If you’re going to spend the money to renovate your home, it’s not unreasonable for you to expect a high-quality remodel. Unfortunately, thanks largely to HGTV and the romanticization of for-profit house-flipping, there’s a lot of confusion as to what actually makes a remodel worth your money.
The truth is, a lot of the house flip remodels you see on TV are done by cutting corners and using cheap materials. While it may be good for making a buck, it’s not a remodel that’s designed or built with the homeowner in mind.
At Lamont Bros., we work directly with homeowners to design and build home remodel projects that our clients will live in. In our experience, there’s a big difference between the kind of remodel you want to live in and the kind you want to sell for a profit.
So, what makes a high-quality remodel built with the homeowner in mind? The answer comes down to two defining characteristics:
A well-designed remodel should do more than simply increase space, add cool features, or improve the appearance of your home. When done correctly, a remodel should enhance the quality and flow of your life.
The challenge in achieving a high-quality design is that there is no set way to do it. Sure, there are some fundamental guidelines. Like, “Don’t put the refrigerator where the door might block foot traffic.” Or, “Always make sure there’s a GFCI outlet near your bathroom mirror.” However, the quality of a remodel’s design ultimately comes down to how well it suits the homeowner’s lifestyle.
A high-quality remodel starts with a design made specifically for you. Not for the next home buyer. Not for TV viewers at home. For the person who actually has to live there. Below are a few factors an experienced designer should consider when helping plan your remodel.
The number of people living in a home has a direct influence on what the space does and doesn’t need.
For example, if you have a large family, you’ll likely need a larger kitchen with more counter space, extra stovetop burners, and a refrigerator with additional storage. A childfree couple who rarely entertain guests can live in relative luxury with a kitchen half that size.
Homes for large families also often benefit from split bathrooms, with the sink and toilet areas separated from one another.
For homeowners who are significantly shorter or taller than the average person, remodeling is a great opportunity to customize your home to fit your needs.
Wall cabinets can be seriously frustrating for people on the shorter side. Thankfully, a skilled kitchen designer can create a cabinetry layout plan that maximizes useful space within their reach.
Or, if you’re a 7’4” NBA player, a 6’8” door opening might not feel roomy enough. Perhaps even the showerhead in your bathroom is too low to be of any use. Not to worry; these issues are completely solvable with some good design work.
Do you work from home, or spend a lot of time away? The amount of time you spend at home can have a tremendous impact on the design of your home. For some, a custom home office is a must-have. For others, it’s all about building a state-of-the-art home theater or gym to come home to after a long day at the office.
For the elderly or people with physical disabilities, a well-designed remodel can greatly improve their quality of life. Sometimes, this may simply look like installing handrails throughout the home and replacing a tub with a walk-in shower. Other times, it may look more like renovating the entire home to be more accessible, including ramps, lifts, an elevator and various mobility aids.
Ultimately, the design comes down to what a homeowner needs in order to thrive in their home. The bottom line is that different people have different needs. therefore, it’s important to work with a designer who understands how to translate a person’s lifestyle into their home’s design.
Another important distinction that affects the overall quality of a remodel is how precisely specified the project is. Specification is the process during which the remodel is clearly defined in terms of layout, product selection, and finish materials.
The more detailed your design is during the specification process, the better suited the final build will be to your needs. The challenge here is that all of the details should be specified before construction even begins.
So with a kitchen remodel, you should not only know what brand of cabinets you’ll be getting, but also what size, type, and quantity of each, as well as where they will all go. You also need to pick out appliances and make sure they’ll fit where you want them to. This may require moving plumbing and electrical hookups, too. Then, it’s on to plumbing fixtures, cabinet hardware, flooring, finish carpentry, and, of course, paint color.
Sounds complicated? It’s a far better alternative to starting a project and selecting materials as you go. Building a remodel is a lot like doing a jigsaw puzzle; it’s challenging enough to put everything together. You’ll save a lot of time and money by having all the pieces ready before you begin.
As part of our design process at Lamont Bros., our design team keeps a catalog of product and material selections for each project. What this means is that, when a client selects a type of refrigerator, cabinet line, faucet, flooring material, or any other kind of product, that selection is cataloged in our database for the entire team to view.
When a project moves from the design phase into construction, an entirely new set of challenges arise. In terms of quality, the concern most homeowners have is that the builder might cut corners where nobody can see. This is a completely legitimate fear to have.
