Renovation Realities: Finding a Contractor

I think it would be “fun” to start a blog series entitled “Renovation Realities” where I talk about the really shitty parts of renovating my home.  The focus of the series would be on the things that no one discusses (or at least my basic internet research didn’t identify) so that it would be informative for anyone else planning to take the plunge.  Obviously, everything I say is based on my own experience and likely will be pure speculation and opinion but at least we can all be entertained by my heartache.

So my initial understanding was that to start my renovation, I should find a contractor.  (I’ve since discovered that the more appropriate course of action may have been to get my plans worked out and go to the permit department which would then allow the contractors to properly bid on my job…but that’s not important now.)  To find this contractor, I got recommendations from friends who recently completed similar projects as well as friends of friends who had thoughts.  In total, I’ve met with almost six different contractors over the last month.  FYI – this is NOT fun!  I’m not going to get into too many details of each contractor primarily because I still haven’t officially decided on who I’m going to use (and I don’t want them to read the blog and get upset that I called them an asshole :)).

But I will discuss some observations I’ve made after this process:

  • Deadlines appear to be fluid.  If a contractor tells you he will get you the proposal by Monday, don’t actually expect it on Monday….he probably meant sometime during the week that starts with Monday.  And your frustration that they have missed a deadline (without any warning) is completely overreacting.  (If a contractor doesn’t give you a specific date he will get you a proposal, you should assume it will come within 2-3 weeks.)
  • The construction business is very sexist.  It is blatantly obvious that they believe as a woman I don’t know much about construction and that they can say a lot of nonsense that won’t get challenged.  I’m not expert but I’m no pansy either…so step it up contractors as I will be challenging you!

  • The construction business is very “know-it-all.”  The funniest part about this is the contractors also think they know design.  There have been many times where I want to scream “STFU! I didn’t ask you the best way to organize the kitchen in the given floorplan!”  I’m all about a professional opinion to tell me if I can move a wall but I damn sure don’t need advice from someone about the design of the room once it’s finished.
  • Bid proposals are useless without detail, detail, detail!  You need to know the unit price, profit margins, material allowances, etc. before you can adequately compare the bids.  If the contractor doesn’t want to give you that much information, there is something probably shady about them or their method.

Another important point that most people don’t realize is that each homeowner has two options: (1) hire a general contractor (GC) or (2) be your own GC and hire out the work.  With option 1, the GC would be responsible for all aspects of the renovation including securing plans, permits, materials, etc..  For the most part, the homeowner picks the materials and finishes and approves plans but otherwise, the crappy work of dealing with the subcontractors, delivery of materials, inspections, etc. will be dealt with by the GC.  With option 2, at least in California, the homeowner has the option of being the GC and hiring out the work to subcontractors.  The homeowner would be responsible for getting permits and plans from the city, as well as coordinating schedules of the different contractors to make sure that things are going smoothly.  Obviously, option 2 is much more work but also can save you 15-20% of your budget.  (I think this is a conservative estimate for how much you save because usually all-inclusive GCs tend to steer you towards more expensive materials and finishes.)  However, option 1 is the better idea for a novice renovator and someone who didn’t want to have to deal with a ton of crap from different contractors on a daily basis.

As of right now, I’m leaning towards hiring a GC to deal with the bulk of the behind-the-wall problems (electricity, plumbing, HVAC, insulation) to ensure that I’m able to take advantage of rebate programs offered by California.  Once the bulk of the work is completed that makes the home comfortable, and we’ve moved in, I may switch to just hiring out the jobs that need to be done over the next few months.  This decision will greatly impact my budget but given the extent of our renovation, I feel more comfortable ensuring that one person/company is responsible for making the house function properly.  The pretty stuff can happen later.

Of course, it’s now been 3 weeks since we closed on the house and nothing has happened so take all of my advice with a grain of salt.  Hopefully someone will knock some wall down in the next few days!

Let me know what you think.  Do you think this will be an interesting blog series?  Would you like more detail? What do you want to know more about?  I’ll do the best I can to help.

Obsess Much: Kitchen Lighting

If you follow me on Pinterest, you have probably seen a dramatic increase in the number of pins that I’ve posted related to lighting.  I’m trying to nail down some details in the rooms for the new house and have recently been fixated on making decisions on lighting.  (I’m hoping that almost every room has a ceiling junction box so that I can add chandeliers – or really modern lighting pendants as opposed to chandeliers).

The first room up for decision is the kitchen:

I’m in love with this pendant from Serena and Lily. Just not sure if it’s practical or too much for pendants over the island.

David Hicks Pendant that is all over the web right now. Love the industrial but fabulousness feel of it. Seems a little more appropriate for a kitchen but not much bling. 🙂

The last option is completely different but would infuse some more color in the room. From Ballard Designs.

So what do you think?  What would you say when you came into my kitchen and saw the brass/mirror disco ball?

I’m also obsessed with this light fixture but not sure if it’ll fit anywhere in my house:

Lotus Flower Pendant...probably too girly for the hubby to agree to this. 🙁

Let’s get this week started!

Renovation Crazy: Kitchen Inspiration and Design Elements

As promised, let’s talk about the new kitchen inspiration and design elements.  I haven’t finalized any of the details that will make the room fun and interesting but I’ve decided on a few key components: floorplan, cabinets, colors, and floors.

Here are my inspiration images (which I’m sure you remember from the Colored Cabinets Obsessions post):

Navy cabinets with butcher block countertop and brass pulls. Wall of interesting tile.

Navy base cabinets, white uppers, and great bar setup area.

Navy lower cabinets, white upper cabinets, subway tile, and brass pulls.

So obviously, I’m going for navy lower cabinets and white upper cabinets with brass pulls.  I haven’t figured the tile yet but I’m hoping it will make a big impact and provide more interest in the room.  To help visualize it, here are a few quick-and-dirty renderings I’ve compiled:

I’ll be spending some time working on the details about the finishes including handles, lighting, tile, etc.  I hope to be able to share some updated images next week!

If you want to follow along as I make these decision (and keep notes for yourself for future projects), follow me on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram (@joystreetdesign).

Renovation Crazy: Kitchen Plans

It’s a new month, so let’s start it off with discussing the new house!  Let’s start with the kitchen as it’s the space that I’ve spent more time analyzing than any other one….and I have 10 different design plans to show it!  The kitchen now is fairly long and awkward with two entrances and cabinets blocking the view.  Here’s the kitchen in it’s current state:

Besides the obvious cosmetic changes, we’re going to drastically change the kitchen.  First we’re going to make it little less wide by building a new wall and closing off the second entrance.  This will allow us to create a half-bathroom on the other side of the wall.  Second, we are also planning to remove the wall between the family room and kitchen to have a more open space plan.  Lastly, we’ll reconfigure the layout to take advantage of the new open plan and obtain more of the view.  It’s easier to envision this by looking at the floorplan.  Here is the original floorplan:

And here is the new floorplan:

Obviously, most of this new plan is contingent upon the permit department as there are major structural changes.  I’ll be back tomorrow with the inspiration for the space and some cool ideas I’m hoping to include.

Headed to the permit department now.  Enjoy your day!