Sara and Scott McDonald knew going into their home renovation that it wouldn’t be all smooth sailing.

They had remodeled a bathroom in their previous house, and were ready to take on the living area and kitchen in their new neighborhood home. Says Sara: “You can’t live in a house and have something like the kitchen remodeled without expecting some disruption.”

And, though things did pop up — finding a large vent pipe in a wall that needed taking out, having trouble finding the right cabinet color, discovering the new refrigerator was a few inches too tall — Sara says the $75,000 renovation went remarkably well, thanks in part to the professionalism of the company they worked with, Randall Hall.

“Their folks were very well coordinated and kept things moving along so we always felt like progress was being made,” she says.

In fact, the hardest part of the project didn’t have anything to do with the renovation itself. In the middle of it, however, Sara’s father died of cancer.

“He was sick for some time before he died. I would visit him in the hospital and show him pictures and drawings,” she says. “He would comment: ‘It is going to be wonderful, Sara.’ I think he knew that he probably wouldn’t be able to see it.”

Though difficult, she says the project ultimately helped her deal with her grief.

“We stopped for a few days, but [then] we did keep going, and it served as a good outlet for me,” she says. “God knew I needed to be kept busy in order to not be overwhelmed with depression over losing my Dad, so the remodeling project was there to keep me busy.”

Her father’s death, she says, also helped her keep a cool head as little problems popped up. And that is her greatest tip when it comes to having work done on your home: “It is so important to keep everything in perspective,” she says. “The people in our lives are what really matters.”

            That said, McDonald adds that she did learn some important lessons in the process of the renovation, and offers these tips when it comes to considering a project for your own home:

• Consider the you-get-what-you-pay-for factor. “Don’t get so focused on price that you fail to pay attention to the quality of the work,” she says. Get three or four different bids, she adds, and take professionalism and organization into account.

• Go window shopping. “Drive around your neighborhood to look for other projects that are going on in your part of town, and look for the ones that seem to be progressing well and doing good clean, well-organized work with quality subcontractors.”

• Let it be all about you. McDonald recommends looking for a contractor who is willing to dedicate specific time to your project, instead of trying to work a lot of different projects at the same time.

• Ask good questions. One of the more important of those should be finding out how long the contractor has been working with his subcontractor crews. “Randall’s crews had a really good working relationship with David, the foreman on our project, and that seemed to help,” McDonald says.

• Get in on the action. Being “very involved in choosing colors, tile, hardware, cabinet options and all kinds of adjustments along the way,” made it a more rewarding experience in the end.

She also recommends that if you’re considering a kitchen renovation, that you get help on the design end of things. The McDonalds used a designer friend, Ryan Knecht, who helped them figure out how to incorporate the double ovens that Sara wanted while still taking out enough wall space to create a feeling of openness.

            “It is really important to your long-term happiness to have your kitchen done in a way that makes it more functional for your particular life style,” McDonald says. “A designer who listens to what you want is really important.”

            Follow these tips, and you could end up with a result as enthusiastic as McDonald’s.

“We are delighted with the way things came out,” she says. “I honestly couldn’t be happier.”

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