Before you sign off on those construction plans, Read This First.
You just finished your master bath renovation; you meticulously selected the most beautiful finishes and fixtures, you upgraded to a luxurious tub and picked a glamorous chandelier to cast a picture perfect glow to your new master bathroom. Imagine now, as you’re sitting in that long awaited bubble bath taking in all of your fresh surroundings, and as you lean back and look up to admire your new chandelier, there it is, that unsightly HVAC vent glaring down at you. Oh no!
There are infinite details to consider when planning a renovation or new construction project, and in many cases the shiny finishes and fixtures overshadow the core construction of the home. Paint colors, tile, lighting, plumbing fixtures and the like take center stage, and understandably so; it’s much more exciting to pick out jewelry than focus on pipes and wires. It’s the core, the bones of a home that make the living experience pure joy. There is always time to add glitz and glamour, but you only get one shot to construct the core of your home properly.
I had a client that installed an oversized shower head (which uses a large volume of water) in her master bath; she didn’t want to upgrade the water heater to accommodate the necessary water usage and skimped out to save money for the jewels. Soon after she moved into her new home, my phone rang; there’s not enough hot water to get through an entire shower. All of the beautiful tile and fixtures aren’t looking so pretty now, right? This was a costly mistake on her part.
Be prepared! When the contractors come knocking make sure you’re armed with all of the pertinent information required to execute your project so everyone can hit the ground running. In addition to your architectural plans, keep a binder with every single detail of each room (photos, specification sheets, cabinetry dimensions, etc.) and carry it with you everywhere. Readying yourself with the requisite information will avoid a plethora of mistakes and it will keep the project moving efficiently and effectively. Be sure to ask your contractor for a project timeline. This will help with scheduling the timely arrival of your allowances (plumbing & lighting fixtures, tile, etc.) so they are on site when the contractor is ready to install them. Check the availability of the items you have chosen; many may be on back order for months. Delays on items such as tile could set your project back significantly, which in turn creates a domino affect. As a consequence, other contractors are interrupted by the setback, and if a contractor has to make a special trip, it won’t be free.
I cannot stress this enough; always, always, always do an entire project walk-through with the contractor during the “rough-in” ~ before the sheetrock goes up. This is the best time to make changes. Be sure change orders are presented and signed off by all parties for any and all changes. Have all of your plans and specification sheets ready so you can provide each contractor with precise information. Verify proper measurements, locations, etc., of plumbing & electrical roughs, cabinetry and every item planned to occupy each room.
LIGHTING PLAN ~ Be sure to comb your lighting plan for accuracy of location and type of lighting; recessed, sconces, chandeliers, pendants, art gallery lighting, cabinet lighting, outdoor lighting, etc. European vs. American lighting have various wattage and installation requirements which require different receptacles and these boxes must meet code. Also, think about plug-ins for table and floor lamps; floor outlets may be required. Prewire locations where there may be a possibility of future lighting.
ELECTRICAL ~ During your walk-through, think about how you want to switch the lighting on when you enter each room. Plan your dimmers, and don’t forget special outlets in the floor, inside of cabinetry, vanities, mudroom lockers, desks, and special hidden locations.
- Add outlets inside vanity cabinets for blow dryers, electric shavers and toothbrushes, etc.
- Plan charging stations for electronics in the kitchen cabinets, desk areas, mudroom, master closets, etc. so cell phones, iPods/Pads & laptops can charge behind closed doors.
- Plan the wiring of televisions, especially over the fireplace
- Surround Sound System – pre-wire speakers indoor/outdoor. It’s always good to run a few extra audio video wires for future use
- Be sure cable lines and wiring are run in the proper locations where electronics are planned; office, home theaters, television rooms, etc.
- If you have 2 doors into the same room, make sure you have a light switch for that room at each door
- Don’t forget outdoor lighting and outlets for BBQ areas
- Be sure to provide enough 3-pronged outlets throughout your home, and surge protection in key areas
- If you’re doing new construction have your builder add a double conduit from attic to basement
PLUMBING ~ Verify the location of all plumbing for sinks, tubs, toilets, kitchen appliances, laundry, outdoor faucets, etc. You should have the size of sizes and specifications handy so you can verify the proper layout on-site. Look at every detail of the room below; the perfect position of the sink, faucet, lighting, mirrors, all of this is contingent upon perfect planning and providing the proper information right from the start of the project.
A lot of time is spent in the laundry room; make it highly efficient with all of the proper drainage, counter space, drip-dry hanging locations, storage, etc.
Plan for specialty items like custom built sinks, pot fillers and doggie showers…
HVAC VENTING ~ Overhead and underfoot; plan the locations of HVAC vents. You don’t want a vent going on a wall where your custom buffet will sit, and you definitely don’t want it to interfere with the beauty of your Venetian glass chandelier. It’s hard to determine the exact location on a plan, so be sure to walk the site with your contractor and verify each position before the installation. And don’t forget the venting for the kitchen hood; check the outside venting location too. You don’t want the sights, smells and noise polluting your beautiful outdoor lounging area.
GRANITE, MARBLE & STONE ~ Don’t let your contractor make your stone selections; go to the stone yard and hand pick your countertops, backsplash, shower slabs, saddles, etc. Be sure to bring your binder, tile, paint & wood samples to coordinate the stone properly for each room.
Templating/measuring takes place on-site once cabinetry, vanities and framing materials are fully installed, level, and permanently in place. It is important that you are present at this time to assure accuracy and answer any questions, etc.
When it comes time to template for fabrication (layout of sinks, faucets, etc., on the stone), make sure you are there to carry out the final plan. The movement of the stone, the finished edge, the seaming; all of these variables are so important to the overall look and feel.
Take a peek at the rest of this gorgeous kitchen. Look at all of the details…
DOORS ~ Swings, hinging, knobs/handles & locking. Door swings may play out well on paper but once in the real world they may dictate an inconvenient scenario. Doors take up real estate via the diameter of the swing and then the space they occupy while open. Walk through each entry and verify every door swing (along with your light switches). There should be enough space to enter and exit comfortably and the grip of the swing should be natural (right/left handle location). You may find a pocket door to be more suitable in some locations and the rough stage is the perfect time to make these changes.
Please, coordinate your hinges and door hardware. Don’t spend money on gorgeous hardware and then skimp out by using the standard builder hinges; keeping all of the hardware in harmony maintains a custom, high-end aesthetic. Determine which doors need privacy locks, static knobs for closet doors, etc. This is one area that can become very disorganized, so make a very detailed list of every door knob and hinge for each door in each room. This way when the order comes in it will be simple to allocate the specific pieces to its requisite location.
You can never have enough storage. Maximize every inch of dead space; build drawers & cabinetry under areas like staircases, etc.
There are infinite details when planning and building or renovating a home; this overview barely scratches the core. I encourage you to check your contractor and sub-contractors references, and in addition, visit their previous projects and clients. This will give you critical insight on the quality and integrity of their work and client relationships. If there is resistance, beware. Contractors that are reputable will be proud to showcase their work. I cannot stress the value of impeccable planning, organization and diligence. Visit the job site daily while the workers are on site and also when you can spend time alone without interruption. Take notes and pictures, and keep a diary of activity and punch list items. Staying on top of your project will keep it on budget and on target for completion.
I will keep adding to this blog with new ideas and information. What valuable lessons have you learned from your projects?