How far in advance do I need to start planning my Home Improvement project?

It is never too early to plan your home remodeling project. In fact, the earlier you start to plan the better, as the success of your project will be contingent on the coordination and availability of the professionals, designers, contractors, and suppliers that will be contributing to your project.

With the overwhelming surge in the home improvement market, architects and contractors are busier than ever. At a minimum, homeowners planning a major home improvement should start the endeavor at least one to one and a half years prior to the projected start date. In some instances, it may even require two years or more if the project includes multiple agency filings, special permits or modifications to the zoning of your property. 

As with all home improvement projects, do your homework first. Making significant improvements to your home requires detailed planning, a manageable budget and finding the right contractor to work alongside you. In fact, one of the biggest challenges that homeowners face is the availability of the contractor of their choice. 

You may find that highly recommended and reputable contractors can be committed to other projects and may not be available for your project for a year or more. That is not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that their services are in demand, and perhaps worth the wait. Anyone can take a hammer and nails to a piece of wood and say they are a contractor. Make sure the one you choose is capable of completing the scope of your project with quality workmanship and craftsmanship, in a timely manner.

Many homeowners make the mistake of hiring a contractor that has availability to start the project right away, rather than waiting for the right contractor and one that can successfully complete their project without circumstance. During the vetting process, visit current job sites of the contractors you are considering to see how they work and the scope of their jobs to ensure they are similar to the work your are asking them to bid on.

When considering a home remodel, the best place to start is with an Architect. They can assist you in the planning of your project, ensure it complies with local building and zoning laws, and is engineered properly for the safety of your home and family. They can also assist with the functional planning of your space and offer suggestions that make sense for your budget and timeline.

Architects are a great resource – they can offer advice about local contractors and sub-contractors, they can provide resources that only professionals can access, can design your home to be more energy efficient, including the selection of heating and air conditioning systems, and they can share knowledge that comes with years of experience. They will also be able to confirm whether your project will require filing with the Department of Buildings. If your project requires filing – it should not be overlooked. NYC Building and Construction Codes are enforced by city inspectors and can create unnecessary violations, stop work orders and cost you additional penalty fees, if your project violates code, which can delay your project timeline. 

If you have avoided a violation during a non-permitted construction project, that does mean the risk is over. Unpermitted work can be inspected after it has been completed and may require you to undo what has already been done. Furthermore, it can create issues in the future when it is time to sell your home, and possibly cause a home sale to be rejected.

If your project includes a construction loan, ask your lender how long it will take to secure funding. The loan approval process can sometimes add a few extra months to your project timeline, especially if you have to clear credit issues prior to your approval. When securing funds for your project, make sure you have access to an additional ten percent above the contract price. During many home improvement projects, unforeseen structural, electrical or mechanical issues may arise that can add to the cost or delay your project. Or, during the project you may want to add or upgrade some of the materials originally specified for your project. Having that extra cushion can make the project go a lot smoother. 

When selecting the products and materials for your project, check to see if they are readily available or special order. One of the biggest items that prolong home remodeling projects are longer than expected lead times on materials or a change in materials midway through the project. This can be frustrating for both the homeowner and contractor. By making knowledgeable decisions during the planning stages of the project, this can be avoided.

Base decisions on quality, function, price, style and availability. Give yourself enough time to plan and hire the contractors, sub-contractors and craftsman that you want on your job. Take weather into consideration – many projects are delayed in the spring due to heavy rains and in the winter due to frigid temperatures and snow. 

Know the facts and cover all your bases prior to making the investment in your project. If you have a question about your remodeling project or a contractor, visit hicofsi.org or contact hicofstatenisland@gmail.com.

Lana Seidman, Executive Director                        HIC of Staten Island Inc.

(718) 356-2323    www.hicofsi.org    www.facebook.com/narihic