Diary of a Renovation: Hiring the Right Team

New England Home's contributing editor Karin Lidbeck Brent is embarking on a major renovation of her Cape Cod home. This blog post is the second in a series covering the triumphs and the inevitable tribulations of embarking on a home renovation. She will share her insights and we will get to see her “new” home unfold.

By Karin Lidbeck Brent

Like any project, hiring the right team is critical to its success. We took our time finding the right people so we would not only have a great house at the end of the project, we would enjoy the process along the way.

Hiring the Architect

We spent six months planning the renovation on our own before we hired architect Sam Streibert, of Chatham, Massachusetts. Although we had strong vision for our design, we knew it wasn't practical to decide on a floor plan without consulting with an architect. Relocating walls and mechanical components such as heating elements, plumbing and electrical lines had to comply with structural requirements and building codes.

An important part of hiring an architect is making sure they are comfortable working within our budget. This should be an upfront part of the conversation. All architects have different fees and they can be structured different ways. We began by talking about what we could afford, and then we worked out a budget that would leave no surprises.

Another priority for us was hiring someone who was located nearby. The fact that we can stop in his office anytime with a question or concern makes the process more efficient. A local architect could insure that a final building plan would conform to local building code and environmental requirements. Sam walked us through important building procedures while working out inspection schedules with our town of Chatham.

Before settling on hiring Sam Streibert, we did our homework and got plenty of recommendations. In fact, one of the homes we considered purchasing before we committed to renovating was designed by Sam. We knew that his aesthetic aligned with our vision.

Karin Lidbeck Brent and Sam Streibert

Hiring Your Builder

I cannot stress enough how important this is to interview as many potential builders as possible. We spoke with many of them, and really liked them all. It felt as if each one had something unique to offer, which made choosing difficult.

We knew after interviewing several builders who were best aligned with our vision and were people we could work with. After that filter, we felt that the builder that came back with the most detailed and carefully thought out estimate was our man. We knew it was very important to have a clear discussion about the budget. We went over every inch of the home with each builder and asked them to come back with a detailed estimate to include everything involved with the scope of the project. For us that meant demolition, framing, electrical, heating, plumbing, flooring, appliances, lighting fixtures, and much more! While this type of detail entails a lot of work, we needed to know upfront what we could afford, and who was willing to work with us.

Some did half the job, some did not want to bother, and some felt that was not part of their job until they were hired. Finally, we hired builder, Jim Gronski. His estimate was well organized and very detailed. He did not want surprises any more than we did.  Even before we accepted his offer, he came back to the house multiple times to measure, inspect and ask questions. He discovered structural problems that we had not anticipated. He then offered the best solution while discussing them with us in detail.

Builders Estimate

The Kitchen Designer

Michael and I knew from the very beginning of this renovation that the heart of the home is the kitchen, so we put as much thought into hiring the right kitchen designer as we did into finding our architect and builder. I have had a wonderful advantage styling the beautiful kitchens for magazines so I have worked with many fabulous kitchen designers. I knew from the start that I wanted to work with my friend and colleague, Rebecca Reynolds. There are so many detailed layers and elements that go into a kitchen design all needing considerable attention. Rebecca is walking us through every design stage making what could be an overwhelming process manageable.

Rebecca Reynolds

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Reynolds

kitchen design

Read the first blog post in this series here

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