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“Satisfaction goes up when you have concrete expectations,” says CA-based contractor Dan Fritschen. The unglamorous truth is that planning ahead saves money. In order to plan effectively, Fritschen recommends that homeowners seek assistance from two types of renovation consultants. Early in your project, each of these pros will ask different, equally important questions to help you translate a design vision into a built reality.
1. Interior Designer
Is renovating truly necessary? An interior designer can outline options that require little construction—or none whatsoever. Such designers typically charge about $50 to $80 an hour for a consultation and plan.
“Unlike contractors and real estate agents whose ‘consulting’ is a sales tool to get you to buy additional services, a designer familiar with contracting and remodeling will listen to your lifestyle goals and help you see all the options,” says Fritschen. If, for example, you’d like more entertaining space, the designer might say, “If you move your dining table over there and your sofa over here, you’ll have the space,” says Fritschen. “A contractor will never tell you that.” Designers can also recommend low-cost solutions to lighting, traffic flow, and functional problems.
Even if you decide to go ahead with a renovation, the designer’s input can help you envision the end result. In addition, the designer can assist you in determining the specifics of layout, lighting, storage and finishes.
2. Structural Engineer
A structural engineer is the second professional you didn’t know you needed. In the early planning stages, he or she can plot the structural requirements of the construction options you are considering, and the associated $500 fee can steer you away from a plan that is impractical at best, impossible at worst.
Designers may or may not have the expertise to review the structural underpinnings of your project, and you cannot count on a contractor’s staff to think through those essentials, says Fritschen.
Finally, consulting with a structural engineer at the beginning can help you synchronize your renovations plans with the local building code, and having plans developed in collaboration with the engineer should speed the process of getting permits and of inspections.
For more on renovation, consider: