Home renovation - builders, plans, stairs, Elton John

Me, age 12, in the same living room -- same piano.
My mother as a teenager in the living room.

Having never done anything like this before, I feel a little out of my element, wanting to soak up the new knowledge, but also not wanting to be taken advantage of. We have an architect friend who has been helping us with designs and drawings, but we are at the time in the process where we are speaking with builders (or contractors? what's the proper nomenclature?!). It's been interesting to see what comments they have, as each of them has totally different concerns. 

One builder is really bothered by the current stairs (which are 100 years old, so only 32" wide or something) and wants to build a new bigger staircase in the addition,  one thinks they are just fine the way they are and will be fine for our purposes, and another thinks they should be widened, but that it's no big deal to do that. I'm not sure what to think, as I have never lived in a place built after the 1920s. My homes in Louisville, Scotland, and New York, were all antiques, and I actually trip on the stairs in new constructions. I understand "code," or whatever, but I'm not bothered by a 100-year-old staircase.

One contractor says if we want it finished by Memorial Day, they wouldn't need to break ground until February; another says this will be an 8-month renovation minimum. One doesn't want David to do any part of the project himself, while others are totally ok with David jumping in to help with cabinets or flooring. (We have a tight budget, and we want to save money where we can.) We also want to respect the history of the home and respect what my mom would have wanted. More than one builder/architect has told us we'd save big money by knocking down the current structure and starting fresh. (The current house is fine structurally, but needs all new floors, walls, kitchen, electrical, sewer, etc.)

It blows my mind that some people do these home projects for fun! 

Anyway, we are awaiting bids from contractors, and awaiting pulling the trigger on a massive home loan that I'm not super excited about carrying. But we are very excited about being able to live together as a big family. Four adults and two growing boys requires more square footage and some accessibility planning -- not just for my dad, but for when I'm a thousand years old and need a pneumatic elevator to get the groceries inside. 

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Also, I posted photos of the piano and the living room above partly because this John Lewis commercial has had me WEEPY for days. It's amazing:

*** This 100-year-old home has been in my family for 70 years because my mom bought it from her parents. My mom grew up in it, I grew up in it, and my kids will grow up in it.***