Homeowners Homework…remodeling tips!

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Start planning your remodel job now to get started after the holidays!

So you’re thinking about remodeling your home. You probably have become a big Pinterest fan and you have hundreds of pins for your new kitchen remodel wish list. Or you’re a Houzzer and you have a multitude of kitchen, bath, outdoor living area boards that you’ve been collecting for that day when you have the time, the money, and the patience to redo you’re mid century home you…well… bought in the mid century:) Sure, a little tear out here and there, use some subway tile, pick out some paint and boom your done, living happily in a swank new place that you know is worth twice what you paid. Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha…don’t fall for it, please!  HGTV is not real life …not even close.

Does your schedule allow for a major home life disruption?

First of all, you most likely have a full time job not construction related. Secondly, chances are you have children or planning to have them in  the near future.  Or you have pets that are like your children and require most hourly attention. What I’m trying to get across is a remodel job big or small is a major disruption, although temporary, it still screws with your daily routine and if you think a kitchen will just take a couple of weeks “As Seen On TV”; think again…it won’t.

The truth is it will most likely take twice as long to get those subs out of your house than originally planned; believe me!

I’m sure you’re thinking “how does this Chick know anything about remodeling?” Let’s just say I’ve had 20+ years of living with a remodeling contractor, lived through 4 of our own, and been a working observer on more than a few+ new constructs and remodels big and small. They’re all different, some spectacular, some practical and modest, and some should I say didn’t end well because the owner got all DIY at the end. Let me just say this now because I’m going to say it at the end of this blog…

A bad remodel job is worse than no remodel job!

It doesn’t matter if you have the best frame crew, sheet rock guy and spectacular floor plan. If you plan on doing the finish work yourself it will make the whole project look, well, like you did it yourself.  You won’t get those envious reviews like you hoped.

Helpful hints for a lot of smiles and years of pride.

    • Start off with a specific idea/design and get your plans on paper. Draw it out on grid paper. Have your tape measure ready to do some space design. For me this is the hardest part except maybe writing checks:(
    • Do you have enough equity in your home to absorb the remodeling costs? Make sure you’ve done your research here. Homeowners always think their home is worth more than it presently is, me included. If you’re going to be selling in the next couple of years it might not make sense to sink a lot of money in a major redo unless you know the end result of the kitchen or master bath will pay off. Check with a real estate agent to run comps in your area just to make sure. A good rule of thumb I’ve observed over the years is the basic costs of a remodel job general starts around $150-$200/ft. The smaller the space the more expensive.
    • Will the actual process of remodeling be worth going through? This is especially true if you have little ones at home. Like if you have a newborn set of triplets then I would strongly suggest not to go down that road just yet. I’d wait until they are at least able to take a whiz by themselves. Just sayin!
    • Fine tune your ideas even to hardware and light switch covers. Dimmers or no dimmers? Door knobs; levers or old fashioned knobs? Soft close drawers and cabinets on all or just a few? It really matters when a contractor is bidding your job.
    • Contact a couple of draftsman, contractors, or architects. Make sure you ask about their service fees. Is the architect going to make a rough draft or something you can get a permit off of. Are they going to include electric, lighting, plumbing, heat and air design, etc? We have spent thousands of dollars on architectural plans that consist of one piece of paper! A draftsman is much cheaper and a good, experienced contractor can take a rough plan and fill in the electrical, plumbing, heat & air needs. Or can you design it yourself on an easy, cheap computer program like I have in the above sketch. The cost of the program is minuscule compared to an architectural fee. I use Home Designer Architectural 2016,  and if I remember correctly it was around $150 for a licence and then of course a little more each year if you upgrade to the newest version.  (Note: if you’re planning a really big job then the pros are probably the way to go)

      The list goes on…

    • Find out what the permit requirements are in your town.
    • Does your remodel warrant the most expensive finishes? This is where you can break your budget or save your budget.
    • Flooring: pros and cons to wood vs engineered wood vs tile vs carpet. (advise from a real estate agent: don’t choose more than two kinds of flooring for one view (ex: carpet, wood, tile all in one room. It looks cheap!)); and especially if it’s a smaller home. I once had a house listed that had 5 flooring types in the view from the front door; tile in the entry, carpet in the living room, parquet flooring in the dining, wood stairs, and a different tile in the den! Needless to say I never sold that house and neither did anyone else!
    • Cabinets; what kind of wood? finish (pre-finished or onsite finish), soft close, hardware, style? Will a cabinet company help with storage ideas, design? Does it make sense to go with the most expensive cabinets? Ask friends what kind of cabinets they have, are they happy with them?
    • Windows:  all wood, insulated, aluminum on outside-wood on inside, vinyl?
    • Doors: all wood, insulated, aluminum on outside –wood inside, custom made, solid or hollow core?
    • Are you going to have to upgrade your heat and air, move electrical boxes, move air conditioning units, plumbing or can you design around these items. (moving h&a units, electrical boxes are EXPENSIVE!)
    • Appliances: Look at consumer reports and possibly call an appliance repair man to get an idea of which appliances he services the most or the least. Some high end luxury appliances breakdown more than less expensive brands. Plus they are super expensive to work on once the warranty expires. Some models are discontinued early and parts are difficult to find. 

Sure the Thermador is a little bigger but is it worth $8000+ more for a couple of more inches!Sinks and faucets are the same as appliances in price range…all over the place! Can you get a better deal over the internet or through the plumber? What happens if a piece is missing from an online order and you discover it when its time to install?

    • Do you really need to tile every bathroom wall or can you live with just the shower/tub/floor area being tiled. Again, makes a big difference in the final bid price.
    • Sink, shower, tub: do you need the $1500 tub or will the $600 be just fine. Or do you even need to replace the tub..look into resurfacing.
    • Light fixtures: pendant lighting, cans, dimmers, under mount lighting…lots of choices. Be sure of what you want way before the electrician knocks on your door…cause if you don’t have them picked out chances are you will have to wait another 2-3 weeks before he can come back..
    • Counter tops; Ugh! So many choices and such a price difference. Do your homework on the pros and cons. Do you really need that Calacatta Gold?

Have you thought about mixing surfaces? One really nice piece of granite on the island and a less expensive top for the counters can be a fantastic look.

Paint: its usually the last item to tackle and it’s not the time to start scrimping by painting it yourself. A bad paint job will make the whole remodel look cheap.  A professional job is worth every penny.

Same with the floor…don’t decide to stain or install the floor yourself. You will never forgive yourself!

Things to ask yourself before you get started

How long am I going to live in this house? Is the cost going to raise the value of my home by at least 80 percent of the job cost. Is the floor plan easy to get around and the space maximized to the fullest? Will you need that extra space after the kids leave?

These thoughts and ideas are not intended to discourage you from creating your dream home. On the contrary, I hope it encourages you to dream and build the home you’ve envisioned since the first time you walked through those doors. Remodeling can be super fun and a great way to add value to most likely the largest investment you own.

Being prepared ahead of time for the journey through the construction project makes the experience much more enjoyable. Like I said before, a bad remodel job is worse than no remodel job! Do your homework and make your next project fabulous and with enough moula left over for that well deserved beach vacation cause you’re going to need it:)

Disclaimer: I am not a professional renovation contractor….I’m a contractor’s wife of over 20 years. This post is not meant to endorse any  products or contracting professionals with the exception of mine:). These remodeling tips are from observation through out the many years I have been involved in the real estate profession and residential building business.




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