How to Be a Happy Remodeler

From on January 06, 2009 in General Remodel

Nitsa Lallas and Ignacio Arribas remodeled their home over the course of 20 years, approaching a major remodel every 5 years or so. They recommend remodeling in stages to ease budgetary strains and better reflect on the purpose of your home. According to Nitsa and Ignacio, homeowners who remodel in stages can better make thoughtful decisions that serve them both emotionally and financially. Here’s more advice from the couple, who’ve written a book, The Happy Remodelers, about completing a successful, stress-free remodel. This is their second guest post for CalFinder:

Many homeowners encounter a series of remodeling problems, such as overspending, having bad experiences with contractors, and not getting exactly what they wanted. Many claim that the remodeling projects also took twice as long as they were told by their contractor. There will always be delays created by factors than no one can control, but there are ways to avoid at least some potential delays with some planning, which we discuss in our book, The Happy Remodelers.

One entire chapter is dedicated to “avoid overspending your budget” and another about “creating a realistic budget.” We also have another chapter in our book about “Getting the Best from your Architect, Contractor, & Yourselves,” in which we discuss the best ways to find a reliable architect, if one is needed for your project, and a professional contractor, and how to work with them well.

Furthermore, we have identified five remodeling phases, which we describe in our book, and each may affect the outcome of the project. Briefly, they are:

  1. The Dreaming Phase.

    This may start long before getting serious about actually planning or doing a remodel. The dreaming phase is fun. It is a time to think about possibilities. It is often a conversation over a meal. It is brainstorming time. There are many benefits about this phase and we give some examples in our book.

  2. The Research Phase.

    It involves idea generation and discussions about more specific plans and starting to evaluate alternatives. This phase is a particularly important enabler of a happy remodeling experience. We all know that ideas on paper, on a plan, or on architectural blueprints, may not turn out to be what you expected or wanted, and sometimes the unexpected outcome may be expensive and difficult to correct. We discuss this phase at length in our book.

  3. The Planning Phase.

    This phase is when everything comes together; product decisions are made, pricing and costs became a factor, and there is a more realistic understanding of the overall scope of the remodeling project.

  4. The Construction Phase.

    This is a very tightly organized phase in which one manages the budget and cash-flow, keeping track of preliminary lien notices and releases. Ongoing communication with contractor and workers is very important in this phase. Here is where your attitude and personality may shine under the stress of the construction mess.

  5. Living In It Phase.

    You made some decisions regarding the use and remodeling of your home, and hopefully they were done thoughtfully and reflecting on the purpose that your home serve for both your emotional and financial well being.

We start our book, The Happy Remodelers, by saying that remodeling takes your precious resources and assets: your energy, time, money, and your home. Every moment of the remodeling experience is part of the journey, but it is all too easy to see remodeling as a destination and to focus on the terrific home you will have when the work is done. However, such stance can create a sense of dissatisfaction with anything less than the final product due to the inevitable challenges that appear during the process and that can lead to unhappiness and stress. It is also important to keep in mind that a happy remodeling experience does not mean that nothing will ever go wrong. In remodeling, just like in life, stuff happens! So, expect the unexpected and be prepared for it. We discuss more about this subject in our book.


Identify Your Choices, Control Your Budget, and Communicate

As we mentioned, we spend a lot of time in our planning process and we believe that the more time homeowners spend identifying their choices and how to use their future space the higher their chances of success are for their remodeling projects.

It is very important for homeowners to be able to keep control of their budget and avoid overspending during the renovation process – any changes made to the remodeling plans after signing the contract and the construction starts can become very expensive – and we discuss this at great lengths in our book.

Another very important issue which can’t emphasize enough is communication, and we have dedicated an entire chapter of our book about the importance of communication. One of the most significant contributions to a happy remodeling experience is good, open, and productive communication. The way we communicate is often the culprit in creating tension and stress, not just because different people understand the same thing in very different ways, but also by the fact that we all may have different points of view.

Remodeling your home involves taking a broad range of ideas, making decisions, converting those into drawings, picking materials, and then translating all those decisions, plans, and materials into the finished construction; in other words, a completed project with which you are happy. To do all that you need to communicate with others at every step of the process. We present solutions in our book about communicating with you architect, contractor, and partner/spouse.

- In addition to being “happy remodelers,” Nitsa Lallas is a partner in a business consulting firm that specializes in shaping and enhancing corporate culture. Her husband, Ignacio Arribas, is a university professor of international business and currently manages the distribution and publicity of their new book. Check out their first guest post here: A “Happy” Kitchen Remodeling Story