Every last fixture, decorative panel and crown molding must be perfect for a remodel to look authentic, local contractors say. That’s why they go above and beyond—special-ordering pieces from around the country to be fit precisely into place by experienced local craftsmen. This attention to detail is what preserves each home’s architectural integrity, says Dave Dunlap, owner of Consolidated Design & Construction Group.
Whether your home is a historical Colonial, Italianate or Victorian, or a more modern craftsman, ranch or international style, an exceptional home renovation project starts with a design that meets the homeowner’s needs. “Those needs are best discerned by a professional designer who asks questions and listens,” Dunlap notes. “Detailed drawings and written specifications can go a long way to eliminating mutual mystification between the contractor and homeowner.”
Exterior and interior details, such as doors, window and door casings, base trim, crown molding, wood flooring and decorative paneling, must be salvaged and replicated, rather than simply replaced. “It may cost a little more to have new millwork milled to match the existing product, but the end result is well worth the effort,” Dunlap emphasizes. Sinn Design Build owner Tricia Sinn agrees. “To maintain molding and millwork, we match door and room sizes, and make them fit the rest of the home,” she says. “Fortunately, in St. Louis, there are great craftsmen who can take materials from across the country and make them look seamless and work with the home and the family.” This is particularly important for many local neighborhood homes, she says. “Especially in areas like Ladue, homes are older, and it is important to respect the architectural integrity of the house.”
Jeff Bogard, president and owner at R.E.A. Homes, says his company does whatever it takes to meet clients’ needs, such as shipping in unique stone or wood to match a decades-old home’s existing architecture. Bogard adds that the key to achieving a cohesive renovation is teamwork, from the client to the contractor and designer.
And contractors remind homeowners that a remodel does not always mean an add-on. Most homeowners want to knock down certain walls to create an open-concept floor plan and achieve a more pleasing flow to the home, Sinn explains. Dunlap adds that when it comes to renovating, less is more. “Multiple additions can create a rabbit warren of rooms. An enjoyable home may be attained without adding more space—simply removing a wall or two can create a more comfortable place to gather with friends and family.”
Dos and Don’ts of Remodeling
• Do check references. Ask references questions such as: Was the job finished on time? Were there any unexpected extra charges? Was the job site kept clean? Did all of the workmen show respect for the homeowner and the property?
• Do trust gut instinct. The bitterness of a poor job lingers long after the sweet taste of a ‘good’ deal. If you are uncomfortable with the contractor, find someone else. If you don’t understand how something is being done or what materials are being used, ask for an explanation. A good contractor welcomes your question! If there is something that doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t. The time to get if fixed is now, not at the end of the job when it may be too late.
• Do ask about membership in professional, civic, and charitable organizations. While that is not a guarantee of good work, it does indicate if a company is seeking to become more professional and support the community in which it works.
• Do insist upon a certificate of liability insurance and verify workmen’s compensation insurance coverage for every person on the job.
• Do ask if the company is an EPA lead-certified firm. There is a risk of lead exposure, particularly to small children, in any home built prior to 1978. An EPA lead-certified renovator can help minimize that risk.
• Don’t pay ahead or make large advance payments unless needed for special-order materials.
Source: Dave Dunlap, Consolidated Design & Construction Group