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Overwhelm at the beginning of a remodeling project is a very common condition. There is no industry standard map of the design and construction process, and many homeowners go directly to a general contractor for guidance, which can lead to inadequate planning upfront.
I think it's important to remember that a design is a plan, not just an aesthetic vision. Oxford defines the word design as: "a plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building, garment, or other object before it is built or made.".
You can imagine that if you asked someone to build you a vehicle without communicating any design details, you would risk ending up with a minivan when you wanted a sports car. Building or remodeling a house is the same way. When you approach a general contractor without a design on paper, you are taking your chances on what will be bid and built.
This reality often puts general contractors in a pickle. If they are bidding against other general contractors, they don't want to send you away to pay for design work. They want you to sign a contract with them... but how does anyone know exactly what is being contracted without a design on paper?
This pickle is the root of budget overruns, schedule slides, and most all the construction nightmares that you have heard about.