We've learned a lot about the remodel. Not the least of which is goes along the lines of "Hmmm, didn't think that was going to be as important as it was." Some things seem obvious and some still feel like revelations most days.
First of all, we're really happy with our architect. That was totally worth the money. The reason is that we never would have come up with their solution for adding a master suite and an extra bedroom. Our solution would have sucked.
Second, our contractor charged by the task, not by the hour. So if it took less time or more (like the problems they found in the old family room), that was on their dime. There was no construction problem that came up that we had to pay extra for.
On the other hand. . . .
The extra charges we ended up paying for had to do with wanting some lighting or plumbing fixture that was nicer than our allotted construction "allowance." This is apparently where everyone pays more than they think they are going to. Occasionally, it's simply going to the contractor's preferred store and picking out fixtures that are more expensive that you meant to. Other times, it's part of the realization that after the construction, you really need an X in this Y space.
More specific things we learned:
*Working with a contractor generally gets you about a 50-60% discount on the store's prices.
*You can occasionally find online specials that cost about 20% what the store is offering. Not 20% off. 20% of. Very nice.
*A clever husband can sometimes find building materials for sale on Craig's list and save, oh let's say, $1500 off the best deal the contractor can get. Go, Dave!!
And here's the hardest and most strange lesson: Those extras--those lighting, plumping and paint choices--appear to be the most important ones, but they are not. I'm not thrilled with my custom built bathroom vanity. It's built exactly the way I asked for it on the design. But I don't think it's going to work for me. However, for a little bit more money (probably less than $100), I can have that fixed. The general bathroom on the other hand--the shape, location, windows, etc? That I really like.
Even if Dave and I picked the butt ugliest lighting and plumbing fixtures and paints, they can eventually be replaced. Yes, it will cost money, but only a couple of hundred dollars really. The house itself? Not so easy to change. Those are the things one sees and uses day to day and they are really the least important. Yeah, I get it, they are the most important as far as how pretty and stylish the house looks. But it's the bones of the house that really have the most importance in how well your house is going to work as a home.
So there you go. Ideas we hope you can use in your remodel. I have absolutely no doubt more will be coming. (Like how to get cheap granite for your counters!)