing customers with kitchen and bath design solutions and installation services to enhance their lifestyle. Visit our kitchen design and bathroom renovation galleries to gather inspiration for your next project or contact us today to get started!