Expect More From Your Designer

Your family is embarking on a voyage. You want the voyage to take your family to the proper destination comfortably, according to your needs and budget. So, you start interviewing captains. Each captain tells you he can plan the journey, he can supervise the trip and help you purchase supplies. How do you pick the best captain for your journey? What should you expect from him? How do you avoid pitfalls?


The process of renovating or building your family's home, is a voyage that needs the proper captain - your designer. Almost every designer will prepare plans and provide some sort of shopping and supervision. Here are some guidelines a good designer will be able to bring to the table that will make your voyage pleasant, bring you to the desired destination comfortably, without extra costs, disappointments or aggravation.  


Contract Review: Ask your designer to help review any agreement with a building company, project or contractor before signing. When buying “on-paper” or part of a project, or signing with any contractor, the agreement is going to state the type of tiling, number of electrical points, type of heating system, air conditioning etc. Don’t sign on agreements where you do not completely understand what is included, if it is sufficient, and what extra costs will be involved. While a good lawyer will take care of relevant legal issues, he likely will not be able to explain what construction elements are or are not included.  


Full Set of Working Plans Before Starting: Ask your designer to completely prepare a full set of detailed contractor working plans (based on your family's needs) for electricity, communication, walls, demolition, plumbing, tiling, etc before contractors are priced or work is done. Doing this has two very important purposes 1) Allows all contractors to price out the exact same work. You can then compare apples to apples when choosing the best contractor for you. 2) Your costs are fixed, and there are few surprises during the renovation or building project. The contractor can not change prices or add on additional costs for work, unless of course, you ask for changes to the plans or project. But barring any changes that you ask for, you know what the renovation will cost.


Recommended Contractors and Suppliers: Ask your designer to bring to the table contractors he personally has successfully worked with on multiple projects. Using a contactor that the designer does not have experience with on multiple past projects can be costly and possibly may result in sub par work.


Pricing Multiple Contractors and Suppliers:  Pricing out multiple contractors can save a very significant amount of money from the start of the project. Choosing the cheapest contractor is usually not the best option. But choosing amongst the more affordable options from a list of reputable contractors that have done quality work in the past can save money.


Full Involvement and Accessibility: Ask the designer what his availability and expected level of involvement will be.  Many designers will provide high level supervision or will visit occasionally to see progress. A renovation project involves the coordination between contractors, suppliers and installers. Shopping needs to be done according to a timeline. Items ordered will require different work to be done on site in preparation for the relevant appliances, lighting elements, tiles ordered etc. Your designer should be involved on a regular basis to coordinate the necessary items between all relevant parties, and prepare working plans that incorporate all relevant information.


Your Family's Particular Needs, Desires and Dreams: Maybe  you have always dreamed of an open fireplace, pizza oven, hot tub, suspended play area, or a large built in fish tank. Maybe your home needs to be handicap accessible or have the option of being handicap accessible in the future. Maybe you need a clinic or office in your home. Whatever you have in mind, discuss it with your designer. Check if he has the proper experience and suppliers to be able to turn your family’s needs, desires and dreams into reality.


Unfortunately, I have heard too many bad renovation and building stories. Many of them started with a problematic designer, or worse yet, by working with the contractor who says he can build without a designer.

Your designer is the captain of your building or renovation voyage. A good designer will select the correct crew, supplies and navigate the journey. The above guidelines will help you choose the correct designer for your family’s journey. He will help make the journey an experience that your family will look back upon with happy memories and will bring your family to its optimal home which, Please Gd,  they will live in happily for many years to come.

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