Renovation preparation tips only the pros know

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If you're planning on embarking on a renovation, there are some preparation details you already know about, like getting your plans approved by the building, filing the necessary paperwork and finding alternative housing for you and your family. But we asked our panel of renovation experts: What are some things that belong on the pre-renovation to-do list that often get overlooked or need special attention? Below, here's what the experts had to say:

Get your hands on the floorplan

“Acquire floorplans if available,” says David Przywara of Crafted Home NY. Some renovations may not require floorplans, but they are always nice to have for quick reference.

Clear out your stuff

Purge! Especially in areas you want to work on. “Make it easy for the designers to walk through the space and measure,” says Przywara.

But don’t worry too much about removing and storing your heavy A/C units. “Those would be sealed/protected (like any permanent vent in the apartment),” says Ben Pitt, Remodeling Consultant at My Home US.

An empty apartment is the easiest kind to work in. 

Play nice with the neighbors

Make sure to send the standard neighbor letter,  if it comes with your building’s alteration agreement.  If it doesn’t, it may not be necessary (but could still be the considerate thing to do). 

“This is a very simple form with the start and estimated length of the project — no apologies necessary for renovating one’s own apartment,” says Pitt. “I’d also recommend taking photos of adjoining apartments in case there are any damage claims during work — this also give homeowners opportunity to meet neighbors in person and discuss any concerns.” Though he does add that this only an ideal situation and may not always be “necessary or practical.”

“Most buildings require letters to be send to neighbors. I suggest to my clients that they also send a bottle of wine,"  says Jeff Reich of Prime Renovations. (Renovation gifts  — which go above and beyond what is required of you — are often given at the end of the renovation. For gift ideas, read here.)

Be a material girl (or boy)

“Confirm all materials or that all materials are in the contractor’s possession prior to scheduling the actual start date. To start a project with materials coming in one-to-two weeks after the start, even if it’s before specific trade work begins, still risks that incorrect or damaged products are shipped and delivered,” Pitt.

The experts at Sweeten understand that you often “can’t to get your hands on the tile samples and wood cuts… but talk to your contractor about your purchase plans before you order or accept any deliveries so that they can ensure you’ve got the technical pieces covered. Showpiece orders often require hidden parts, specific spatial leeway, or particular installation packages,” according to Jean Brownhill Lauer, Founder and CEO of Sweeten.

“Be clear with your contractor on which materials you will provide and which materials they will provide and be sure that you both agree that the list is complete before work begins. When material orders and deliveries go even slightly haywire, it can be spectacularly disruptive to the progress, sequence and cost of a home renovations. AND these usually occur  —ironically  — when individual homeowners are trying to save money by ordering their own materials,” Brownhill Lauer says.

One last tip

Via one anonymous tipper: “It’s isn’t the worst idea to “send a gift” to the super. I didn’t say that.”


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