Behind the Blueprint: Five Things to Plan in the Design Phase

The design phase of your custom remodeling project is even more important than the building phase. It is the planning that sets the tone for the entire project. It’s not just the drawing of the remodeled kitchen or bathroom that you approve from the builder, or the sketch of the family room addition or in-law suite that you provide to the HOA. It’s the plan from which the homeowner, the designer and the builder will work throughout the project. There should be no “afterthoughts.” If everything is planned properly, the project is more likely to come in on time and on budget, and you’re more likely to be completely satisfied.

What items should be included in the design phase?


things to plan for your custom remodeling project

Electrical – In addition to the electrical outlets that are required by code, you and the remodeler need to decide upon other opportunities. If you need extra outlets in the kitchen or if you want additional switches for lights, the design phase is the time to make sure these are included. GFCI outlets in bathrooms and kitchens should be planned carefully, as well. There is a minimum requirement for these, but if more are required, it’s easier to take care of it in the plans.

Plumbing – Any special fixtures that will require more than the standard pipes will need to be identified now. If you are planning a soaking tub with jets, a multi-head shower system or even a separate tub and stand-up shower in two separate locations in the remodeled bathroom, your custom re-modeler needs to know it now. If the current plumbing does not allow for the split in tub and shower, you need to be aware of the cost and be prepared for the materials and labor. In addition, any future plans for a sink, bathroom or water supply area can be assigned “roughed in” plumbing, making any future remodeling easier and less costly.

Lighting – This is an often-overlooked part of the design phase. If you want more than a single overhead light in each room, you should discuss it with your remodeler. Track lighting, ceiling fans and chandeliers all need to be accounted for. Most custom remodelers will bring in a lighting specialist, or design-build professionals will have their designers work with clients to come up with the best lighting plan. Don’t forget to include under-cabinet lighting in kitchen and bath renovations, as well as task lighting and lighting for ambiance. Many of these require not only electrical work, but also fixture selection. If homeowners are unsure of their decorating plans, the designers can help them create a contingency plan so that their options remain open after the walls are closed. Any lighting adjustments such as dimmer switches should also be in the plan.

Mill-work/Cabinet/Appliance – Your cabinetry and woodworking is another important part of the blueprint phase. You can make your kitchen remodeling project truly customized by selecting the style of cabinetry early in the project. If you’ve chosen cabinetry that is wider, taller or more involved than standard cabinetry, it can be built in if it’s planned. You don’t need to choose the color or finish right away, but the style and custom features should certainly be considered. Upgrades like enclosed refrigerators, dishwashers or ovens should be decided now, so the custom remodeler can address any heating and cooling concerns.

Special Needs – Last, but by no means least, are the special needs of the homeowner. The awareness of these needs comes from a good contractor who listens to the description of the client’s lifestyle and goals for the project. It’s always wise to implement universal design, especially if you’re planning to “age in place.” That means the ability to enter and exit the home without stairs, the availability of a first-floor master suite, wider doorways, smooth transitions from room-to-room and non-slip surfaces in tiled areas and bathroom fixtures. Perhaps “aging in place” is the reason for your remodel in the first place. If it’s not, it’s still a prudent decision and will also increase resale value for your home. If there are any other special considerations you have for your custom remodeling project, be sure to voice them before the blueprint is approved.

Tags: ,