Five Tips for the Remodeling Homeowner, from a Builder

We’ve all heard the stories. Of remodels gone awry, schedules falling apart, and budgets ballooning. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The best way to avoid it? A great working relationship with your team.

Something we hear a lot from homeowners working with Beam, is “what can we do to help this project go smoothly?” So we asked an expert.

Araceli Espinoza is a Project Manager with Matarozzi Pelsinger Builders. The high-end firm is based in San Francisco, covering the Bay Area, and Espinoza is happy to have shepherded many happy homeowners through the process of renovations, remodels and new builds over her more than 14 years in the industry.

Araceli Espinoza, Project Manager with Matarozzi Pelsinger
“Home is constantly evolving, as we do,” says Espinoza. She is a Project Manager with Matarozzi Pelsinger of San Francisco.

Espinoza sees residential construction as a process, rather than a project, and stresses that Matarozzi Pelsinger is there for the long haul. “Home is constantly evolving, as we do.”

She spends her days communicating and managing client expectations, planning and preparing schedules and budgets for new construction projects, and, of course, reacting to new situations and new realities such as a slowed supply chain courtesy of a global pandemic. This means Espinoza knows the process in and out, what happens when, and how to ensure its success.

Here’s her advice to homeowners embarking on this journey:

Define and articulate your vision.

What does that mean? As important as it is to know what you want, is being able to communicate that vision with your team. Espinoza recommends having a pretty detailed scope of work when you start to get builders involved - what you want to be discussing during a walkthrough, is how to execute on your vision.

Espinoza's team works only on drawn plans, from designers, architects, and structural engineers if necessary. Your builder will be able to help you make some decisions on how to bring those plans to life.  

Floorplan and schedule for kitchen remodel by Cheung Showman for Beam.
Espinoza recommends already having a pretty detailed scope of work when you start to get builders involved. Floorplan and schedule for Kitchen remodel by Cheung Showman for Beam. 

Which brings her to her next point.

Be open to exploring options.

Espinoza says it's all about trust.

Assuming you’ve hired well, and have asked the right questions during the process of finding a team, you may just have to trust your general contractor on solutions to make your vision happen from time to time -  take advantage of their build experience and do so readily!

"This is where a good contractor comes into play," says Espinoza. A good contractor also knows when to say no.

Reconstructing a fire-damaged heritage building
Photo by Mark Potterton / Unsplash

Make sure you are ready to make some decisions.

That may sound simple enough, but whether you are renovating, remodeling, or building new, there will be what feels like thousands of decisions you need to make throughout your project. And there’s no room to wiffle waffle here.

Being ready to make key decisions will help keep a project on track. Espinoza says it is important to know: "Things are going to come up." Hurdles that were impossible to spot before you opened up that wall, or lifted that floorboard - what's known as discovered conditions. Or that material that didn't arrive on time.

You'll need to be ready to make the call.

“You can go back and forth on a color, a tile, position, but at the end of the day, a decision is gonna have to be made,” says Espinoza.

She says a great client is "Someone that knows what they want, that can speak to that. But someone who is flexible enough to explore options when it can't be done the way that they had hoped."

The other important nugget Espinoza shares for homeowners on decision-making is to determine who in your house has the final say on your project. Don’t waste time making those decisions at the table, make them at home.

Couple in bed lookng at laptop
If remodeling with a partner, determine at the start of your project who will have the final say if it comes down to it. Trust the expert, it keeps the process moving. 

Be realistic about your budget and needs.

Espinoza hates to be the bearer of bad news but says in her experience, homeowners usually have to spend a little bit more than they expect for what they want.

The best way to avoid surprises on the budget side is to account for the dreaded “discovered conditions” and other changes by including some wiggle room here in planning. This is standard practice for Espinoza.

But beyond this, be realistic about what you can afford to spend on the project in total, ask for advice, choose materials wisely, and know that you may need to be flexible on wants versus needs from time to time.

Know what you are agreeing to!

In other words, Espinoza says it is really important to really understand the terms of your contract before signing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like “what is your invoicing schedule?” “who is responsible for site safety and cleanup?” etc. before accepting a bid and moving forward with a team.

"We issue and publish a schedule for every project," down to the detail, explains Espinoza. "We're demo-ing for five days, we're setting up staging, scaffolding - that way the client knows what to expect."

At the end of the day, pulling off a successful project? In Espinoza’s experience, what it all comes down to is communication. On both sides. “Your contractor needs to communicate every step of the way, changes to the schedule, budget, materials.”

She recommends setting up succinct weekly check-ins to keep track of your project schedule in a way that is efficient for both parties. "Agree on a time, ask all your questions then. That way your contractor can keep moving as needed."

After all, the best project, scratch that, process is run with a great working relationship with your team.

Looking to remodel your space? Choose every floorboard and fixture, or let our pros guide you to success. Get started with Beam today.