Planning for a Remodeling Project

Planning a remodeling project can be exciting and the completed project very rewarding. As you will learn, planning a remodeling project can be time consuming and the decisions that have to be made, overwhelming at times.

Most projects start with ideas and a wish list. Getting ideas for a remodel may come from a variety of sources depending on the space you want to remodel or add. Usually a good start is researching the Net, attending home shows and reading magazines. You may also get some ideas from various TV programs. Jot your ideas on paper so you can share them with your contractor and/or architect/designer.

If you enlist the services of an architect or designer, select someone who is a good listener. You want someone who will incorporate your ideas and taste into the design not just push their own. They should incorporate your ideas into the design scheme, along with their recommendations. A carefully thought out plan can save valuable time, money and disappointment. Sometimes it is difficult to visualize a project on paper. Design renderings or 3D computer modeling may help the minds eye and build confidence in your choices.

Projects that require more then cosmetic work, such as adding additional space or making structural, electrical, plumbing or HVAC changes, will likely require a building permit. Call your local building official’s office to find out their requirements for your particular project. Some projects will require detailed drawings and property surveys. If drawings are required, the homeowner or a licensed architect will need to draw them. This may be the deciding factor whether the services of a design professional will be required. If the budget is tight and you know someone who is familiar with building codes and willing to help you with the drawings, that may be an option.

If you are hiring a contractor to do the work, he/she can help you through the permit process. When selecting a contractor, it is important you find someone you feel comfortable working with and are confident in their experience and integrity. You want someone who is legally registered and who is competent and honest. For more tips on selecting a contractor, you can read my article “Hiring Home Improvement Contractors”.

Budget and Choices

The planning process starts off with a budget. I’m sure you have heard the phrase, “champagne taste on a beer budget”. Your choices should be realistic as to what you can afford and want to spend. Developing a budget may also narrow your choices and save some time. If you are using a designer they should be able to tell you if your budget is adequate for what you want to do. When determining a budget, consider the following:

  • How long do you plan on staying your home? Some remodeling projects may recoup less then 50% of the cost of the project.
  • How much value will the remodeling project add to your home? To get an idea on cost vs. value and average costs of remodeling projects, click the Cost vs. Value Report on my “Consumer Tips” page.
  • Resale value is one thing to consider, but if you plan on staying in your home for several years, you need to weigh in the comfort and improved living conditions your remodel will add to your family’s life. The increased or updated space and added convenience may be well worth the expense.
  • Be realistic and stay within your means. It is very easy to go crazy with upgrades you could probably live without. Be careful of pushy sales people looking to make a commission. Of course this is a very personal decision and requires serious thought. You don’t want to regret your choices for going cheap or extravagant.
  • Talk to friends and relatives who did similar work. Ask them if there is anything they would have done differently. Were the upgrades worth the additional cost? Were they happy with their choices?
  • Plan on spending 10% – 25% more then you originally budgeted. The extras and changes you didn’t anticipate add up.
  • Do you need to arrange financing? What are your financial options?

Depending on the type of project you are planning, different consideration will need to be taken. This article is generic in nature and your project may require very specific details. For example, if you want to finish your basement, you may need an exterior exit door or egress window. Some projects may require structural considerations such as beefing up floor joists to handle the additional load of a tub or waterbed.

The most recent consideration for renovation work on homes built before 1978 is the EPA’s Lead-Safe Renovation, Repairs and Painting Final Rule. The rule became effective April 22, 2010. Common renovation activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips by disturbing lead-based paint. Under the rule, contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978, must be certified. Lead dust can be harmful and contractors must follow safe work practices to prevent lead contamination. For more information on lead safety, visit the links below by copying and pasting into your browser.

http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovation.htm

http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovaterightbrochure.pdf