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Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

Why should you hire a contractor?

Hiring a general contractor is a good idea for many remodeling projects. Home renovation contractors have a broad range of skills to manage, coordinate and complete a project. They should help make sure your project comes in on time and within your budget as they hire and supervise all the necessary subcontractors, including electricians and plumbers. They also handle procuring all the materials required for your job. Some homeowners look to save money by acting as their own contractor, but an experienced home renovation contractor is worth the cost. They should know local building codes, be able to pull all necessary permits, and work with inspectors to make sure the construction meets local codes. Also, because they get professional discounts, they can typically buy materials at a better price than you can; better prices on materials and labor save you money, and make up for at least a percentage of the cost of the contractor.

What do interior designers do?

Interior designers do much more than pick complementary paint colors and choose matching furniture — although those tasks are important parts of the job. Unlike decorators, interior designers usually have an associate of science degree or certificate of achievement in interior design from an accredited program. They’re trained in drafting, lighting and computer aided design (CAD), and are experts in room-specific design and residential space planning. Interior designers use these skills to plan and design safe, highly functional and beautiful interior spaces, from kitchens and bathrooms to family rooms and bedrooms. They determine space requirements, work within building codes and inspection regulations, and meet accessibility standards. An interior designer’s day-to-day job includes creative and technical tasks, both of which often require great communication skills:

  • Creating model rooms and visuals using design software.
  • Researching different textiles, materials, finishes, lighting and furniture.
  • Hiring suppliers, vendors, and contractors.
  • Estimating costs and making bids on potential jobs.

How do you find a good interior designer?

For many homeowners, the difference between a good interior designer and a bad one is simply a matter of taste — but all good designers have similar skill sets. Interior designers usually have a degree or certificate in interior design, with training in design principles and lighting, drafting, and computer aided design (CAD) software. Good interior designers have strong color balancing skills and understand how different colors influence spatial perception and moods. They know the building and electrical codes in the areas where they practice, and they make sure that any contractors they hire also work to those codes. They are knowledgeable about different upholstery fabrics and draperies, stay ahead of residential design trends, and maintain their own individual creativity. Also, good interior designers have excellent space designing skills, so they can arrange a space efficiently and with ideal traffic flow. Ultimately, hiring a good interior designer means pinpointing one whose signature style is complementary to your personal style — so checking out many designers’ portfolios is a must — and whose communication methods match yours.

Do I need a contractor for a kitchen remodel?

A kitchen remodel is one of the most important investments you can make in your home, and it’s critical to get the details right; that’s where a home renovation contractor comes in. A minor remodel usually includes new cabinet faces and hardware, replacement appliances, and paint, while an extensive job may enlarge the kitchen’s square footage, install new cabinets or an island, change the layout, and lay new tile or hardwood floors. Any renovation that includes filing permits, construction, or electrical or plumbing work is best completed by an experienced contractor who knows local codes.

When should you hire a contractor?

A few home remodeling projects can be done by an ambitious DIY-minded homeowner or local handyman, but many are best completed by a professional home renovation contractor. You should hire a contractor when you’re planning a large project that takes time, machinery or large tools, and several workers; a kitchen remodel, new bathroom or home addition will be most successful with a licensed, expert contractor at the helm. It’s particularly important to have a professional contractor on board for construction, electrical, plumbing and HVAC projects that require inspections to meet local building codes. Of course, you can hire a contractor for smaller projects, too, if you prefer to let an expert handle things like addition or removal of a wall, small framing projects, or anything that requires a permit.  

You should hire a contractor when you’re ready to start a remodeling project and you have plans, a budget and a timeline for the work in hand, but before any remodeling work begins.

How much will it cost to remodel my house?

The cost to remodel a home is highly variable — size and scope of the project, quality of materials, and the number of subcontractors required to complete the job all affect the total cost. The average national cost of a home renovation project is $13,500. The national average per-square-foot cost of a remodel ranges from $25 to $100. Nationally, kitchen and bathroom remodels are the most popular types of projects, in part because they typically have the highest return on investment when the home is sold. The national average cost of a major kitchen remodel ranges from $25,000 to $62,000, while the average bathroom remodel tends to cost $6,000 to $18,000. In addition to materials and labor costs, many remodeling project costs include permit fees, which, average $900 or more, depending on your location.

How much do interior designers charge?

You can hire an interior design for a job as basic as a one-room consultation or as complex as supervising the design of an entire new home, helping with space planning, choosing color palettes, and shopping for furniture, flooring and artwork. The size and scope of the job will determine how much an interior designer charges; the average national cost for an interior designer ranges from $75 to $100 or more per hour. Other cost factors include the person’s reputation — interior designers to the stars are usually more expensive — and region. Most interior designers charge an average of $100-$225 for an initial consultation, but some will charge an hourly rate, usually starting at an average of $50, for larger projects that require extensive consultations. Hourly rates may be available for smaller projects, such as redecorating a living room or staging a home for sale; for instance, shopping and consulting can cost an average of $75 to $100 per hour, while staging costs and average $95 per hour. For many homeowners, a percentage of an interior designer’s cost is recouped through the professional discounts they receive from their vendors.

How do you choose an interior designer?

Choosing an interior designer is all about finding one whose signature style fits well with your tastes and who can work within your budget. To choose the right professional for your interior design project, ask yourself these five questions:

  • What is your signature style? Good interior designers can both describe their personal aesthetic and demonstrate their signature style through their portfolios. Make sure it appeals to you.
  • How will you make sure the design fits my lifestyle? Good designers understand that the interior design must improve a homeowner’s experience in their home and fit into their lifestyle; for example, a white suede sofa is a poor choice for a family with large dogs and small children.
  • How much do you charge? Depending on the project, an interior designer may charge an hourly rate, a flat fee or a percentage of the project’s total cost.
  • How will you stick to my budget? An interior designer should have a plan for staying within your budget, which includes full transparency of costs and flexibility when choosing materials and furnishings.  

Because an interior design project is highly collaborative and based on hard-to-define personal preferences, it’s most important to choose a designer who communicates clearly and listens closely to you.

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