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Our Step by Step Remodeling Guide

Timeless all white kitchen with quartz countertops featuring a beautiful waterfall island with open space for seating by Houston interior design firm Nancy Lane Interiors.
Design: Nancy Lane Interiors | Photo: Fernanda Varela

Kitchen and bathroom remodels are a big investment of time and money. If you do it right, you'll have a beautiful space that functions well for you and your family. In the process of getting there though, understanding what steps are involved and in what order to approach them will keep you pulling your hair out and having major delays!

If you're just looking into the process of remodeling, make sure to bookmark this post, and follow along as your project gets underway!

Timeless marble bathroom styled by Houston interior design firm Nancy Lane Interiors.
Design: Nancy Lane Interiors | Photo: Madeline Harper Photography

Step 01: Gather Inspiration

I say to do this first because any designer will ask for this information anyway, so why not get a head start? Start a Pinterest board (here's mine), and save any images that visually describe the aesthetic you're going for in your remodel. Be sure to make notes in the comments about what you particularly like within an image - these details can be forgotten really easily once you start saving so many photos. I tell my clients to indicate what they like about the photos they save and if there's anything about the photo they DONT like, well that's helpful to. There are other platforms but none I'd recommend or you could do it old school and save pages from magazines, if you're more of a paper person!

If you find paint swatches, fabrics, or any material really, that you love, feel free to gather those samples as well. This exercise will start to show you common themes that you're consistently drawn to, and will give your designer a solid foundation to run with.

Step 02: Reach Out to Interior Designers

Step 02 and 03 are really intertwined, but the main point to take away is that you and any decision makers in your household should have your budget solidly defined, and your designer roped in before your contractor is signed.

Reach out to designers whose work you love and admire and anyone you've heard good things about working with from friends and family or neighbors. You might even consider some that don't live near you, because you never know what their capacity might be! I've worked with clients a thousand miles from me from sea to shining sea on long distance projects.

Make sure you feel comfortable with whomever you choose. They should be easy to talk to and they should be able to listen to your wants, needs and goals. It is your home after all and you should always have the sense that you are being heard and that they have your back so to speak. After all, your designer should be your partner, your voice when you may not be around with contractors and sub-contractors, pushing them to do what you've agreed upon, rather than cutting corners and overall a great advocate for you during your renovation project.

Step 03: Set and Understand Your Budget

Once you have interviewed your list of designers and decided who to work with, it's time to get real with the budget!

When clients sign on with NLI, they receive an investment guide for design services and a full breakdown of estimates on what various aspects of a design project will cost in the current market. Sometimes this means that the clients have to back off for a few months, or even a year, to save up a bit more money, but that is completely fine! I would much rather you know exactly what your project will end up costing you realistically, and you coming back to the table ready to spend that money, rather than being surprised halfway through the project and stopping it, or severely delaying progress, or worst case, you not really getting what you wanted in the end and going with things you don't love because they were cheap. Beware of unrealistic budgets from the beginning. NOTE: For construction projects, we include an exploratory design phase when possible (i.e. clients hire NLI first, before construction is underway).

Discussing realistic budgets with your designer before you look for a contractor will also keep you from falling for a "too-good-to-be-true" number that a lot of contractors woo clients with in their initial meetings. You've probably heard the saying "double the budget and double the timeline" when you're talking about construction, and unfortunately, there is so much truth to that because there is such a horrible trend of contractors underbidding to get the job.

If you need more guidance here, we go into more detail in this post about how to make the most of your renovation budget.

Step 04: Find a Contractor

While we don't offer building contractor services at this time, we do usually suggest at least three recommendations for our clients to interview and get a feel for. Three is a good number to start with but if you don't find a good fit, interview others for sure. Ask friends, neighbors, co-workers or local showrooms for recommendations then do your due diligence.

