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An Education in Estimation

Leslie Emerson

What have your parents and grandparents always told you? Always get three quotes for anything and everything you can.  It’s sound advice for a standard vehicle, new computer, or even a roof replacement. However, it’s not the same for more complicated endeavors like remodeling a home. A project with more than one or two variables can have extremely different outcomes that will likely result in bids that are all over the map.

2020 saw an upward trend in “Design+Build” companies vs utilizing a designer and then finding an outside contractor to take on the actual construction and building of the design. Design+Build companies are designers/architects and builders all under one roof, which has many benefits.  At RU for example, we are both contractor and designer. The Design+Build business structure allows the contractor to be involved with the designer and the homeowner at the beginning of the process, rather than the end. We will often discuss a ballpark budget goal with the client at this point to make sure that the project is a good fit for both of us, rather than providing a bid. Unlike a historical bid, these ballpark numbers are meant to guide the design process until plans and scope are approved, at which point we can develop a sound quote. 

What does it take to get an accurate estimate?

An accurate estimate (or bid) involves detailed input and time that usually requires a fee for the design work and estimate. While preparing an estimate, we take measurements and note details such as electrical, HVAC, and plumbing. We will solicit current pricing for materials and review the project with specialty trades to obtain quotes for their portion of the work. An accurate estimate takes tens of hours or more and requires a deep level of knowledge. Although getting multiple estimates is not always a terrible idea, using pricing as the primary determining factor for who you hire is! Although budget will be a consideration for any renovation, the determining factors in choosing a contractor should also include things like communication, experience, temperament, competency, and trust.

How to spot a shady contractor

There are many good contractors in the Design +Build world (take Renovations Unlimited, for example!). Unfortunately, there are shady contractors out there as well. Who do you trust? Who is telling the truth, and how do you spot one before it’s too late? A common practice of a shady contractor is to provide a low initial estimate, to hold a client “hostage” once the project is underway. They will then overwhelm the homeowner with “necessary” change orders that keep inflating the original proposal price. Keep in mind, these contractors do not review possible issues before the contract is signed and then surprise the homeowner with “unforeseen problems”.

Don’t get us wrong, there are always unexpected surprises in this industry. But, lowball bids from contractors who haven’t put the time necessary into creating a proper scope are a recipe for disaster and should set off alarm bells. To make a long story short, simply receiving three bids and comparing the ballpark budgets between firms is not productive. However, interviewing three contractors and choosing the one you trust and feel comfortable with, backed up with a well-documented contract and detailed scope of work is an investment worth making!.

At Renovations Unlimited, we know that choosing the right contractor for your renovation can be stressful. If you’re thinking about starting a home renovation, we’d love to talk to you about your South-Eastern Michigan area project, hear your ideas, and help you with the process!

5 Reasons to Hire a Professional Contractor

Leslie Emerson

To some homeowners, it may seem like a good idea to attempt their own home renovation project to cut down on costs. But, even if you have DIY experience, there’s several key reasons to consider hiring a professional. Here’s five reasons to consider working with a remodeling company for your next home renovation project.

#1: Overall Money Savings

It may seem like going the DIY route with your home renovation will save you money, but it could actually end up costing you more. A job that’s half-done or one where the work is performed poorly can cost more than hiring a professional in the long run, once you factor in replacements and repairs. A contractor gets it right the first time. And if there’s a problem with his work, you’re not stuck footing the bill to correct it.

#2: Skills in Different Areas of Home Improvement

Along with experience comes expertise, and that’s something that can only be learned with time in the industry. A professional contractor has a team of skilled tradesmen who are experienced with every phase of construction, from demolition to finish carpentry.

#3: Safety That Protects You and Your Home

Safety is a top concern among all professional contractors. It means that a job is done right, and it also helps prevent injuries and property damage. A contractor knows the local and international code. That means you can count on the work to be code compliant. They understand OSHA regulations, so their team of professionals will maintain a safe and clean work environment.

#4: Respect for Your Property

Not only can a messy job site be hazardous,  it can also cause damage to other areas of your home. if the work area is not kept clean and properly cordoned off, dust and debris can cause damage to other rooms of the home. A contractor has a team of professionals that will respect your home, and ensure that the work area is kept clean.

#5: They’re Insured

If you attempt to do your own home renovation and you run into problems, you may be stuck footing the bill for damages. There are exclusions on most homeowners insurance policies for work that was not performed by a licensed contractor. If the damage was caused by your faulty workmanship (not by a sudden and accidental occurrence) the loss would not be covered by your homeowner’s policy. However, had you hired a contractor, you would not be liable. 

At Renovations Unlimited, we know that choosing the right contractor for your renovation can be stressful. If you’re thinking about starting a home renovation, we’d love to talk to you about your South-Eastern Michigan area project, hear your ideas, and help you with the process!

Written Contract

Leslie Emerson




What it is and why you need one…

We’ve all heard the horror stories of the contractor that walked away with a client’s money without performing any services or not competing services agreed upon. Although many would like to believe the true value of a handshake, a home remodeling project is typically a large sum of money and the details of the work are what matter the most. A contract is a crucial part of remodeling your home and a powerful tool for both the homeowner and the contractor. It maintains accuracy and accountability along with the scope of work and details of what services are to be performed. It outlines who is responsible for what and ensures expectations are set for both parties. 

Home remodeling is a big undertaking, and all aspects should be outlined and understood by both parties for a successful project from start to finish. The last thing that an owner needs is to find out that the contractor is asking for more money because he or she underbid the project and didn’t include items that should have been in the original scope of work. 


A proper contract should have the following:

  • The contractor’s name, address, phone, and license number (if required)
  • A detailed proposal that lays out the scope of work 
  • All of the projects technical items are outlined in the proposal
  • A payment schedule for the project that outline each payment  milestone and their amount from start to finish
  • How change orders are handled. A change order is a modification to the original scope of work. It can be additional items, alterations to the scope of work, or unforeseen items (keep in mind that any adjustments to the work described in the original contract could affect the project’s cost and schedule).
  • Details or specifications on how unforeseen items are handled. During a remodeling project things can pop up that weren’t initially planned for such as a faulty shut off valve or additional electrical modifications due to changes in your home’s layout that weren’t anticipated.
  • A detailed list of all finish materials. If some finish materials will be chosen later, the contract should say who’s responsible for choosing each item and how much money is budgeted for it (this is also known as the “allowance”)
  • An exclusion clause if applicable. Are there services the contractor is not performing? For example, is the contractor priming and painting?s debris removal included with the services provided? 

Additional items recommended to check:

  • Do they carry general liability insurance and workers compensation insurance for their employees (if applicable)?
  • Are there reviews online or references that verify the integrity of the contractors work?
  • How does their team operate? Are there standard start and stop times during construction? Do they work on weekends? 
  •  How will I be notified of upcoming scheduled work?
  • Are their team members all employees or independent contractors/subcontractors?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • Have they completed projects similar to yours?
  • Who do I contact during my project for questions, issues and/or concerns?

We’ve walked through this process with countless other homeowners and would love to answer any questions you have about working with a home renovation contractor. If you’ve decided that you want to start the conversation about remodeling your South-Eastern Michigan home, give us a call at (810) 374-6400 or send us an email at!


4 Quick Tips to Expand Storage in Your Bathroom

Leslie Emerson

If you’ve been considering a bathroom remodel – planning is key. Benjamin Franklin imported the first bathtub to America – having it shipped from France in the 18th century. Franklin’s tub was reportedly made of sheet copper and had to be hand-filled with buckets. We’ve come a long way!

beautiful bathroom remodel from Renovations Unlimited

Below are a few quick tips to expand storage space in your bathroom – we also ask a question at the very end:

4 Quick Tips to Expand Storage in Your Bathroom

  1. Recessed shelving/cabinets

    Shelves and cabinets recessed into walls add storage space without taking up floor space.

  2. Space Above Your Toilet

    Don’t neglect the space above your toilet. It’s a great spot for a cabinet, some shelves, or maybe a basket for toiletries or reading materials.

  3. Hang shelving

    Putting in higher shelves for things such as spare towels can free up closet space for items that aren’t as nice to look at, and the height keeps them out of the way on a daily basis.

  4. Build custom cabinets

    We can help you find a custom solution for odd-shaped spaces where standard cabinets won’t fit. You’ll pay a bit more, but you’ll be able to take advantage of unused space.

What one change would make your bathroom more enjoyable and comfortable?

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at Renovations Unlimited and let us know your answer. We’d love to talk to you about your South Eastern Michigan area project, hear your ideas, and help you with the process.

3 Spaces to Update in Your Home Now

Leslie Emerson

Looking to explore your goals for your home and make plans to update it? Here are 3 spaces to update in your home now! 

beautifully renovated kitchen by Renovations Unlimited with red stove and white subway tile

September is a wonderful time to refocus your year. This is a great time to think about the goals you have for your home and to start making plans to update it. Here are three spaces to consider updating in your home this fall:

3 Spaces to Update in Your Home Now

  1. Your Kitchen

    Could a kitchen remodel prepare your home for the holidays? Would adding in an island or a second oven make your holiday baking easier? Kitchen remodels can change the look and flow of your entire home. Now is the time to start the remodeling process to enjoy your new kitchen!

