Remodeling 101 – For Homeowners

Are you ready to start a remodeling project?  While it is important to hire the right professionals, do you know what your responsibilities will be as the Homeowner once you begin this endeavor?

Prior to meeting with an architect, an owner must clearly state the project’s objectives, determine a construction schedule, and establish a budget.  A project wish list may include space requirements such as a family room, kitchen or bathroom.  Careful consideration of the preexisting structure should be made to determine the overall design aesthetic and finishes.

Site Plan Analysis

Township approvals often require a zoning permit submission along with the building permit.  If you do not have a plot plan of your property, you may have to have the property surveyed to identify boundaries, easements, elevations, and stormwater remediation requirements.  A professional land surveyor/engineer can provide this service.  This survey will also be used to determine setbacks, building coverage, and impervious coverage requirements that will be reviewed by the zoning official prior to issuing a building permit.

Architect and Design

Once an Architect is selected, she or he will proceed with the plans and specifications for the project and present them at the different stages of design.  The owner is responsible for reviewing these plans, and requesting modifications at each phase, and then approve prior to the final phase.  Making changes during the design phase of the project is much less expensive than during construction.  Once a design is determined, preliminary estimates can be obtained from builders to see if the project is within your budget.

Product selections

When meeting with a builder, you need to identify the desired level of quality of construction.  Finish materials, counter tops, kitchen cabinets, appliances, bathroom fixtures, windows, doors, and trim all have different price points.  By identifying these components early, a builder will be able to prepare an estimate accordingly.  Some may give you an allowance, and if you exceed it, you will pay the difference.

While the final plans and specifications are being completed, you can begin to finalize materials selections such as flooring, paint colors, wall finishes, fixtures and lighting.  Today’s consumers are very savvy and there is what seems like a myriad of choices available both in stores and online.  Keep a list of those selections, costs, store name, and lead times. You will want to review your list with your builder, as he may have suggestions and contacts with distributors that offer competitive pricing.


Simultaneously, you should also be confirming that your financing is in alignment, and that you also have an additional 20% contingency available.  Construction cost overruns are inevitable, from unforeseen site conditions, or preexisting structural deterioration, to those “must have” designer series upgrades.

Once the plans are completed and bids are solicited, a builder can be chosen, a contract executed, and construction permit applications can be submitted.  Legally, a township has 30 business days to review applications, but this will vary depending upon the staffing and construction activity of your locale. Builders will also have to submit bonds and insurance certificates prior to the start of construction.  Your builder should provide you with a construction schedule after executing the contract.  It is the homeowner’s responsibility to review the schedule and be prepared to make provisions as needed to not delay the work.


If you intend to occupy part of the building during construction, this may affect the overall cost and time of completion because your builder will need to make sure you have electricity and running water at all times, as well as phase the work around your living areas. If your remodel includes a kitchen or bath, you may need to make temporary arrangements for cooking, bathing, and storage.  A temporary kitchen is simple enough to set up with a microwave, coffee pot, portable electric stove, and outdoor grill.  Many people obtain pods to temporarily store their furniture. Large plastic bins are also useful and stack nicely while keeping items dust free.  Construction sawdust and sheetrock dust is very fine and inevitably coats every surface even with the most fastidious of contractors. Your existing bathroom will be used by workers unless you request your builder to provide a port-a-john.  Depending upon your own personal comfort and convenience thresholds, moving out may be the better option.  Some people rent trailers or move in with family.

The remodeling process is both overwhelming and exciting.  Enjoy the journey.  Hang up inspiration photos or paint chips on the wall.  Take photographs along the way to track the progress.  Redirecting your attention on the end result is far more enjoyable than focusing on the temporary inconveniences.  There are many parts of the equation to completing a successful remodel and being a prepared homeowner will make all the difference.

Happy Remodeling!

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    • Reis Marietta
      8 years ago - Reply

      My brother recommended this blog. Your posts are really helpful and informative, thanks!

      • Allison Shreffler
        8 years ago - Reply

        Thanks for visiting and for your positive feedback! If you are looking to build new or remodel in the New Jersey or Pennsylvania areas, please contact us at! We are constantly striving to post content that is both valuable and interesting to our potential clients or anyone interested in remodeling or new construction. Check back often!