Rehabs: The truth about design

Ahhh, Kenwood house – how we love you so…it’s been 2 weeks since closing – let me tell you how work has progressed:


Yep, that’s it. We are still trying to get bids! This is a substantial renovation. It is not a gut rehab and more of a comprehensive update which is actually harder to bid than a gut job. Think about it – we can’t have workers coming in an smashing everything, pulling down walls, taking everything down to the studs, and dragging stuff across the floors. We are only renovating pieces of the house so they have to be careful. Careful = Time. We all know what time equals. The other issue? We renovate century-old homes. They’re awesome because they’re quirky. They’re also challenging because they’re quirky – different floor heights, different ceiling heights, awkward layouts, small rooms, old systems, old chimneys, and mystery spigots.

Check out what is affectionately referred to as “the fort”!


Awesome room, difficult functionality – especially when it is located on the 3rd floor and consists of an operable window and a rigged front door as the entryway.

Here’s my point: design is difficult. I know we watch those rehab shows where they walk through with their general contractor (GC) talking about taking out walls and re-configuring kitchens and bathrooms on the day they buy it and then the GC gives them a price right then and there – that is simply not true. If you look closely at those shows, somewhere you will see drawings. Not sketches. Drawings. These drawings were done by architects. These drawings will be requested by your general contractor before he can bid a job where you’re moving layouts around. If your GC does not ask for drawings, think twice about your GC. This is not to say that a GC cannot bid without drawings, it is to say that your bids will likely be 1) high to protect the GC from nuances that were not discussed 2) very far apart among GCs because of the “unknowns”. Drawings give you consistency. Drawings give you accuracy. Consistency & Accuracy = Efficiency & Cost.

So, for the record, budget an architect for $2-5k on the big jobs and let them work with the GC. Allow 3 weeks for the architects to give you drawings, 2 weeks for the GCs to review the drawings and bring their crews to the property to walk through, 2 weeks more to get bids, and another week to get insurance paperwork and signature documents. That’s 8 weeks, or 2 months. Hopefully, your GC can start right afterwords – check and make sure. These guys have crews to pay and do not often hold off other jobs, counting on yours, until you have established trust. Using this schedule, it looks like Kenwood will be a spring fling sale and it’s not even summer yet.


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