  2. Your Yard

    Would adding a deck or an outdoor kitchen create a whole new space to enjoy and entertain in? Improving your outdoor space can elevate your home’s curbside appeal and encourage you to enjoy the sunshine more. Especially as more people are opting for outdoor activities, creating a vibrant outdoor space is an excellent idea.

  3. Your Bedroom

    Remodeling your bedroom is a great way to transform the space into an oasis you can enjoy for years to come. Could you expand your current space to create a master suite? Would adding in some natural light and new flooring create a more enjoyable space? You spend a significant amount of time in your bedroom, and remodeling to make the room more beautiful and conducive to your needs can have a big return.

If now is the right time to update your South Eastern Michigan home with a remodel, give us a call today or send us an email!

At Renovations Unlimited, we’ve walked through the remodeling process with many others and would love to answer your questions and put your mind at ease by walking you through the steps involved.

5 Remodeling Trends To Try Before Summer is Over

Leslie Emerson

As summer heats up and we enter into August, it’s a great time to embrace the sunshine and enjoy the outdoors. With the extra time spent outside, now is a great time to think about how you might want to update your home to make it more livable and enjoyable for yourself or to increase the value of your home.

5 Remodeling Trends To Try Before Summer is Over

  1. Livability Over Luxury
    Homeowners are more interested in projects that add everyday comfort and convenience than in over-the-top opulence.

  2. Personalized Style
    People are looking for design and décor that better suits their personal lifestyle and taste rather than blindly following fads. Homes are more customized.

  3. Separate Showers and Tubs
    For years, showers and tubs together were the norm. Today more homeowners have separate shower and bath spaces (and some homeowners opt for super-sized showers and no bathtub at all).

  4. Importance of Accessibility
    As increasing numbers of Americans plan to stay in their own homes longer, they are taking steps now to ensure that their existing homes make it easier to access important areas of their home. That impacts outlets, countertops, hallways, and stairs. Making design changes now makes aging in place a much smoother transition.

  5. Open Design (Especially Kitchens)
    While the open kitchen design isn’t brand new, it’s still extremely popular – and is still a hot trend in older homes where the kitchen was isolated from other common rooms (family room, living room, dining room).

Late summer is a great time to start the remodeling process! If any of the things mentioned here strike a chord with you, now is a great time to talk to us here at Renovations Unlimited about creating a design and plan that will deliver the kind of result you want and help you enjoy your South Eastern Michigan area home even more as you head into fall.

Popular Ways to Remodel Your Home This Summer

Leslie Emerson

Are you ready for a home remodel? Check out these 5 popular ways to remodel your home this Summer!

As the initial lockdowns and stay at home orders are lifting, many people are deciding that now is the right time to remodel their home. Updating your kitchen, creating a home office, or simply changing your home to fit your needs has moved from a ‘someday” project to a priority for many.

5 Popular Ways to Remodel Your Home This Summer

  1. Creating a Home Office

    Whether you’re wanting to finish off your basement to create a dedicated office or looking to revamp an existing home office – creating a dedicated space for a home office is a rising priority as many are shifting to working remotely.

  2. Prioritizing Fridge Space

    If you’re looking to prioritize fridge space for food items, including a beverage fridge in your island is a great way to achieve this goal and still have plenty of cold drinks. This is a fun feature that helps make sure you always have cold beverages for entertaining and prompts friends and family to help themselves without taking up any fridge space.

  3. Adding a Mudroom

    Having a spot to take off shoes, remove coats and masks, and quickly wash your hands is becoming increasingly important in a post-COVID world. Creating an entry space with built-in storage is an excellent way to help keep potential germ carriers all in the same spot.

  4. Installing a Bidet

    For both practical and environmental purposes, bidets are becoming increasingly popular in America! Bidets help conserve water and decrease the need for toilet paper. If you’re looking for a fresh option for your bathroom, consider incorporating a bidet into your remodel!

  5. Rethinking Flooring

    Cork flooring is expected to make a comeback! Between its natural anti-microbial properties and its sound-reducing ability, many people see it as a viable option for making their home cleaner and conducive to working at home with children in the house!


Whether you were planning a 2020 remodel or the extra time at home has made you realize it’s time for a change, Renovations Unlimited is here to help! Give us a call today or send us an email to start the process of remodeling your South Eastern Michigan home to fit your needs!

10 Tips to Help You Get Ready for a Home Remodel

Leslie Emerson

Just because May is National Home Improvement Month doesn’t mean your remodeling projects will automatically take care of themselves! Often, it’s the steps you take before the physical remodeling begins that make your project successful. While it may seem counter-intuitive, there’s a lot of prep work that we can start now (yes, even with the social distancing guidelines!) to set your project up for success and help you get ready for a home remodel.


beautiful exterior home remodel

10 Tips to Help You Get Ready for a Home Remodel

1. Research your project

Understand what the average investment is, the scope of the work, and your expected Return On Investment (ROI.)

