Remodeling can get sticky if not planned well…  don’t let the dream turn into a nightmare by being so excited to get started, you don’t cross your “T’s” and dot your “I’s” before beginning.  At Tran + Thomas, we are all about planning for our clients and long-term happiness and you should be, too!

There are some really fantastic contractors out there in the world…but some just aren’t.  Those contractors may not have their ducks in a row, or may simply not know what they are doing.  In this world, you often (but not always) get what you pay for.  Use our thoughts, ideas and experiences to help guide you as clear from trouble as possible and ensure they best finish.

People get very frustrated with their contractors because these items were not covered together BEFORE the first hammer swings.  It can take so little time to cover and make a WORLD of difference.  We want your project to run smoothly from start to finish.  Read on.

BEFORE you get started, cover these topics:

Selecting your contractor

  • Was he/she recommended to you?   If not, get the names of recent and current clients to call and ask questions to.  If they don’t give you a list of 10+, you might think twice.  If the clients you call say the contractor blamed everyone else on the job site for any issues and never himself, run, run, run away!
  • Has the contractor done this exact type of work before?  If he only built decks and now you are asking for a bath remodel…
  • Has he done work in your specific city…not Kansas City, but for example: Mission Hills, Leawood, Shawnee, Overland Park, etc.  They need to understand that city’s permits.
  • Do they take out permits?
  • Do they have insurance and liability insurance?  If they don’t, any accident on your property will fall on YOU!

BEFORE:  Just purchased home: The cabinets on either side of the fireplace are awkward and limiting…they aren’t even the same size! Our client hated the fireplace and wanted a mid century modern style.

AFTER: Solution: We had the cabinets ripped out to make some room for the new. We had the contractor rid the room of the yellowed look and covered the past with a wonderful white paint.  We then designed a new concept for the far wall and installed crisp drapes. With added lights, custom art, a rug, furniture and new fireplace…it is a room built for quite evenings and entertaining!


  • Get multiple bids…enough said.  But you must know HOW to get bids…read on*.
  • Get in writing how your contractor will charge you: cost plus or percentage.
  • *Work with your designer before you work with the contractor so you have a good idea of the details and their costs before you get bids. With your designer you will then also have hashed out all of your ideas, worries, any layouts, design and products you want to use.  Your contractor can in no way GUESS what quality you want if you don’t give him that information in advance…could you guess quality he would want in his house?  Nope!  He can’t read your mind either.  With the specific items already selected, all of the contractors you are getting bids from can let you compare apples to apples…not canned apples and a frozen crust to a fresh apple pie. For example…your entry light…in your head you were dreaming of cost $3000.  Without you telling your contractor that, they must guess how much an entry fixture might cost.  One estimate from a contractor may allow you $500 for that $3000 light and one estimate may give you a $2000 allowance for that $3000 fixture.  If the contractors hide that allowance for the $3000 fixture under the umbrella, “Lighting and Electrical,” how can you compare builders accurately?
  • *With your designer, also work up a list of the specific services and construction you want done (paint the entire entry walls and trim, add cased entry into the office, replace the entry tile, replace stair rails…)
  • How will the contractor handle “scope creep” and change orders – what is their process.  It happens every time…you decide to add a smidge here…another light there…well, go ahead and paint the hall, too…  Get in writing how you and your contractor will communicate and agree on changes/additions and get a bid from them BEFORE they add the work.  He needs to understand, you approve nothing without a bid on it first…a detailed bid!
  • Get each labor/item priced out and agreed upon in writing before they start.  Don’t just say “replace cabinets.”  Replace them with what? Cardboard boxes?  How about cheap cabinets with slamming doors?  Did they mean solid walnut? Oak? Alder?  Do you see…s.p.e.l.l.  i.t.  o.u.t.!!!
  • How will your contractor bill you?  Careful with paying in advance of them performing any work…sometimes they don’t show up and may run with your money and maybe even after demolishing your areas!  Do a deposit of no more than 25%.  Paying for labor that hasn’t been done is scary.  There should be a carefully spelled out timeline of when to pay at specific, measurable times.

BEFORE: Drab, dark and not a very efficient use of the space with a diagonal island.


AFTER:  We had the old cabinets ripped out (who wants slamming drawers?) along with the old island. It was time for a better use of space and a prettier kitchen. Custom cabinets, brighter fixtures and lights along with sparkling new and current appliances….any chef would now love to be in this kitchen!

The design and designer

  • Hiring a designer before you get started can be a great way to go.  A good designer will guide you with solid experience.  If you choose to go it alone, research the kind of items you are wanting so you can give that info to your contractor for the bidding process.  If you don’t pick the toilet, your contractor will.  If you don’t specify your light fixtures, your contractor may only budget 25% of the value of what you actually want.  This entire part of the process falls on you or your designer so be smart about it!
  • Have your contractor itemize the products they said they will provide…. specifically with brand, color, size, type, finish, etc.
  • Be sure your designer is at all of your meetings, as they understand the design intent and process better than the contractor and frankly, better than you!  A good designer will save you from making bad decisions, decisions on the fly, keep you directed toward success and help take care of decisions someone must give the builder.

BEFORE:  This bath had zero personality and was dated. The tub was bland, the closet was inefficient and there wasn’t enough room in the shower for a seat.


AFTER:  We redesigned the entire room with a gorgeous, larger shower, custom closet and complete custom vanities. We removed the soffit and added lighting for a fantastic room to greet our clients in the morning and send them off to bed every night…

Your contractor to ask:

  • How often will your contractor be on the job, or the superintendent?
  • How will your super/contractor communicate with you?  How often?
  • We suggest weekly or biweekly meetings set up in advance (every other Tuesday at 8:00 on the job site) to keep things running smoothly.
  • Make if VERY clear to your contractor that nothing outside the scope of the original agreement is to be done, unless you have signed off on it.  Contractors have the upper hand and can put a lean on your house should you not pay in full.  If they do anything or purchase anything without your written permission, they may inflate the cost causing you to pay more in the end.
  • Ask who will take notes at the meetings should any changes come up and then how/who will handle it.  For example:  You decided to take the tile to the ceiling while walking with your crew…who will handle that?

BEFORE:  Once a kitchen with little storage and access to the garage, we had it stripped to the bones, moved the access door to the garage to a new utility room and started designing the perfect mid century space…


AFTER:  Now a delight to the senses…this efficient kitchen boasts an extra large fridge, an island for entertaining and a dazzling finish. Dog not included! 😉


  • Does your contractor use subcontractors that have their own schedules/agendas, or do they have their own crews?  That can make a difference with scheduling and overlap of work.  They can potentially control the quality better, too, with their own crews.  However…if they have worked in your neck of the woods long enough, they no doubt have great people.
  • Build a bonus or penalty into your contract for the contractor completing your job on time.  Does that include the punch list at the end?  Give them some motivation and know…if you are having a party or holiday, that is NOT a reason for them to finish.  Get it done right and not fast.  Some motivation may help them move along quicker.  Be specific!


Should you have any questions or wish to discuss your remodel, we are here!  At Tran + Thomas, we pride ourselves on knowing the business of remodeling, building new homes, refreshing tired spaces and guiding our clients through any home improving process to giving them the best finish possible.


Our office:  913-225-6574

Thank you and we wish you the very best of luck with your remodel!

Jill Tran and Carmen Thomas