written by Cathy Landrum
photos by Graphicus 14 Productions, LLC
photos by Bridget Horgan Bell
Long Beach Island is overflowing with new construction, but not all homeowners are looking to tear down their beloved beach house and start from scratch. Many of the homes on the island are filled with charm as well as the memories of generations. Some of these houses are just in need of updating, not demolition. How about a new beach-themed kitchen with bright white cabinets, granite countertops, and a luxury vinyl tile (LVT) floor that is impervious to both sand and water? Or a remodeled spa-like bath with a large walk-in shower and rainfall shower head? Or additional living space to create an open floor plan that incorporates both living and dining areas to support your growing extended family? A renovation may be just the ticket to improve upon the summer home that you already love.
The process of remodeling an existing home can be daunting, especially if you are tackling this project from your primary residence during the off-season. It can be a challenge trying to coordinate this from many miles away, so the importance of selecting a general contractor is vital. Seek recommendations and referrals from family and friends when making your selection. Ask for recent references and confirm that the builder is licensed and insured. In addition, check their Better Business Bureau rating. Finding a builder that you trust will help you feel at ease during the renovation, especially if you are remodeling long distance. Consider a design/build firm like Under Construction Builders in Ship Bottom to facilitate the process; many builders offer the design/build approach in which one company handles the entire project from design through construction. The contractor and architect work as a team to allow for one point of contact throughout the job. This is very helpful in managing a long-distance remodel.
The initial meeting with your general contractor will be to discuss the scope of your remodeling project. Do you have a wish list? What is your vision for the renovation? What are some of the maintenance free options that hold up well at the beach? One helpful resource to gather design ideas is Houzz, a website for home remodeling and design. Next, don’t shy away from discussing your budget. Some homeowners feel somewhat protective over sharing their budget. There is some fear that if you divulge your budget to your contractor, then that will dictate the cost of the job. Not so. It’s important and helpful to disclose a comfortable budgetary range to your builder to help ascertain the feasibility of attaining your vision. Keep in mind that architectural design and fixture finishes dictate budget. For example, selecting plumbing fixtures with an oil rubbed bronze finish will cost more than chrome, and vinyl windows are more cost effective than wood. Lastly, discuss time frame during your initial meeting. Allowing sufficient time for planning is critical. Do you want the project to be completed before Memorial Day or can it start after the summer season? Starting construction in early winter typically assures a completion date by the start of the summer.
Ask your builder about the numerous maintenance free options that are ideal to a coastal environment. Consider fiber cement siding to enhance the exterior. This type of siding is specifically engineered to be resistant to wind, rain, termites, and rot. Similarly, replacing your deck with a composite material offers a durable and long-lasting structure. It doesn’t splinter or rot and eliminates the typical maintenance of staining and sealing wood. Vinyl replacement windows are another maintenance free option, requiring no painting or scraping. They are less likely to attract mold, mildew, and decay due to high humidity, and can last for decades. For the interior, remodeling your living and dining spaces with an open floor plan will allow for cross ventilation to enjoy the cool ocean breezes and offer more space to entertain guests. For beach friendly flooring, LVT is a durable choice. It replicates the look of hard wood, is easy to maintain, and is water resistant. Your builder will be able to share his/her expertise on the best options for your home.
After the initial meeting, your contractor will craft a proposal that includes a design drawing or floorplan as well as selection allowances to include some of the coastal friendly materials. Then the fun begins! It’s time to go shopping for flooring, plumbing fixtures, countertops, tile, and cabinets. The options are limitless. Your builder will guide you through the selection process to keep you within your budgeted allowances and to assure that you are selecting the necessary components. After review, a contract is written that includes all aspects of the proposal as well as estimated start and completion dates and the construction and payment schedules. Once signed, permits are requested through the township office, materials are ordered, and a start date is established.
As the start of the renovation approaches, a pre-construction meeting will be scheduled to acquaint you with your project manager (PM). Your PM will be your first line of communication throughout the project; any questions or issues that arise during the remodel will be directed through the PM. The role of the PM is especially important if you are renovating long distance. From demolition to plumbing and electric to flooring and painting, your PM will keep you abreast of the progress. Sometimes unexpected issues may arise, particularly with an older home that has been exposed to the elements of salt air. Anything unexpected will typically be addressed with a change order. A change order is an invoice for additional work that has been requested by the home owner or additional work needed due to unforeseen circumstances. It is important to rely on the expertise of your building company. Planning and communication are the keys to success.
To facilitate communication with the homeowner, many builders use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program that allows for continuous communication throughout the project. The CRM allows the office staff, project manager, subcontractors, and homeowner to interact and share information via a smart phone or computer. This is especially helpful when the homeowner cannot be onsite during the renovation. The PM or subcontractors can post pictures, share comments, ask questions, and update the homeowner with the daily progress of the renovation. In some cases, the homeowner can even confirm change orders and pay invoices all via their smart phone. Clear communication between the contractor and the homeowner ensures a successful project.
At Under Construction Builders, we specialize in updating existing homes to increase functionality to suit a change in lifestyle or family size. Whether modernizing a bath or kitchen or adding on additional living space, a remodel to your treasured beach house may be the perfect solution to update your home!