Remodeling? How long the process should take, tips to speed it up

By Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Feb. 2 2014 2:10 a.m. MST

It is not uncommon to think about remodeling your home for years before taking any action. Once you have decided to actually do something, however, it is human nature to want it now. The fact of the matter is there are specific phases in this process. They are sequential, and none should be skipped!

These phases are programming (determining what needs to be done), schematic design (big picture issues), design development (filling in the details), construction documents, estimating/bidding and construction observation.

With each step of the process there are some things you can do to streamline your project.

For example, our client Jo Smith finished her smaller remodeling project in a relatively short eight-month period. The first thing she did was consult an architect. “Our architect started seeing other possibilities for the house that we couldn't even imagine," she said. "She created three possibilities for the house, and we took bits and pieces that we liked from each."

This initial design phase usually takes four to six weeks. This includes meeting with your architect to discuss goals, time for the architect to design several options, meeting again to discuss options and budget, and time for you to decide which plan (or combination of plans) you want to use.

Once the final design is determined, the construction drawings must be executed, both for municipal officials to issue a building permit and for contractors to use to determine the cost of the project and to actually build it. In addition to construction drawings, specifications must be prepared. This involves specifying the materials and finishes for the project, such as windows, countertops, plumbing fixtures, flooring, etc.

Depending on the size of the project, completing the plans and specifications averages eight to 12 weeks. Obviously, decisive clients like the Smiths can move through the design and specification phase more quickly than some other clients.

The construction documents must then be submitted to the city for review in order to obtain a building permit. The time required for this step depends on the municipality. Generally speaking, allow two to eight weeks for the review process and another one to two weeks for submitting any changes or additional information they may require. With a building permit in hand, you can legally begin construction.

Choosing a contractor is a critical step in the remodeling process. We recommend you interview several contractors, review previous projects and references, and see when your project would fit into their schedule. Contractors need your completed plans and specifications before they can compile a comprehensive budget or bid for your project.

There are two general approaches to working with a contractor on a residential project. The first is the traditional method known as design/bid/build. In this case, the construction documents (plans and specifications) are completed and then submitted to about three different contractors for bids on the job. This process can go on concurrently while your plans are being reviewed by the city. Allow at least two to three weeks for the contractor to prepare a bid and a week or two to analyze the bids and make your selection. The advantage of this process is being able to compare several bids that were prepared in competitive circumstances. The disadvantage is that often the bids come in high, which requires a delay in the schedule to redesign, additional design fees, and general disappointment that the scope must be reduced.

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