2. Plan the project around the long-term

Evaluate long-term needs and desires for your home and make sure this project fits those goals.

3. Set your budget – And share it with us!

We want to create a project that respects your budget.

4. Use advanced search for professionals

Start by asking people you trust!

5. Ask the right questions when talking to your remodeler

Time and cost are important, but don’t forget to also ask about our specialties and background!

6. Verify your remodeler

Call references and hear what others have to say!

7. Review contracts word-by-word

Contracts are in place to protect everybody. If you have a question, speak up! We’re happy to clarify.

8. Keep design in mind

Browse online and share what you like about each aspect of the design. Organization? Look? Style? We want to know!

9. Make your selections

Making selections early helps keep the whole project on track!

10. Create a communication plan

Ask any questions and make sure you know what to expect!

If you would like more details on these steps, you can read Top 10 Tips to Prepare for a Remodel.

At Renovations Unlimited, we’d love to help get your May remodeling project off on the right foot! With years of experience guiding clients through a smooth remodeling process, we are equipped to help transform your South Eastern Michigan home while keeping the process clear and straightforward.

Give us a call today! There’s a lot that can be done virtually and while practicing safe, social distancing practices to get your remodeling project started on the right foot!

3 Questions to Ask Before Your Next Remodel

Leslie Emerson

Have you been wondering if now is the right time to remodel your home? Whether you’re considering a small project or a major remodel, it’s important to make sure you’re asking the right questions and thinking through all of the critical details. We’ve helped many clients embark on this process and transform their home and we can help you, too. So today, let’s talk about three questions you need to ask before you start your next remodel.

3 Questions to Ask Before Starting the Remodeling Process

  1. How will this benefit the value of my home?

    It’s no secret that some projects have a higher return on investment than others. Check out the Remodeling Magazine Cost vs. Value report for your area as a general guideline for the project you’re considering.

  2. What level of impact will this have on my daily life?

    While we always strive to minimize the disruption a remodeling project-in-progress will have on your home, every project will have some level of impact on your home. Some projects, like a guest bathroom remodel, will likely have minimal impact while other projects, like a kitchen remodel, will have a more noticeable impact. The good news is that we have a lot of experience navigating with our clients, what the temporary effect of a remodeling project would look like for them.


  1. What value will this add to my life?

    Aside from an increase in home value, remodeling your home can have non-monetary value. Would opening up your floor plan allow you to host more family gatherings? Will updating your kitchen encourage you to cook from home more? Would remodeling your bathroom make it easier for you to age in place? Think about why you want to remodel and the positive impact it will have on your life.

Here at Renovations Unlimited we’ve walked through this process with many others and would love to answer your questions and put your mind at ease by walking you through the steps involved. If you’ve decided that you want to start the conversation about remodeling your South Eastern Michigan home, give us a call or send us an email!

Get Your Home a New Look This Spring

Leslie Emerson

March 21st is the First Day of Spring! Spring is a time to think of new life and new beginnings. It’s the time when we undertake spring cleaning for our homes and planting seeds in our flower beds, preparing for the summer ahead.

Did you know that it’s also a great time to “plant seeds” for a home remodeling project?

A successful home remodeling project doesn’t happen overnight. It requires some behind the scenes thought, planning, and preparation. Doing your homework now means that when it’s time to actually start your project, you’ll be better prepared.

How to Prioritize Your Remodeling Needs

Where should you start? It helps to prioritize your needs. A simple chart like the one you see here can help you identify your home renovation needs according to things that are“Must-haves”, “Nice-to-haves”, and “If-money-was-no-object”.

Prioritizing this way helps you budget for the things that really matter to you. But sometimes, you may find that some of the “nice-to-haves” (and even some “if-money-was-no-object” items) aren’t much more expensive because the labor/workmanship is already factored in.

After you’ve determined what you want/need to do, then you can start looking at ideas on sites such as Pinterest or Houzz for ideas and reach out to us! We have experience transforming homes and can bring some fresh perspective on your space. We would love to turn your home remodeling ideas into reality.

Seeing your vision for your home excites us! Reply to this email or give us a call today to share your dreams for your home and start the remodeling process.

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Renovations Unlimited is a full service, Michigan Company specializing in Home Remodeling. Whether designing your brand new home or fixing up your existing home, we have built a reputation on achieving highly respected clients that give excellent referrals for our work

Edward Buczkowski

General Contractor


Serving South Eastern Michigan

Edward Buczkowski in Brighton, MI on Houzz
Edward Buczkowski in Brighton, MI on Houzz

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