As many of you know, we (in this case, Kim & Chavi) remodeled our 1960's custom built rambler in 2007. The experience was fun, creative, slightly stressful an very dirty. We enjoyed learning about the diversity of materials out there that are not only beautiful but environmentally sound. Below are some helpful hints and resources that we discovered during our own remodeling journey. Hopefully they will make your journey more fun and less stressful.
Create your vision: Let your creativity flow and get beyond the beige. A well thought out vision will allow you to give your house a new spark and help save the earth at the same time. It will keep you on track and on budget, from the material selection process to communicating clearly with contractors.
Price it out: Our biggest mistake was setting the budget before we knew the cost of materials like tile, countertops and yes, toilets. Those little ceramic suckers can be so expensive! Be as prepared as possible and price out everything before chatting with a contractor. Make sure to ask your contractor if he is willing to purchase materials for you without up charging you. Contractors often get 25% -30% discounts on materials like tile & plumbing supplies.
Get Permits if You Need Them: Anytime you are doing major structural work to a house like adding a bathroom, redoing the roof line, expanding the footprint, building up or converting a garage , it is a good idea to get an architect involved, have plans drawn and get it permitted by the city. Many a good idea was shut down mid way by the city because the owner decided to circumvent rules and add a dormer or a deck without a permit. This means a huge fine, lost time and maybe even losing your contractor to another job if he/she is on a tight timeline.
Renovation Material Resources
The Divas absolutely love how creative the built green home market has become. There are a multitude of wonderful non-traditional products out there to choose from. The Eco Haus is a great place to start but many home remodeling store now provide some types of eco-friendly products. Below is a quick list of the materials we investigated during our remodel.
Cabinets: We decided to use Canyon Creek. They are not 100% green but they were affordable, locally built, certified by the EPA for healthy air practices and beautiful. Plus, Marella, their rep will come out and work with you on designing your kitchen, for no extra charge!
Tile: We found a great product at both Eco Haus & Norberry Tile in the Seattle Design Center called Fireclay. It is a traditional clay material that is mixed with recycled materials like glass and other products. We also like the tiles at Bedrock Industries and Georgetown Tile Works.
Countertops: We fell in love with a stunning brown Squawk Mountain Stone only available through Eco Haus. It looks and feels like concrete but it is lightweight and versatile.
Flooring: For our needs we decided to go with regular oak floors. You can often find old oak and even fir floor board suitable for re-use at places like Restore or Second Use. Plus, there are tons of available reclaimed wood flooring products if you have a little more cash.
Fixtures: There are many water-saving bath fixtures & toilets out there. My main advice is to shop at places that give contractor discounts like Keller Plumbing Supply or Soreano's Plumbing.
Need further references as to where to find resources for renovation? After the jump check out our Seattle Resource Page>>>
Picking the Best Contractor You Can Get Your Hands On
The Divas know this is not an easy task. Good contractors are hard to find for a reason. BUT nothing makes or breaks your remodel experience like a contractor. Here is our list of ways to ensure you pick the right contractor for you. We LOVED our contractors. The only problem is that they are booked well in advance. Just go our Seattle Resources page for our contractor's information. Below is some hints and tricks on how to have an effective working relationship with your contractor.
Book Early: Plan on booking someone months before you are ready to go. We booked ours in January and they started in May.
Get Referrals: Get as many personal referrals as possible. Ask those folks questions about the work and the process. Was their contractor on time? Did he/she stay in budget? Were they clean? Make sure they really loved their contractor. You will be surprised how many folks referred contractor to us that we later found out were not really happy with their work.
Interview Your Referrals: Interview at least 2-3 contractors. You want to understand how they work, what are your expectations compared to theirs. You will have to live with these contractors for several months. Make sure it is someone you can communicate with and trust.
Bid the Project: Compare bids between several contractors. Make sure the bid spells out exactly what is included in the cost. Ask as many questions as possible. Are they contracting out some of the work or doing it all themselves? Are they including their friend who offers "kitchen design" work in their bid? Are they including tax? Do they have a "contractor mark-up" on materials even after they take the discount? A good contractor will know your budget, understand your budget and will either be familiar with or become familiar with the materials you are using.
Have a resource you want to share with the Divas? Send us a note and we will add them to our Diva List>>
Diva Links to Help Rock Your Renovation
Links for Tree Hugger Materials:
Canyon Creek Cabinets
Green Tech Cabinetry
Georgetown Tile Works
Bedrock Industries - Glass Tile
The Re Store - Cool things from old buildings
Second Use - Move cool things from old buildings
Other Tree Hugger Environmental Resource Sites
Built Green News