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"Kickstart Your Renovation Resolution"

Steven Clipp, Architect | January 2015 Issue

Raise your hand if your New Year’s Resolution this year was to finally renovate your home; to update that tired kitchen, add splash to the master bath, or carve out that mancave.  But it is only January, you have plenty of time to get started since you don’t plan on using that new screen porch until summer.

Guess again.  I am in the business and I am continually amazed at how much time disappears between the resolution to renovate and preparing a meal in your sparkling new kitchen.  It defies logic that it takes so long when everyone involved wants the process to move quickly.


There are four steps to the renovation process; planning, procuring a Contractor, permitting and the actual construction.  As the professional who leads that phase, I always advocate taking the time to properly plan.  My first step is an Initial Consult.  During this 90 minute meeting the Homeowners describe their goals for the renovation.  I then give them several approaches that will achieve their goals and a good estimate of the cost of each approach.  This is great information and often reshapes the project to maximize the benefit for the cost.  But it requires time for the Owners to contemplate their options.  Then it takes a few weeks to a few months to create a plan and to document it sufficiently for the next steps – contracting and permitting.

Lining up a Contractor can be as simple as hiring the guy your friend used.  But quality contractors are often booked months in advance.  Further, if cost is a concern, then the Owner is almost always better served by commissioning a complete set of plans and asking three good contractors to supply pricing.  This takes more time but usually saves big dollars.  I often see a thirty percent spread in their numbers for the same work.  In any event as many prices as possible should be tied down before signing a contract.

Once the contract is signed the Permitting process begins.  A building permit for an interior renovation may only take a few days to obtain, but a change in the foundation often requires a Zoning Compliance Permit as well.  I have had simple decks and carports delayed for months by the ZCP.  Don’t forget most planned communities have their own Architectural Review Boards that can also cause delays in the start of construction.

Finally the men in work boots come rip your home apart!  Now we will see progress!  Yes and no.  Demolition is fun and goes quickly.  Weather often delays digging footings.  Framing magically appears and everyone smiles, it feels like a house.  Then you have rough-in and subs who can’t get there until next week.  The Owner makes a small change and the hitch in work flow causes a two week delay.  Sheetrock goes up and now it really feels close to finishing.  But a mis-order on the cabinets adds a few weeks.  Painting takes forever even when the painters show up.  Bottom line, construction always takes longer than expected, even with a good contractor and everything going right.


This sounds awful – why go through it?  Because almost immediately after the last workman leaves your home the hardships and delays become just good stories for the neighborhood party.  A year later the comment I hear most often is - ‘this is awesome, I can’t believe I waited so long to do it’.

So, you made the resolution.  If you want to enjoy your screen porch this summer, or that new kitchen for the Fourth – get the ball rolling now.  Give me a call.  Set up an initial consult.  Allow yourself the time for proper planning.  It will ensure a better outcome, at a better price and with a shorter construction period.  Best of all you will never say the second most common (but not on my projects) comment - ‘I wish I had thought about X before I started’.

In addition to his architectural practice, Steve Clipp hosts a call-in radio show, “Making Your Home Great,” on Thursday mornings at 9 on WPTK (850-AM). Each week features a co-host and a lively discussion; the first Thursday of the month focuses on renovation/addition, the second on interior design, the third on kitchen and bath, and the last week on energy solutions. 

On the internet station ‘Voice America’, Steve Clipp has recorded hour-long monologues on how to achieve your Dream Home.  These are archived in podcast form at Titles include:  Creating Romance in the Home; The perfect Kitchen; Preparing Your Home for the Teenage Years; and Hiring a Contractor.

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