How to Start Planning for a Remodel

Today we are going to be discussing remodeling, focusing on the essential steps involved in planning for a successful remodel. We will be sharing the initial stages of the process, starting with how to begin and conduct research on potential remodeling companies. We also highlight the crucial questions to ask during this phase and shed light on the key differences between handymen, general contractors (GCs), and remodeling firms, emphasizing what sets them apart.

Understanding your vision for the space serves as the foundation for a successful remodel, and in this episode, we share the importance of this crucial first step. Whether it's exploring inspirational photos or engaging in vision planning, we discuss how researching and visualizing possibilities within your space can help clarify your goals and ultimately get you to your dream home. Listen in as we share valuable tips on meeting remodeling deadlines, including the importance of efficiency, decisive decision-making, and maintaining momentum throughout the process.

This Episode Will Cover: 

• Where to start when considering a remodel.

• The importance of not rushing your remodel planning.

• How to ensure you meet your deadline.

• The importance of knowing your budget from the beginning.

• The difference between a handyman, GC, and remodeling firm.

• Why you should be careful about how you pay.

Learn More About Ashley, Michelle, & Simply Home: 
• About Ashley & Michelle:
• Website:
• Podcast:
• Instagram: @simplyhomeaustin
• Facebook: @simplyhomeaustin
Episode Transcript

This is the Simply Home Podcast - Ladies who build, a podcast for women by women.

This is Ashley Wainscott and Michelle Mullins.

After spending the last 10 years revolutionizing the construction industry and raising the bar of the contracting world.

We are inviting you on our journey as we continuously learn how to be extraordinary and thrive in this industry.

Now, come hang with us.

Welcome to episode six of ladies who build.

This is how to start planning for remodel and we are gonna hit some high notes today of what Michelle and I will be diving into. First one being of course, of where to begin, how to start researching companies, questions you should be asking.

Of course, what is the difference between a handyman, GC, and remodeling firm and what sets them apart?

And then we'll be talking a little bit more about what our clients ask us and typical things that you'll see when going through this process.

Yeah, those are great high level codes. Okay. So I think the most important thing for me, at least to start thinking about, is kind of just like what you want, right?

Like I think that's kind of the initial concept of where to even start.

And so you could be looking at a space and this could be somewhere from a small bathroom, remodel up to OK, we wanna add on an addition.

So of course, those are very different projects, but they both originate from the same concept.

So I think really understanding what you want for this space is gonna be huge and honestly, that could just be starting out with just looking at inspirational photos, seeing what's possible in your space kind of the vision planning part of it.

And I think quickly after that aligning with your budget, right?

And so you don't necessarily need to get into the nitty gritties of the budget at this level.

But understanding with material and labor, what would be your top max that you can spend is gonna be huge because every step along the way when you start bringing in architects and designers and your GC, we're all gonna ask you what’s your budget, right?

So I think being really confident in that number.

And it's funny because it's kind of up to the homeowner to keep overseeing their budget.

Whereas because all parties you're gonna spend a different amount with them, right?

So you're with an architect, you're gonna have a set budget and then they'll have a set budget for materials or a designer and materials and then the contractor.


So even though you have this max budget, you're gonna lean on these parties to decipher. Okay well, with the designer, I'm expecting to spend this amount for materials, they can tell you how much you might spend on average.

And then the contractor needs to be involved from the beginning, which is something that we have been advocating for in the recent years of making sure architects and designers include contractors and remodeling firms in the very beginning of the process so that we can accurately estimate what that design is actually going to cost.

Whereas designers and architects, they don't actually know that's not their job to know, you know, day to day how much things cost.

It's just that's not something that they estimate for.

And that's where we can come in early on and say, ok, well, if we went this route, this would cost this much if you're also considering plan two, that would cost this amount, right.

So I think that's why it's important pulling us in from the beginning or any remodeling firm.

Yeah, I think you make a good point with every person you bring along is gonna have a different phase and a different budget.

And that's why we can see some of these projects can take up to a year if not more of planning and, and properly kind of reallocating funds and maybe splitting projects up in two.

And it's nice because you can, you have kind of the convenience and options to do that.

But it, it does take a lot of planning, especially for the larger projects and, and keep in mind when construction starts, it's all the execution of what you've planned, right?

So if the planning is super rushed and not organized, guess what? The project's gonna also be that way.

Michelle, that is my favorite thing you've ever said.

Oh my gosh, really?

It is so beautifully said.


Because even though we know this, I don't think I've heard it said like that, but it's so true when you spend all of this time planning up front because you know, people call us and they're like, I want to do a remodel and I wanna get started next month, right?

And yes, that sounds so fun, but it's so true of what you put into the planning is what you're gonna see on the back end come to life.


If you put all of this time into proper plans, proper material set up and feasibility thinking through the whole scope of work and making sure all parties are set up and aligned. that construction process is just beautiful.

It's so funny that we're talking about this because I actually just had a close up meeting with a client that we wrapped up her kitchen model and it was very, it was a very successful project on both parties on our side.

And plus the client's end.

And when I was talking about it with the client, we were talking about what, why do you think it went so well?

And in her opinion, she goes, because I spent upwards almost two years. She was like, that's a long time.

But I spent a lot of time planning for this and deciding on my materials.

And I knew going into it.

I knew exactly what I wanted.

I was able to make decisions quickly because I had been planning for this for so long.

I had done my research on contractors.

I had done my research on designers.

I knew what I wanted.

So the minute we swung the hammer, I pretty much could knew what the vision was gonna look like because we had planned it so strategically.

And I just love that she gave that feedback because I was like, wow, I wish I could just give this information to every client moving forward because you're like living proof that the time you put into it is like so worth it in the end.

In two years felt excessive when you first said that.

It feels excessive.


It actually she may actually be onto something.


Yeah, it's the, that ideation, time that we all been dreaming about something but imagine putting that into action and actually thinking their materials and actually starting to talk with a contractor, you don't have to pull the trigger at any point, even if it's two years down the line.

But at least, you know what things actually cost, at least, you know what materials you want.

And then it helps that decision fatigue.


You know, when your brain is about to like burst at the seams, I feel like a lot of our clients can feel that way in the planning process because they're trying to rush to start the process project when they're not giving themselves adequate time to make all those decisions.

I mean, or you just hire a designer and say here's my vision, you make all the decisions, that's totally fine too.

But if you want to make all those decisions, then really allowing yourself that time.


And she was her own designer.

So I think that is why it took her so long.

And she chose to, she was like, this is my vision.

So I'm choosing this option, but you are right, like if you are able to hire a designer to really oversee that entire vision planning process, then that's huge.

That takes away.


And you know, when I think about it, designers have been reaching out to us more and more over the years because I think they really enjoy our organized streamlined process. Right?

And a lot of times our process mirrors what they have built in their process.

So like our material check in, it honestly compliments them too because all of our material check in is just another way that we can oversee things they're working on.

And, and it's just another way to ensure that we've got all of our, I's, we've crossed all our Ts and that this process will go smoothly on the construction side.

I mean, that's all the same goal that we're working towards, right, the feasibility of a project.

So in alignment with, you know, budget planning, vision planning, taking the time to really think through what you want, there's a kind of client, what we see when clients come to us is that there's kind of three very important factors that we need to know about pretty early on, to understand how to like tailor your project and they are timeline, timeline, materials and budget, right?

One of those three is what their focus always is on more so than the others.

Yeah, so that's a good point.

And so I think in each one of those is going to dictate, it's gonna dictate like the road that we take with you.

So if you’re timeline-focused and you know that you have to be, have this project done in, I don't know, six months if it's a large project, right?

So that's really important for us to know because that's gonna impact the materials that you use.

So you wanna use materials that are in stock ideally that are in the States, right?

You don't want to be shipping from overseas.

That's where we see a lot of delays.

You also need to be quick with your decision making.

Like that's great.

Like, so think about your vision before you make some calls, right?

Because if you're timeline focused, we're gonna ask you questions and we need quick answers on not that we want to rush you, but we just need to know yes or no, but we want to rush you.

But but, but if you're gonna, if you wanna hit this goal or this deadline, we have to think very strategically and very efficiently and work backwards to say, ok, well, that means your entire timeline and all of these little deadlines in between have to be hit.

Each one of them has to be hit on time in order to meet this deadline.

And clients don't realize they actually have a lot of impact on that process.

They think it's, I don't know what they think, but some clients think that it's solely or mainly on us, which is actually not true.

A lot of it is dictated by, it depends on, you know, when you approve the budget, when you sign the commitment contract, when you pick out materials, when you fill out your materials list.

And then on top of that, when you're answering questions in the meantime about scope of work, or if you want to do this versus that, and then by the time you sign the final contract and lock down a start date.

I mean, all of those things are up to the client and can delay a project significantly. Right.

Days matter, every day matters.


It does matter.

And I think that's so important to continue educating clients on. Is that like, hey, yes, we are, you're hiring us to take over the remodel portion of it and be organized and communicate with all the vendors like that we have in the bag, but we're ultimately creating your vision.

So we're not creating my vision, we're not creating ours, right?

Like we're creating what you want in the end.

And so with that comes decisions you have to make along the way.

So if you can be really efficient and like know what you want, make decisions quickly.

Yes. No. And move the process along.

I mean, that's beautiful.

That can get us to a quick timeline finish.

Of course, we are here, we provide solutions, we problem solve with you, but ultimately making those choices.

So that's super important with timeline.

Yep. And then there's the material focused individuals who come to us and they say I saw this inspiration photo and no matter what I have to have this tile, right?

This is what I want no matter what.

And I'm willing to wait however long it takes for this tile to arrive, which usually means it's coming from overseas.

Like a Moroccan tile that was also made in Africa and carved by the gods of Morocco, you know, and they, and they're gonna wait for that, they're gonna wait until it comes in.

So, we know, ok, we're not building out an efficient timeline. We're building out a timeline as soon as we know when this Moroccan tile is set to hit the States.

But then of course, you always add a buffer and we really don't have like a start date until we know it's here.

Because, I mean, we've seen it, it's like PTSD. We've seen these materials get stuck at customs and it could be there a month to two months, way longer than what we expected. And it's just sitting there in a freight crate.

What are those things called? Freight shipping containers.

That's it. It would make sense that it's not a doctor's suit, but a freight crate.

And so it just sits there. And we, I mean, but that's the thing is they're not timeline focused.

It doesn't matter to them if it just sits there. They're material focused and they have this one thing or these several things that they're going to build their whole remodel around.

And to me, that's material focused.

I feel like we see a lot of wallpaper. Wallpaper can take a really long time to come in if it's a hand painted from Italy. You know, and it's obviously like super stunning, but people, I've seen people wait.

No, we're waiting on this wallpaper because we want this.

Yeah, which I mean, it's kind of worth it.

I would wait for a while. It transforms the space.

It really does, but wallpaper is also so easy to do after a remodel too.

Oh, that's true.

You know that...

You can always come in later.

You could, but some people are already waiting on other things, so it doesn't really matter.

So then there, and then the last one is budget focused. Do you have the clients that say, I have to be within this price range and we, I don't care what materials we use, I don't care, is, I mean, I'm saying that some people care a little bit, of course, right?

I don't really care as much about materials and I don't care as much about timeline. I'm just focused on, I need to get this done for this price range.

And so, and that allows us to open up paths to understanding, or I wouldn't even say understanding, that opens paths for us to provide options.

Right. Options and efficiency.

So, you know, but we educate the client on okay, let’s say you want to design your house in dump road. You just don’t know when. Okay, so we’re gonna educate you on the main big items that we recommend you touching in the house.

It would bring you the most value add.

So and then you might decide, okay let’s do those or maybe we separate the project in phases.

So yes, you’ve got options with that. But it’s really important, again, like we’re saying is tell them upfront and what that number is. Because it can be fun. You can see all these options, you know, they’re like, oh we wanna do all of it.

So we kind of don’t reveal all of it at once.

So it’s like, here’s what you can do. Period.

And we have so many ideas that we are always thinking strategically what is best for you to still achieve your vision, but have this other option that's worth considering. Like, hey, I know you really like these floors, but have you considered doing this, this, or this?

Because it'll save you $10 ,000, right? And if you're budget-focused, I mean, that's gonna get you excited.

We really love presenting a lot of options because we're such a solutions -oriented team that we're like, ooh, okay, you've got this budget. Let's play with it. Let's see how we can fit into it.

Let's because we know what a lot you can do to reduce cost. And I think a lot of clients are like, oh, I have to have hardwood floors, period, but it's not in my budget. Well, not necessarily.

You can also look at these options and this and that. So yeah, it's fine.

It is. And you want to do something right because I was just thinking about hardwood and you know that it might be a lot for demo whatever is in the house and it might be more costly because I don't know whatever it is whatever was installed that we have to demo or maybe you know your subfloor takes a lot of leveling and that can add up.

Fun term. If you didn't know.

Oh educational moment.

Educational moment




Okay. But I do want to take us back, because when you're researching companies, there is a plethora of us out there. Right.

Even from that, there's three categories in my eyes.

You have a handyman, you have a general contractor, and then you have a remodeling firm, which some are individual, just build companies, and then you have design build companies. Right.

So there's subcategories, but you have three main categories, and I think that we should talk about those of what the difference is between a handyman, GC and remodeling firm and why you would pick these individuals to partner with.

So in my eyes, you have a handyman, which is smaller home projects. Right.

Maybe you're rerouting something or you're cocking things throughout the home, putting a new door in, putting a new door in.

Yes. Maybe you're fixing maintenance, deferred maintenance items.

You're light fixtures, swapping light fixtures out, things like that.

I mean, even depending on the age of your home, you might want an electrician for that. It just depends on what your wiring situation is like.

But handyman should be, in my eyes, smaller projects.

And then you have GCs, which are really a lot closer to what we do, where they can implement the same scope of work. In a sense, they can do the same scope of work of like, could they do a bathroom remodel and we could do a bathroom remodel.

Absolutely because we're a remodeling firm. Right.

But I feel like we should run through the list of the key differences.

Michelle's popping her neck. She's getting ready to like going the ring of what a GC is.

Okay, so GCs in my eyes provide the most cost effective, simplest route you can go for a project, a single project, right.

Just bathroom and or kitchen

Maybe you're adding some built ins, I mean, something. Right. But the thing with a GC is you have to keep your expectations where they need to be, because a GC isn't necessarily always going to answer your call. Right.

They're kind of a one stop shop where they might not be a plumber, they might not be an electrician, they might not have all of these licensed people coming in and working on your bathroom or kitchen.

And it's very minimal as far as the surface, the warranty. Some GCs have insurance. I think it's always good that they do.

But, you know, they're a smaller mom and pop type situation, and it just is harder to trust. Right. Because GCs, you might have heard from a friend, did really well on their project.

But again, they're a one man show, and they might be going through something when they start your project.

They might have overbooked themselves when they're starting your project.

They might have subs that have disappeared on your project.

I mean, there's a lot of things that can happen and shift and change when you're working with the GC.

Well, yes, and I think a key difference with that is it can be more cost effective, but you have to realize you as the client, are doing so much more management and so much more involvement because you have to call them and check up on them.

You have to check not that they won't check the work for you, but you're also checking the work.

You’re like, are they on timeline?

Are they on budget?

What's coming next?

Like, they're not really doing all that for you.

They're doing the work that you specifically hired them to do.

And yes, they can help you say, okay, you need to add this here, you need to add this here.

So they're good options for people who might have time and time to manage but also time for the project, right?

So if you're super super conscious of budget and you have these resources to say, okay, I'm willing to put up the time to manage them, then it could be a good option.

But then you have to also understand what can get tricky is like, construction terms and knowledge, right? Like, what are you accepting as acceptable in the industry?

He might say, I'm done, but how do you know that that's a good standard if you have nothing to compare it to or know what you're doing?

I was just thinking about that, too, of being the expert that you have no idea. I mean, we've spent years and years learning about our industry and our trade and being an expert in our area and hiring an expert who can come in and be the expert takes that off of you.

You know, think about all the areas in your life you hire an expert.

And if you're hiring this GC, how do you know that they're an expert, right?

Like, how do you know the quality of work you're getting will hold six months, a year, or several years down the line and not put you in a bad spot?

I mean, on top of that, you have to oversee them, right?

You don't have a calendar built out, so you're just kind of hoping things progress like they say they will, right?

And you're putting all of your eggs in literally one man's or woman's basket, essentially, and hoping that it goes well.

And again, we're not saying it's wrong or right. There they are, it's just that you have to know that you're not necessarily buying a service, right?

You're buying the work that's going to get done, what they're going to come in here and do.

And I think that's just a setting of expectation because you have to know what's a good fit for you and somebody that's been in the industry before or somebody that has had family in the industry, then they might want to hire a GC because they might have more opinions.

They might have opinions on the process.

They might insert themselves a little bit more and feel comfortable overseeing that.

And that's always a good option.

I was just thinking about we've heard and still hear, unfortunately, to this day, about clients who will pay GCs ahead of time.

And then that GC runs off with their money, and it's so tragic. It makes me cringe hearing these stories, but it still happens.

And I think what I like to educate people on is knowing how to pay out.

Okay, so if, you know, let's say a friend calls you and he's like, I hired this GC, I need help.

So the one thing I would say is know when to pay and when not to pay. And I never pay.

The only time we pay our vendors upfront as we know them, we've worked with them, we trust them, and we know they're not going to run off with our money.

I know where you live, right?

Oh, my gosh, I forgot about this.

We think that we are like huge men that walk around on Earth sometimes and that we are invincible.

Pretty much.

So what Ashley's talking about?

Quick blurb is when things have happened in the past, when we were first starting the company, we would hire a vendor and if it went south, we paid them out money that we thought they completed work.

Anyway, long story short, they ended up not completing the work, and we gave them too much money.

So we would go knock on their door.

Like there isn't a law in Texas where you can get shot for being on someone's property.

Yes. So it's like we would go knock or we would send people from our team to go knock on the door.

I think we probably sent, like, your dad at one. I don't know.

We just sent anybody that would go knock on people's door and be like, hey, you owe us money.

It’s like a snail mail.

Yeah. Gosh. Or a career.

And we should have had an owl or something to deliver the message. I feel like that would have been better.

Oh, safer, for sure.




We're hustlers.

So yeah. Be careful about how you pay is what I would say.


Do not.

Don't give anyone $10,000, $5,000 upfront. Give them an increment. I understand they have to buy materials, but we've even worked things out. I'll say this from a homeowner standpoint, if I'm working something out with a handyman or a smaller project, they can call you from Home Depot and you can pay for those materials, or you can go buy those materials yourself.

Especially if you're somebody that is on a tighter budget or you've been down a scary path before and you maybe don't have a budget for a remodeling firm right now, I would highly recommend going that route.

You don't have to give someone $10,000 upfront. That's not necessary. And that's scary. That's your money.

Yeah. And let them prove to you that they can be paid. So you do a little bit of work and I pay you. You do a little bit of work and I pay you. Right? So that's how we operate.

Our systems. That's how we operate our system.

But we're way different in that we invoice for work that we completed, which Michelle and I didn't even realize at the time that our lawyers had advised us a long time ago to start this process because there is a law in Texas where you need a construction account for every single project that you have running if you are collecting money upfront.

Most contractors don't probably even know about this or abide by it, but it is a lot.

So that's why we don't collect money upfront for services that we're not completing.

So it's pretty simple and it makes homeowners feel comfortable. We have never had anyone say, What? We're here. Wait, no, let me just give you all my money upfront.

We actually have, haven't we? Yeah, but it's been funny because we're like, no, it's okay. Let's do some work first, which is cool.

They trust us so much.

I love that for us that they want to hand over the money. That's sweet. It. Okay, I lied.

Take that back.

Okay. All right. So then I think that's the main... Are there any other differences as we wrap up between the GCs and remodeling firms?

I think we talked about questions to ask, are they insured? I would look at projects that they've done in the past. Maybe you could even... If it's an exterior project, you could drive by one or something if it's vacant.

I mean, and I would ask someone even soft questions.

Like what typically do your clients say about you?

You know what kind of feedback do you get from your clients?

What are your favorite projects that you've worked on?

What is your last project you work on? How did it end?

You're essentially conducting an interview but in a casual style that will get to know them as a person because you want them to put their guard down and to freely speak about their work and things they like and don't like and situations they've been in

.I mean, on top of that, how they handle customers when issues have come up, because if they're saying issues don't come up, that's not true.

That's a red flag. Right.

Obviously, issues come up, and how do you handle it is the important thing.

Are you there fixing it, or is it not of a concern to you, or do you not answer their phone calls?

They're going to give you hints. They may not say it, but they're going to give you a hint, I feel like, into how they act and handle things.

Yeah, and I think that's a big one. Or how they handle change orders, how they handle if they went over budget on something.

If they speak really freely about change orders and going over budget as well, they'll be like, Oh, we just always do this, or we always do that. I mean, that's also a red flag because you're like, well, wait, are you not being super thorough on your invoice and estimating correctly for linear footages, square footages? To me, that would be a red flag, too.

Yeah. That's a good point about being an interview, just getting to know them. They're going to be in your home, in your personal space.

Yeah. And it can be extremely violating if something were to happen in your home. You really want to trust people that you're inviting into your space and with your stuff. And I think really that's it. I think those are the main points. And the next episode, we're going to be talking more about why we have set up Simply Home in our process the way we have. And it'll tie into these key differences into remodeling firms and how we set ourselves apart.

I think that's great. The end. The end.