Advanced planning makes remodeling smoother

March 20, 2022

By Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch, MBA

You’ve finally decided to build the master bedroom suite of your dreams, to convert your adult child’s old room to a craft room, or to upgrade your kitchen so it suits your inner gourmet chef. The more planning you do before the work starts, the better your remodeling experience will be.

First things first: Decide exactly what you want. Once you envision how the room will look and how your family will use it, you’ll have a better sense of how much you’ll need to spend and which contractors are most suitable.

Here are 10 steps to take before the first nail is hammered:

  1. Consult with a designer. Spending an hour or two discussing your vision with a professional residential designer will introduce you to possibilities you hadn’t considered. Plus, a design professional can caution you about mismatching colors and textures and help you organize the room so it will function as nicely as it looks. Designers will steer you toward different finishes, flooring, hardware, and fabrics. Most are willing to either charge by the hour for a one-time consultation or to work with your contractor throughout the project. Best practice: Look at samples and selections in person rather than just in photos or renderings. If possible, look at your selections in the space where they will be installed, so you can get an accurate idea of how they will look in that space’s lighting.
  2. Set your budget. Let your contractors know what you would like to invest in your project. Without that piece of information, a general contractor won’t know which kinds of materials to include in your estimate. Later, you could be disappointed to learn that you can’t afford the granite countertops or stainless-steel appliances you had your heart set on. With a budget up front, your contractor can help you find equally impressive items that are affordable.
  3. Rely more on professionals than on your pals. Even if your handy neighbor or brother-in-law built an addition onto his own house, it doesn’t qualify him to do yours. Before you agree to let a buddy start knocking down walls or wiring your new ceiling lights, talk to a licensed, experienced contractor to learn if the wall is part of your home’s structural support system or if the wiring is something an amateur can safely touch.
  4. Ask for referrals. Start your search for a contractor by asking those well-meaning pals which ones they have used in the past. Contact those contractors for estimates and to get a sense of whether their work styles and ideas mesh with yours. Choose a professional who has a good reputation in your community, has been in business for at least five years, can show you a substantial portfolio of work—with pictures—and is willing to give you the names of satisfied customers to contact.
  5. Hire licensed contractors. Verify that every one of your contractors is insured and has a valid license from the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors. Those credentials ensure that you can turn to officials for help if your project doesn’t turn out as you expected. Search the state’s contractor license database online ( or by calling (800) 256-1392.
  6. Work with a one-stop-shop. You can spend your time searching for qualified drywallers, electricians, plumbers, and flooring specialists—and then scheduling and supervising them, or you can hire a remodeling firm to act as a project manager who will do all of that legwork for you.
  7. Insist on a written contract and a firm price. Ask the contractor if there will be any additional costs, including price increases if the job takes longer than expected. In case the project reveals something unexpected, like water damage in the walls or a faulty foundation, require the contractor to write up a “change order” for both parties to sign.
  8. Know your contractor’s plans. In fact, get those in writing, too—in a formal document that both you and the contractor sign. Agree on a schedule for the project to begin and for each week while the work is ongoing. Negotiate what time the contractor will start work in the morning while taking your family’s routine into consideration. Get a realistic estimate of when the project will be finished. Determine how often the contractor will update you on the progress of the work and ask for a commitment to return your phone calls promptly.
  9. Get the proper city permits for the work and honor all building codes. You need a permit whenever you disturb the electricity, plumbing or structure of your house. If you add a room, install a pool or do other major construction. It doesn’t matter if you get the permit or if your contractor does, but you’re the one responsible for making sure a permit is issued. The work your contractor does must comply with today’s building codes, even if the rest of your older house doesn’t.
  10. Schedule payments. Once you know the estimated project price up front, make incremental payments as the work is completed. Before making your final payment, do a “walk through” of your new or remodeled room, looking for scratches, chips, uneven tiles, or cabinet drawers that won’t open. Check that all materials are the ones you asked for and that the contractor makes all the last-minute repairs before final payment is given.

Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, is the president of Re-Bath in Shreveport. You can contact him at 318-216-4525 or by visiting