Once you identify who you want to interview, consider what we do...have a trade day of sorts where you schedule contractors on the same day, allowing at least an hour between appointments to give yourself time to tour your project space and talk freely. Ask when you can expect a written estimate after your meeting

We encourage contractors we work with to provide accurate bids for at least the labor portion of the job, as well as the demo, trash removal, install materials provided by them, and any other construction and materials cost as well in those initial meetings. Mind you, I've never seen two contractors who have similar bid styles but pay attention to what you're given as the estimate. Is there attention to detail? Accuracy? Neatness? Did they send the estimate by the time they stated? I'll say it again, pay attention.

Our big tip: communication is key! Work with a contractor who is willing to talk through things with you, for example, countertops... estimate how much each might cost comparatively or how much material you might need based on your initial design plans, assuming you followed the previous steps. At NLI, our goal is to have preliminary design concepts approved by our clients before interviewing contractors for estimates which allows for more accurate and realistic estimates.

Bottom line: I highly value budget transparency and respect, and I want you working with a contractor who does the same. Do not settle for anything less - you will regret that a few months into your project, for a variety of reasons.

Timeless all white modern traditional kitchen with Schumacher's Chiang Mai fabric on custom window shade and beautiful blue island by Houston interior design firm Nancy Lane Interiors.
Design: Nancy Lane Interiors | Photo: Madeline Harper Photography

Step 05: Design Phases

We took a deep dive into our design phases here in this post!

While the design phase of your project is happening, I highly recommend decluttering and getting rid of things that won't make it to the new space. This phase is a big chunk of time, paired with the demo and construction, and organizing and purging your belongings will leave you with only things you enjoy and use consistently.

Who wants to move platters and that set of china you never used into your brand new kitchen anyway?

Step 06: Purchase Products and Materials

When your design plan is solidified, your budget is set, and you have identified the materials, plumbing, and appliances you are purchasing, buy from reputable companies with clear policies about returns/exchanges/issues.

Also make sure to get a solid idea on lead times - certain companies are a year out still, especially with appliances. While stock issues and transportation woes have gotten better, long lead times are a still reality right now.

Bottom line: DO NOT let anyone demo your space without everything being ordered and ETA lead times given. Typically on most remodeling jobs, contractors insist on handling the purchasing for renovation projects (this allows for better planning and scheduling of subs on their part) but each project may vary. Bottom line: Keep your record of receipts and emails - do not take your contractor's word that everything has been ordered. YOU. NEED. CONFIRMATION IN WRITING. Sadly that's not always enough but you've got to trust the professionals you hire until they give you reason not to. (#thestoriesIcouldtellbutwon't)

Order as lead times allow and work backwards on the calendar to make sure demo dates make sense.

Step 07: Demolition + Construction

This is the messy part of the process. It always will look way worse before it gets better. Don't be afraid to be around throughout the process though - site visits are a great check in to see how everything is progressing, and a good touch point for you, the designer, and the contractor to stay on the same page.

Step 08: Install Appliances

If timing at the beginning of the project went smoothly and orders were placed accordingly, the appliances should be waiting in storage to be installed and ready to go once the contractor gives the thumbs up. Delays are not uncommon these days, so don't be surprised if something comes up but again advanced planning goes a long way.

If you receive appliances, or larger items like bathtubs, earlier than expected, insist on inspecting them all either by yourself if you're DIY, or with your contractor or designer (depending on who is doing the purchasing). Too many times I've suggested this and its fallen on deaf ears. I'll get frantic calls from clients or their contractors or their subs who open the boxes the day they're meant to be installed, only to find a crack that's been there since it was delivered 5 weeks earlier. Don't skip this step!! Some vendors will have specific dates you need to report damage by. I repeat, do not skip inspection of purchased items.

Step 09: Install Light Fixtures, Furniture, and Finishing Touches

We go into all the detail on your final installation here in this post. Congratulations! Your renovation is now complete!

Modern minimalist kitchen with Scan-Asian influences by Houston interior design firm Nancy Lane Interiors.
Design: Nancy Lane Interiors | Photo: French Blue Photography

If you're looking for more details about a few of these steps, click through below:

If there's other topics you'd like to see featured on the blog, leave a note in the comments section below. We'd love to hear what you think!


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