Remodeling 101

Especially for those who have never undertaken a full room renovation or added an addition to their home, the process can seem overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together this Remodeling 101 section, to answer some of your questions and provide insight into things you may want to consider.

Do You Have to Hire an Architect to Remodel?

For most remodeling projects, you do not need to hire an architect. At Freyenhagen, we work with you to come up with concepts that will accomplish your goals and be within budget. We then create the plans and submit them for any permitting to verify codes are being met, such as lot coverage and setbacks. If there are structural changes to be made, we obtain the engineering stamp as well.

Choosing Materials

One of the first things that anyone who tries to undertake a major renovation on their own will tell you is that they take a lot more trips to buy supplies than they ever could have imagined. Running back and forth to get more drywall, exchange plumbing pieces that don’t fit, and grab everything from shingles to screwdrivers can be time consuming and frustrating.

As a design/build remodeling contractor, we care of selecting all of the construction materials such as studs, sheetrock, roofing and windows, working with local vendors to get the highest quality products in the right quantity. We also have a designer on our team who will accompany you to select the finishes, to ensure they are right for the goals you have set. Our experience allows us to have precisely what is needed in the amounts required, which simplifies the process, saves you time and can even reduce overall cost.

Financing Your Home Remodeling Project

Property owners pay for their home renovations and additions in a variety of ways. Some have the funds immediately available; others obtain an equity loan and others get a construction loan through their bank.

Although we do not provide financing for our customers, we are happy to provide plans, estimates or other information your banker may need as part of a loan approval process. We also do not accept credit cards as payment for our work.

Handling Permits Required for Home Remodels or Additions

There are few—if any—home construction projects that do not require one form of a permit or another. Because we have completed so many remodeling projects, we know the permits that will be require, and take care of applying for and obtaining all permits so that everything goes very smoothly before, during and after the project. All of the costs for the permit are shown in the estimate we provide so you will know exactly what to expect.

Insurance Considerations

There are really three types of insurance you need to consider when you’re undertaking a home remodeling project—and questions you need to ask about them. First, make sure any person who conducts work on your property is covered by Workers Compensation insurance, which will protect them if they are injured. Second, verify your contractor should has a separate liability insurance policy that would cover potential damage that could be caused to your property during the renovation.

One of the most important insurance considerations, however, is homeowners insurance. Before your project begins, talk to your homeowners insurance agent about the work being done. If your home were sustain major damage due to fire, weather or water, it may only be covered up to the value of your current policy. If the renovation project were to be largely completed at the time of the damage, your policy may not cover the additional improvements in which you’ve invested. A 30-minute talk with your agent could save you tens of thousands of dollars in the long run.

Living in a Home During a Renovation

It is likely that you will be able to live in your home during a remodeling project. It may be required for you to relocate to another part of the house for a time as work in another area is completed. In an older home, we take extra precaution to test to lead-based paint, asbestos and other materials used when it was constructed. If these items exist, you may have to leave temporarily while they are abated. If young children or pets live in the home, we may add temporary walls to safely keep them away from the construction work area.

Working From Home During Remodeling

Just you can usually live in a home during a renovation project, you can also work there while construction underway. At the beginning of the project, it’s best to establish parameters where you will be and where the construction team will work. We also use a dust collection system and seal the vents to keep as much dust from going into the system as possible. Our goal is to allow you to do your work with as little disruption as possible.

Average Remodeling Time

Because every project varies in scope and size, it is difficult to provide an “average” time for a kitchen, basement finish or other remodeling job. We do, however, know that timelines are very important to our customers, which is why we use an online project management tool. Long before your project begins, you will know the estimated start date and the project milestones, from demolition through finish carpentry. This level is critical to the way we work and is the mark of an experienced remodeling company. We work efficiently, building in sufficient time to allow work to be done properly.

Cost of Building Up Vs. Building Out

Trying to choose between building a second floor on your home or extending the first floor out? Generally speaking, there isn’t a significant cost difference between the two, but what is required for each is very different. Building out requires a new foundation; building up may require more structural work.

What is truly important isn’t the cost per square foot, but considering any restrictions which may come into play. For instance, you may not have enough room on your lot to build out further, or your neighborhood may have certain height limitations. Restrictions may also exist in the form of whether a functional staircase could be created, if there are gas or sewer lines to take into consideration, etc.

These are the types of considerations that we are used to managing day in and day out. Because of the number of renovation projects we’ve undertaken in and around Billings, we not only know what to look for; we understand how these types of variables need to be addressed. Our experience allows us to evaluate them from the firs time you sit down with us to discuss your project and your budget, so the designs we propose are feasible from day one. This saves you a lot of time and money from the get-go.

Are Contractor Materials Better Than Others?

When it comes to home remodeling, the details make the difference. The products we use and recommend are generally higher quality than those you can get “off the shelf,” from the quality of wood to the way components are constructed. We also take the time to educate our clients about why one product may be advantageous over another for a specific use so they make an informed decision about the materials they’ll be living with.

Changes in Scope

Changing direction in the middle of a project is called a change in scope; in other words, it’s outside of the work a contractor originally agreed to complete for you. While sometimes they occur because of something discovered during the remodeling process, keeping them at a minimum will improve the chance your project will be finished on time and on budget.

With proper planning, most changes of scope can be avoided. We opt to use a 3D system that allows you to see your space long before we built it. If you need to make a change, we do it while you sit with us to see the transformation.

We do admit there are sometimes our customers are so pleased with the progress being made in one area of their home, they want to add in other projects. We do our very best to accommodate to those “extras” while we’re there, even if it means reworking the timeline to extend the overall length of the project.

Paying a Remodeling Contractor

If you choose to work with a remodeling contractor, his or her payment terms should be spelled out in the contract. At Freyenhagen Construction, for example, our projects have a two-week payment schedule, with you knowing well ahead of time how much you need to pay. That way you know what to expect and there are no surprises in terms of cost.

Contingency Funds

You may have heard about the need to have a contingency fund—money that you set aside to accommodate anything unexpected. As a contractor, we do our best to anticipate anything that might happen on a job and put as much detail in to the estimate we provide as possible.

There will always be at least one thing somewhat unforeseen based on the age and type of the home. Especially for those in historic homes, having some money set aside to accommodate the unexpected is recommended.

Estimates versus Contracts

No matter how you figure it, a home remodel naturally has a lot of paperwork that goes with it. Two of those are estimates and contracts, and it’s important to know the difference between the them. We provide a preliminary estimate when you first start discussing your project and the project budget. It’s based on what we’ve seen and our conversations with you.

A contract, on the other hand, is the formal document detailing the work to be performed. After going closely over the project detail and accounting for each variable, we then issue a fixed-price contract. This outlines what we will charge for the remodel provided we don’t run into anything unforeseen and provided there are no changes in scope. Most importantly, we spend the time going through everything with you upfront so you won’t be surprised and we can avoid potential delays.