What to Expect with a Remodeling Consultation

Do you want a 3D design of your dream kitchen remodel or a drawing scribbled on paper?

Not all remodeling consultations come with the same scope of service, so before you agree to a consultation for your remodeling job, make sure to understand what you’ll get.

Is the consultation a telephone call? A visit? Both? Will you need to sign a design agreement or pay anything? Or maybe you want to visit a showroom. What works best for you depends on your preference, kitchen and bathroom remodelers say.

Angie’s List member Kaiser Yang of La Canada, California, dealt with two companies for a kitchen remodeling project. The first spent little time listening, Kaiser says. “He was very much ‘you should do this, I wouldn’t do that,’ right out of the gate. There was very little in terms of asking what I wanted. So I moved on.”

Yang then purchased a consultation and design package from IND Construction in Encino, California. Kaiser spent more than four hours between three consultation meetings to finalize designs for his project, he says. “We must have gone through 12 or 15 versions of it,” he says. “It was fantastic.”

Before you begin, discuss consultation cost

The cost depends on the scope of the consultation. If a company plans to talk to you on the phone, visit your home, and give you a few suggestions based on that visit, don’t expect a charge. But if it includes detailed design work and multiple plans, a contractor may charge you for the work or ask you to enter into a design agreement before you can start seeing drawings of the work.

With a design agreement, you’re not committing to use the company for the project, you’re just paying them for a full design with all the bells and whistles. The cost can range from $150 to $1,000 depending on the amount of work and detail required, says, Scott Hall, owner of highly rated Scott Hall Remodeling in Groveport, Ohio.

Decide on a remodeling budget

During the initial phone conversation, the contractor wants to understand the scope of your project, as well as your budget, says Hall.“For any given project, let’s say a 50- to 60-square-foot bathroom, depending on the products, there are unlimited amounts of designs and possibilities that can range from $10,000 to $50,000,” he says. “It helps to know what general price range you want to be in.”

Contractors want to know how much you can spend, so they know what options to give you, he says.

“It’s like when you’re buying a car,” he says. “It doesn’t make sense to show someone a $50,000 car if they can’t afford more than $20,000.”

Do a walk-thru consultation

After a phone chat, a contractor will want to visit your home to look at the area you want to be remodeled. They’ll ask questions about what you want, give their input based on what they see, and assess the space. A good contractor needs to take a detailed look at the job, taking into account everything from the overall layout to the utilities inside the walls, says Greg Simmons, owner of Black and White Construction.

Workers take measurements. If you plan to move one wall, they need to know how that affects the rest of the structure, and they may need to get into your basement or attic to do that. With thoroughness, the service provider can give you the most accurate bid possible, which limits the number of surprise expenses in the middle of your project, Simmons says.

Still, experts advise you to plan your budget with some wiggle room, because no matter how thorough the consultation, surprises and unexpected expenses can happen.

As part of the visit, a project designer may show you samples of their work, says Janet Cook, president of highly rated Cook Remodeling and Custom Construction in Mesa, Arizona. But the meeting will focus on an overview site analysis and discussion about your needs and wants, so the contractor can advise you of your options, she says.

Look at product samples

A virtual consultation may occur later in the process, and involve the designer sending links to products, Cook says. With a virtual consultation, you can select the products you like, but you may want to limit your choices to items such as faucets and light fixtures, and make selections such as countertops and flooring in person, Cook says.

“Many decisions that need to be made can’t be done virtually, since what you see on a computer screen may not really represent the true color of the product,” Cook says.

Make sure to understand what the company is offering when deciding whether to choose a free, discounted or full-price consultation, Cook says. “For something as important as the home you live in, wouldn’t you want to pay for experience and talent?”

After you get estimates for your project, make a hiring a decision and get started. Make sure the bids include line-by-line cost breakdowns, and if you had a thorough design consultation, the bid should include costs for the materials you want. Be leery of bids that appear to be too low — they may include poor quality materials, or the bid may not have taken everything that’s needed into account. Typically, experts recommend you aim for the sweet-spot between your highest bid and lowest bid.

This article was originally published at Angie’s List.