What to expect on a remodel – a step-by-step guide

All remodels are different, but there are some consistencies you can hang your hat on. Here is an attempt to describe the typical remodeling process from start to finish so a homeowner can better understand what to expect.

Project team and their responsibilities

  • Homeowner – responsible for articulating the desired project outcome
  • Architect (if needed) – responsible for developing the scope of work, drawings and specifications and filing permits
  • General Contractor – responsible for hiring sub contractors and building the project while following local building regulations
  • Consultants – responsible for providing specialized design input: HVAC, engineering etc.

IMPORTANT TIP Remodeling is like falling in love - only fools rush in. Focus on defining your project as accurately as possible before hiring a contractor. Your pocket and sanity will thank you later.

The Design Process

This stage assumes you have a designer or architect on board. If you do not then start at step 3 (pre-design) with a general contractor.

  1. Initial meeting – interviewing, and brainstorming with, designers and / or architects
  2. Design contracts – agreeing who is going to do what
  3. Pre-design - getting inspired, defining existing conditions, agreeing the scope of work, project goals etc.
  4. Schematic design – exploring design options, discussing feasibility, pros and cons
  5. Design development – producing drawings and retaining any consultants
  6. Construction document phase – thoroughly documenting the scope of work, finalizing finishes through drawings and schedules
  7. Permits (if required) – submitting documents to your city agency
  8. Contract procurement phase – sourcing general contractors (you’d have started this at step 3 if your project doesn’t have an architect), walking through the project with them, distributing project documents, analyzing bids, choosing a contractor and signing a contract with them (architect not a party to this agreement).

The Construction Phase

  1. Kick off meeting with project team, agreeing project meetings
  2. Advance payment to the contractor (30% PLUS Materials)
  3. Breaking ground, building out the project
  4. Paying the team (especially the contractor) in full and on time (for progress!)
  5. Approving (or reject) any change orders
  6. Providing information when needed


  1. Final walk through / inspection with building or city agency
  2. Doing punch list
  3. Requesting project manual and warranties from contractor
  4. Releasing final payments to team