6 Things You Need to Know Before Starting Your Home Renovation


    Every homeowner to some extent is the project manager of their renovation, but they should rely on the expertise of professionals to manage and execute everything as appropriate to their scope, budget and design aesthetics.

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    Take notes or record conversations with your architect or team

    New York City-based home renovation company Bolster offers these six tips for a smooth renovation.

    1. Reach out to your super, co-op board or neighbors.

    Ask your super about past projects and what made it easier; ask how the building prefers to let the other residents know more info about construction and who to contact if something impacts other units. Get their buy-in.

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    The best time to start any renovation is about six months before you actually want to begin building

    “Notifying your neighbors in writing well in advance of starting any work is a common courtesy, and it keeps them on your side,” said Fraser Patterson, CEO and cofounder of Bolster. “As the work is under way, it helps to periodically give them a heads up before bigger work starts. Nobody likes surprises.”

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    Ask building management if there is a written policy regarding construction

    2. Hire your team. 

    Bolster cofounder and Chief Operating Officer Anna Karp says the traditional renovation process is to hire architects first and then a contractor once the design is complete, but this can lead to cost overruns and delays.

    “Hire an architect and contractor at the same time to keep renovation streamlined and efficient,” she said, adding that the Bolster team is vertically integrated/in-house. “So everyone is vetted and there are no lowball estimates just to land a job.”

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    Write a letter to your neighbors apologizing for any inconvenience

    3. Make sure the estimate is as detailed as possible.

    Line items should clearly show where your money is going, and not be ambiguous like “labor.” “Our technology enables you to see expenses down to the cent,” said Karp. “Homeowners get detailed, realistic and accurate estimates before the work has even begun, and price tags start to feel less frightening and more contextualized.”

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    Go see materials — tiles, appliances, fixtures – in person

    4. Learn the lingo / Speak the language. 

    Brush up on NYC/DOB codes and laws by going to nyc.gov website and searching “construction codes.” “Particularly in New York City, where renovations are tightly controlled by city codes and building rules, it’s important to have general knowledge of the construction process, labor, materials and permits,” said Patterson.

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    A build team will be able to help you choose finishes that can save you money

    5. Familiarize yourself with materials like tiles, appliances and fixtures.

    Don’t rely on online choices; go see them in person because they can look different when they arrive. “It’s best to spend time either solo or with your architect picking out these things,” said Karp. “This can also help you save money — if you know of a ‘family’ of products you like, you can keep an eye out for sales.”

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    Let your budget dictate your design — not let your design dictate your budget

    6. Visualize things in 3D.

    Get out the tape measure. “Mark out the dimensions of appliances and fixtures so you know what it looks like in real life vs. a rendering,” said Karp.

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    A homeowner is wise to not design once their renovation is in the build phase

    For more information about starting your smart renovation, visit Bolster’s website.

    Bolster COO Anna Karp will be speaking at “What First-Time Home Renovators Need to Know,” part of the Brownstoner Home Event series. The panel takes place Wednesday, June 12 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Brooklyn Historical Society. You can register here.

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