Recently, I spent a day at the National Association of the Remodeling Industry Spring Home Improvement Show. I worked the House Doctor booth, answering questions about remodeling.

Thousands of people attended the show, and the House Doctor booth was a popular spot. The most common question was: “I want to add a room on to my house, so what do I do first?”

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The first thing is determine your exact needs for space, then make a wish list for what you want. Pictures from magazines are a good source for ideas.

Talk to neighbors, friends, relatives or co-workers for names of contractors or architects with which to work. This is a very important part of the process, because a room addition is a substantial project, and you want to be able to trust your contractor.

There are several options – you can have a full set of plans drawn up, which could cost several thousand dollars, or you can get rough sketches for several hundred dollars.

Knowing what you want when meeting with an architect will reduce the cost by not having to sift through several different designs to find the one you like. It can also be helpful when using a design/build company to have the contractor work with the architect as you go through the design process to catch potential problem areas or items that might be too costly for your budget.

Meet with three contractors and give them your plans for a bid. If you try to skip the design process and do it with the contractors, you will get very different bids back, which will only frustrate you and your contractors. They will be going back and forth making changes, which means you will not get an apples-to-apples comparison.

During the bid process, do your homework about the contractors you have chosen to look at your project. Talk to current as well as past customers to learn about their experience with a particular contractor; not all contractors are alike.

Be careful about the temptation to choose the lowest bid. The remodeling industry is one in which the old adage “you get what you pay for” is absolutely true.