House flippers are especially notorious within the remodeling industry for putting lipstick on a pig. That is, the “upgrades” they perform on fixer-upper homes are purely cosmetic and usually do nothing to address any serious underlying issues. We routinely fix these exact issues left by a previous contractor.
The solution to avoiding these kinds of halfhearted repair jobs is actually very simple. Make sure everyone who works on your remodel actually cares about doing high-quality work.
How do you do this? Well, prior work is often a good predictor of future work. If your builder has a proven reputation for performing high-quality work and not cutting corners, chances are, they’ll do the same on your project. It’s also worth noting that, if you want a high-quality remodel as a homeowner, it’s best to work with contractors who frequently remodel homes for homeowners rather than house-flippers or those who work for house-flippers.
There are three specific characteristics that will set a builder apart from the rest in terms of quality.
If the craftsmen and carpenters working on your remodel truly care about producing a high-quality product, it will show in their process. Most builders have a standardized way of doing everything, from drywall to framing to nailing down your baseboards.
If your builder’s goal is to maximize their own profit by keeping material costs and labor hours low, the quality of the work is likely to suffer in the long run. That doesn’t mean your builder should charge you exuberantly for every little detail. Rather, they should be able to explain why a little more time and material costs will make for a better installation.
At Lamont Bros., we train our in-house build staff to specific installation standards. This means that, as a company, we have greater control over the quality of our work than we otherwise would if we subcontracted the work.
Oftentimes, the best quality work takes more effort to achieve. However, if you want a high-quality remodel, you should work with a builder who is willing to take extra steps in order to provide the quality you desire.
For example, advanced framing techniques are a set of non-standard framing practices that save both time, materials, and ultimately, money. However, they require specialized training because it can be extremely dangerous if done incorrectly. At Lamont Bros, several of our field staff are trained in advanced framing and have frequently used these techniques in the past.
Contractor materials are different from specified products mentioned in the design portion of this article. Typically, a homeowner doesn’t get to choose some of the products used in the process of a remodel. These can include items such as the type of timber used in framing, the waterproofing system for your tile shower,, the species of trim material, and the water vapor barrier system used to protect the home from the outdoor elements.
Since these less visible materials are typically unseen or overlooked, some contractors may choose to cut corners. For example, when installing the base layer of a roof, a more unscrupulous contractor may choose to use OSB board instead of the standard plywood or ⅜” plywood instead of the much superior ½” plywood for roof sheathing. While it may be cheaper and more readily available, OSB is more prone to water damage and less likely to last as long as plywood.
Does this mean you should ask your builder about every single type of material they’ll be using in your remodel? No. That would take hours to discuss all the different options and possible alternatives, and that’s not what you’re paying your contractor to do. Instead, you want to work with a builder that you trust to make the calls you would make when it comes to those decisions.
One of the materials our teams use during remodel projects is the Zip Wall System. This specialized zip-together dust barrier system is among the more expensive dust wall options. However, it is a proven and effective method of keeping dust, smoke, and other air pollutants out of your home during the construction process.
Because a high-quality remodel project is built specifically for you, the homeowner, the builder should keep you updated and informed throughout the process.
By the time your remodel project begins construction, the build team should already have all of the input needed from you regarding design. At this point, most communication between you and your build team will be to ensure that the process runs smoothly.
A skilled construction team will do their best to be as unobtrusive as possible during the remodel. They should keep you updated on the progress of your project, as well as inform you of any changes in standard procedure. For example, if a concrete truck will be on-site one day to pour a foundation, they’ll let you know well in advance so you can plan accordingly.
At Lamont Bros., we use a program called BuilderTrend to communicate scheduling and project updates with our clients. On this platform, homeowners can message their build team, view project photos, and check on the progress of their remodel.
For more information on what to expect throughout the course of construction, read this article.
Is the Design-Build model right for you?
After reading this article, you might be interested in learning more about what happens when the design and construction portions of a remodel are done under the same roof. As a remodeler that uses the design-build model, Lamont Bros. has worked with several Portland homeowners to construct customized home remodel projects. To learn more about how a design-build firm works, read about Our Process.
Are you ready to begin the process of remodeling your home by talking with a designer? If so, click the link below to schedule a free video call with one of our top-notch design consultants. They’ll walk you through the process of remodeling and help you decide what approach will work best for you.