It may seem counterintuitive, but many times I talk my clients OUT of things they want to do during their renovation. I suggest that we focus on the DON'Ts of their project, before we focus on the DO's!
1. Don't delay decisions.
If you want your remodel to go well, the best thing to do is plan as much as possible before work starts. A good builder can talk you through the list of situations that might come up on your job, but decisions about situations aren't usually what cause delays.
Instead, most of the issues are related to decisions about things like paint, trim and faucet selection. These may seem small, but when your faucet is two weeks late, plumbers have to be rescheduled and the medicine cabinet door hits the faucet when it's installed, you'll see how something small can balloon into a week's delay on a five-week project.
2. Don't work without a contingency fund.
If you find out that the work you wanted to do costs more than you expected or budgeted, you're not the first to learn this hard lesson. It's almost unheard of that a person sets a realistic budget for a project. But don't eat into your contingency to stretch the budget. If you follow rule #1 and plan well ahead of time, you can probably get away with a 5% contingency.
3. Don't overbuild for your neighborhood.
We have all seen "that" house -- you know the one. The owners keep adding on and gussying it up until it is completely overbuilt for the neighborhood. Remember, even though you want to remodel and add on to your house to make it just what you dream of, you may want to sell it in the future and you could run the risk of pricing yourself right out of your neighborhood.
4. Don't ignore what the house wants.
Though some people can pull off wearing Converse sneakers with a formal gown, it can also go horribly wrong. Houses are the same way. Can an ultra-modern kitchen in a classic Georgetown row-home work? Absolutely, but make sure you can pull it off. This is not to say a house can't evolve with the times. There are no hard and fast rules - just get to know your house, live in it and do your research before you start the demo.
5. Don't work without a design.
Some projects require an architect, some an interior designer, and sometimes a talented builder will get your aesthetic and help you come up with a good plan.
Whatever you do, don't start a remodel without a detailed floor plan. A lot of elements interact in a space - put them all on paper and you'll catch problems before they are built.
The Ark Team partners with excellent architects and interior designers that make the whole design/build process seamless.