Q&A: How to create a remodeling plan?

<p><a onclick=”window.open(this.href, ‘_blank’, ‘width=576,height=684,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false” href=”http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.shared/image.html?/photos/uncategorized/2008/03/11/carlbaltonkitchenplans.jpg”><img title=”Carlbaltonkitchenplans” height=”296″ alt=”Carlbaltonkitchenplans” src=”http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/pardonourdust/images/2008/03/11/carlbaltonkitchenplans.jpg” width=”250″ border=”0″ style=”FLOAT: right; MARGIN: 5px” /></a><strong>Here’s a question from reader Molly K.:</strong></p>
<p><em>&quot;I have multiple remodel jobs to do on my 1950 bungalow and a very limited budget.<br /><br />&quot;What kind of professional should I hire to help me make a design and budget plan given current costs and the need to consider costs in choosing various elements to use?&quot;</em></p>
<p><strong>My take:</strong></p>
<p>I love the idea of creating a design and budget plan, rather than simply tackling one disparate project after another. Instead, you could get a plan in place and then fulfill it as funds become available.</p>
<p>You can get some free or reasonably priced help from the design desks at Home Depot, Lowe’s and <a href=”http://www.ikea.com/ms/en_US/rooms_ideas/splashplanners.html”>Ikea</a>, among others. (Read about <a href=”http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/pardonourdust/2007/05/pardon_our_dust.html”>a guy who did just that</a>.) Sometimes you have pay a couple hundred dollars for the services, sometimes it’s free when you buy the cabinets from the store. (Read <a href=”http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/load/kitchbath/msg1112512215746.html”>comments on Home Depot/Lowe’s design services</a> on Garden Web.)</p>
<p>But here’s a crazy idea: How about hiring a remodeling contractor to help you create a plan? After all, these are the people who know about budgets, whereas a pure designer type might not be familiar with the costs of various construction options.</p>
<p>A couple of years ago, you might have encountered remodeling companies too swamped with work to perform this kind of service, but the days of homeowners refinancing to pull $100,000 from equity for big remodels are gone. Remodeling contractors are now freed up, and looking for work. </p>
<p>I suggest finding a design/build firm, which is a contractor with designers on staff, or a contractor who has good design sense. You should expect to spend around $75 to $125 an hour for these brainstorming and planning services. And be sure to let the contractor know what you’re up to. Getting someone in your house to toss ideas around, all the while knowing you will never hire them to do the job, is bad juju.</p>
<p>It might sound counterintuitive to pay for planning services when you’re already strapped for money, but having a plan could give you peace of mind now and a better use of money later on.</p>
<p><em><strong>Your take?</strong></em></p>
<p><em>(Photo: Mar Vista homeowner Carl Balton reveals his kitchen remodeling plans.)</em></p>