9 Things to Know Before You Remodel

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1. Know your goals.  While your first thought maybe “We need more space,” the best solution may be something very different.  To get to a more specific solution, it is a good idea to delve a little deeper.  Make a list of objectives and break them down into wishes, wants, and needs.  Make sure to include all decision makers during this process.  Getting everybody on the same page in the beginning makes everybody happy in the end.

2. Know your budget.  The key to keeping a project on budget is proper planning.  A thorough design process will help minimize costly changes during construction.   Having the discipline to stay within a reasonable budget will help you to more fully enjoy the process.  A first step in determining budget may be to research property values in your neighborhood.  Websites like Zillow.com can help with this.  Most remodel projects are significant investments.  Remodeling magazine publishes an annual Return On Investment report for the Sacramento area.  Consider the data and then factor in the benefits for you personally.

3. Know your vision. This is a lasting addition to your life, so focus on what you like.  Are you attracted to a clean, modern look or are you more comfortable with a more traditional Craftsman look?  Collect images from magazines, books or take pictures of friends’ homes.  Gather them in a notebook or start online image files on sites like Pinterest, Evernote and Houzz to identify what moves you aesthetically.  Make sure that the project designer gets your personal vision.

4. Know the limitations.  Research the practical restrictions on your lot before you get too far.  Setbacks, zoning and parking requirements may determine what you can and cannot do as part of your project.  A professional remodeler will know where to look for the specific local ordinances and building codes that will impact your project.

5. Know what’s in and what’s out.  If you are comparing the costs and services of a few remodelers look closely at each to see just what the differences are. The devil may be in the details in the form of exclusions or allowances. Try to avoid allowances since they can lead to unexpected additional costs.  If allowances are part of your contract, make sure they are reasonable and clear.

6. Know your home.  Unknown conditions are a part of many remodeling projects.   Older homes are more likely to have unforeseen issues–like dry rot, mold or unusual placement of ducts, plumbing and electrical runs–but any home can hold surprises.  You never know what you will find behind that drywall! A thorough design process may help anticipate some of these conditions.

7. Know what’s ahead.  Remodeling is messy.  Proper containment and daily cleanup are important for safety as well minimizing the discomfort during a remodel.  Nevertheless, plan for dust, noise, and quite likely, being without a kitchen or bathroom for a while.  You may want to include some amount of escape time – eating out or scheduling a strategic vacation for the dustiest days.  Make sure that your remodeler shares a detailed calendar with you so that you can prepare and look forward to the part when your house looks like the picture in the magazine.

8. Know thyself.  Biting off more than you can do yourself can result in costly mistakes – know when to bring in a pro.  Besides dealing with complicated structural issues, there are many health and safety issues that are best left to a professional.  The proper handling of asbestos, lead and mold requires very specialized training.  If you are working with a professional, you may be able to determine certain tasks – non-structural demo, painting and finish flooring– that will enable you to save money without putting yourself at risk.

9. Have Fun!  Remodeling is an opportunity to make a significant an improvement in your life.  The process doesn’t have to be a grind.   With the proper planning it can be a very rewarding experience!

*First published in The Davis Enterprise, March 30, 2012

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