Remodel Your Home

Remodeling 101

By Jamie Hsu, Lakeville Homes

Homeowners wanting to change up the look of their home will always need to do one thing: hire a remodeling contractor.  And with the swirl of questions that come along with hiring a  new contractor, it’s best to have your process mapped out  before you dive in. The following pointers have come from  experience and listening to the questions homeowners have  during a time when they should have already been answered. After reading this article, you will be far ahead of the curve.

What should I look for in a remodeling contractor? 

First, make sure your contractor is licensed, bonded and insured. Next, look for affiliation in recognized organizations such as the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties or your city’s chamber of commerce.

Next, interview several contractors from your list, ask questions and check refer-ences. A Google search can also bring up reviews, but take them with a grain of salt.Only people who are either very happy or very upset usually post about their experiences online. Last, but something that is very important, check to see if your home was built before 1978. If it was, you need to have a Certified Lead Renovator (lead paint trained) on your project. It’s now required, particularly if you have young children at home. Improper lead dust containment could result in significant health consequences.

Do I need a permit?

The answer is, maybe. It really depends on the scope of your individual project. Generally, cosmetic changes do not require a permit. Your licensed, bonded and insured general contractor should be able to give you better idea of what to expect, as per-mitting will impact your project’s time line.

Do I need to move out for my remodel?

Again, this partially depends on the scope of your project. It also depends on your ability to cope with inconvenience. Re-modeling a kitchen may mean that you are without an operating kitchen for roughly eight weeks and that for periods of time your house’s water supply would need to be shut off. Ask yourself some other questions too. do you have small children? Are you tolerant of dust, noise and visual chaos? Generally, living through a remodel is more difficult that one expects, but in many cases it is a good, money-saving option.

How long will my project take?

As the saying goes, fast, cheap, and done right, pick any two. Quality of work is the last one you should let go, and the budget is always a consideration. While living through a remodel is not easy, it’s worth a few extra days of inconvenience to complete the project correctly. Clear lines of communication between client and contractor can keep expectations and your time line in check.

Can I reuse my home's old materials (slab, fixtures, appliances etc …)?

I often answer this question with another question. What is the reason for wanting to save or reuse the item? Is the item a sentimental piece or are you emotionally attached? This can usually be accomodated. If it is to save money, then you might want to reconsider. In most cases you won’t save money by reusing items. If you go with a used item, it would have to be removed surgically, making sure it wasn’t damaged, which takes more time. It also needs to be safely stored before it can be reinstalled. On top of that, the quality of the material is hard to confirm and would have no warranty. You can see how very quickly costs can add up with reusing materials and that it might not be cost-effective to save a $70 light fixture. That being said, almost anything can be done. Just confirm everything with your contractor before you begin.

I have an image from a magazine that I love. Can I have that room?

A picture really is worth a thousand words. Collecting images through resources like is an excellent way to communicate your ideas to your designer or contractor. With your images as inspiration, your project can be designed as you like it within your space and budgetary constraints.Remodeling your home is a difficult and time-consuming process. It can also be a great creative outlet, a means to increase your investment’s value and to make your home more functional and pleasing to you. The benefits far outweigh the temporary inconveniences. Good luck on your next home improvement project!

Jamie Hsu is president of Lakeville Homes out of Bellevue. She is a Seattle area native and was raised in a construction household with a homebuilding mother and architect father. An architect herself, she followed in her mother’s footsteps. Hsu is a contributing writer to HomeMatters, a consumer publication of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties.