Hi there!
I’m an italian girl attending an MBA in Bologna, Italy.
We’re developing a project on how to renovate homes in the USA…well…there’s no better place that Yahoo USA where to ask for it.
Could you tell me — step by step — how you American people move when you want to restructure your house?
Example: call for an architect, then call for a property developer, then go to *insert name of a furniture shop here*…etc…

so….could you PLEASE help me?


Interesting question.

Short answer: It depends.

Let’s assume that you want to do a complete renovation to an historic house that has been poorly up-graded over the years. Let’s also assume that you have adequate resources to do it (expensive), and that you want modern function with historically accurate appearance.

You will have to do research as to when the house was built and for whom it was built – a large landowner’s house will be substantially different from a small farmer’s house. An urban house will be different from a rural house, and so forth. This could be done by hiring an architect experienced in the particular era in question – again a colonial house will be different from a Federal, Victorian or Queen Anne. That architect might be able to advise you on finding an Engineer to design your systems that will be compatible with your final aesthetic requirements yet meet code and function practically. This is no small thing. Electricity is a relatively recent innovation (1911-1913 for practical purposes in the US), and indoor plumbing only a bit earlier than that, all other things being equal. Then there is the electrical system, heating and/or cooling, finishes, materials and so forth.

From all the decisions you make in the planning stages, the Architect will prepare a set of drawings and specifications showing _everything_ that needs to be done, specifying intention and quality, showing dimensions, sources and code references. Minimum quality standards will be established and specific instructions will be provided where relevant. If there are additions or alternatives that you wish to explore as potential items, a list of "alternate-adds" or "permitted substitutions" will also be on the documents. These documents will be "signed and sealed" for permit purposes, and will be called the Contract Documents.

With these documents, you will typically invite several qualified contractors to bid the work "per plans and specifications". Such bids have three basic parameters: Quality, Schedule and Cost. Sometimes, you may permit a contractor to make suggestions for ‘or-equal’ substitutions to save time, or reduce cost or increase quality – but these substitutions will depart from the contract documents. The decision to accept the alternates or substitutions should be discussed with your architect. Typically, the bids will come with a basic schedule and a hard, final cost tied to that schedule, to include starting and finishing points with potential critical-path items noted – long-lead materials for instance with delivery times that may affect the overall schedule.

Once you have chosen the "Qualified Low Bidder" – based on the three parameters noted above – you will go to contract. You will expect your contractor to submit a certificate-of-insurance for his company and all his sub-contractors, provide samples of all finish and appearance materials, provide catalog pages showing items such as windows, appliances, fixtures and furniture items.

The contractor will then submit a schedule that also includes payments expected tied to completion of certain parts of the work, purchase of materials and fixtures and so forth. You will pay based on that schedule, requesting partial releases-of-liens at each payment to verify that the contractor in-turn has paid his suppliers and sub-contractors. You will typically hold ‘retainage’ (5% – 10% of the value of the completed work) to insure that the work will be completed to-specification.

And so-forth until the completion of the job. At final completion, you may choose to have your architect to inspect the work and verify that it is ‘to plans and specifications’ before making the final payment. He may prepare a ‘punch-list’ – a list of defects or incomplete work – to be done after the final payment – for which you held the retainage mentioned above. Once that is complete, the retainage is also paid.

Smaller projects will contain elements of the above, but may not require the full process. Painting a couple of rooms is not usually a big deal, but, for instance, one would be entirely nuts for letting any contractor on one’s property who is not either properly insured or who has not signed an actionable waiver – and so forth. Note that in the US, such work typically has a one-year ‘full’ contractor labor and material warranty apart from any warranties from individual manufacturers or suppliers.

Plans (Project Documents)
Permits (if required)
Work Supervision
Partial Payments
Work Completion
Final Payment

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