Ask the Expert: The best way to plan for your home remodeling project.

When taking on a home renovation, there is a lot of planning that needs to be considered before jumping into the project. Not only will you need to hire the right contractor, or determine if the project will need to be filed with the Department of Buildings by an architect, or select the right materials and the scope of work to fit your budget, you will also need to understand how you are going to live side by side with the project from start to finish.

The more knowledgeable and prepared a homeowner is, the more successful they will be in having the project go as planned.  A home improvement project is a huge investment of time and money, so making sure it is done right the first time is extremely important.

The planning and research phases of a home improvement project are the most critical steps in the remodeling process, and should be guided with mindfulness, open communication with your contractor and an in-depth contract which describes and lists all the materials and services you will be receiving.

Consider consulting with an architect first. They can help research your project to determine if the scope of work complies with local building code and may even have some great resources they can share. They will also provide a good sense of what is involved, such as the cost to design and build out the project, the time frames for permits and legalization, and introduce product and materials options.

They may also be able to provide some insight into the contractors you are considering for the project, as many contractors and architects work hand and hand to provide a seamless customer experience.

Deciding on a realistic budget and arranging finances to support your project are essential to its success. The total cost needs to include; the proposed cost for architectural services; any permits, filing fees or fees for controlled inspections; the cost of the materials and services provided by your contractor, and any sub-contractors that have been hired for specialty work; all products and materials you are responsible to purchase independent of the contract; and lastly, a slush fund for unforeseen expenses that were not included in the contract. Don’t be afraid to share your concerns about your budget with your contractor.  Professionals are respectful of a client’s budget and will create a plan around it, not over it.

When searching for an architect, contractor or sub-contractors check their reviews online and their social media pages. This is an easy way to get some insight into what others are saying about a contractor. Don’t be put off by a less than favorable review if the contractor addressed the concern and worked through the problem. There are times where a customer may be frustrated by the services they receive, but if the contractor addresses and resolves the concern, that is a great indication that they are accountable and accepting of their responsibility to the project.

It is always good to ask friends, family and neighbors for referrals, and ask if they had first-hand experience with that professional. Professional remodelers take their reputation seriously and hold credentials beyond licensing such as certifications, memberships in trade associations and additional training.

Contact both the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (by calling 311) or visit their website at, and call the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any recent consumer complaints made against the contractor.

When interviewing contractors, ask about their educational background, or familiarity with the specialty materials included in your project. Ask how the project will affect your schedule and ask what is expected from you during this process. Lastly, ask how long it will be until they can schedule your project, and how long they anticipate it will take until they are completed.

Check license numbers, insurance information and certifications that were provided by the contractor to verify they are still active. Ask for a Certificate of Insurance and verify that the contractors and subcontractors he will be using are properly insured and have active NYC Department of Consumer Affairs licenses. Request a visit to a current jobsite and make it known that you are checking on the company – a true professional considers that as a positive sign in working with a homeowner.

A remodeling contract protects you and your remodeler, so read every word carefully. If there is an architect on your project, consider having them review it as well. Professional remodelers provide contracts to protect themselves, and the limits of their responsibility for your project. Homeowners may not be as familiar with the remodeling process and should ask about terms that they don’t understand. Pay attention to details about change orders, payment schedules, additional fees, timelines and responsibilities. If it’s not in the contract, it doesn’t exist.

Your design will guide the entire project so think about what you dislike about your current space and the intended use of the new space. Use websites such as and to gather design ideas. Make sure your designer, architect or contractor understands your needs and what you would like your home to look like when the project is completed. Professionals may not be able to recreate a photo you have provided, but they can incorporate some of the features, functionality, style and value into your design.

Deciding on products and materials is a larger process than most imagine. With so many options to choose from, product selections are one of the primary reasons for project timelines to be extended. Base decisions on quality, function, price, style and availability. Try to include your selections in the contract so that there are no surprises, and to keep your budget intact.

Creating a communication plan is one of the most important steps in the planning process. A common downfall between contractors and homeowners is the lack of communication during a home renovation. Your remodeler should lay out a clear plan at the beginning of the project, providing you an understanding of what areas will be affected by the renovation, and how you are expected to live through the renovation. This plan should also clarify the roles of everyone involved, communication methods, and the availability and frequency of communication that is expected.

If you have a question about your remodeling project or a contractor, visit or email us at[email protected].

Lana Seidman, Executive Director – NARI-HIC of Staten Island Inc.

(718) 356-2323

All our experts are licensed, bonded and insured members of the Home Improvement Contractors of Staten Island (HIC of Staten Island).  Homeowners should always consult with licensed professionals, check a contractor’s license through the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (call 311 for information) and ensure that their project complies with NYC DOB regulations before embarking on any home improvement project.

To ask your home improvement questions contact: [email protected]

Lana Seidman
Executive Director
HIC of Staten Island, Inc.
888 Huguenot Ave.
Staten Island, NY 10312
(347) 668-5857 cell
(718) 356-2323 office
[email protected]

“Staten Island’s Trusted Source for all your Home Improvement and Service Needs”