There comes a time in every home’s life when it needs a tuck here, a touch up there or a full makeover. But before moving ahead with your remodel, ask yourself, what’s really driving this urge to renovate? Why now? Are you doing it for vanity’s sake (you want to impress your relatives who will soon be arriving on your doorstep)? Are you looking to increase your home’s resale value? Or do you simply want to keep your home in good condition by addressing a host of long overdue home maintenance projects?
When you know what’s driving your remodeling process, it’ll will be easier to budget and scale your project and make other key decisions — because you’re going to have to make a lot of them. Permit us this one example. In Remodeling magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value survey, the remodeling project offering the homeowner the greatest return on their investment was (drum roll, please) a garage door replacement.
Average cost: $3,611
Average resale: $3,520
Cost recouped: 97.5%
The estimate covered the cost of removal and disposal of an existing 16-by-7-foot, two-car garage door and installation of a new four-section garage door with heavy-duty galvanized steel track (provided the motorized garage door opener is similar).
Really? A garage door? That might sound pretty boring if you have visions of a brand-new kitchen with an amazing center island, but if you’re going for value first, well, go for the garage door.
Now for some more renovation tips. Our first one is the carpenter’s code: Measure twice and cut once. By double-checking everything you do regarding your renovation, you’ll minimize costly mistakes and keep your project on schedule. One other thing, wear safety glasses if you’re doing any of the work or walking through a construction zone!
THE BIG PICTURE
Unless you’re made of money, you will need a budget. First, focus on the key improvements you want to make. Again, what is your vision? Are you going all-in with top-end features or will your improvements be more cosmetic? What do you absolutely need versus what do you really want? Price out materials and labor. Are there some projects you can complete yourself to reduce costs?
Before you run for the hills, thinking you can’t afford one, maybe you should be thinking you can’t afford not to use one. Perhaps, there’s a middle ground. Draw or sketch your vision of your project, then run it by an architect for a one-time consultation. The architect consultant may recommend moving a non-load bearing wall to create that open-concept floor plan you’re aiming for or offer other ingenious insights that will well be worth the fee. From there, you can take your sketches to a contractor or drafting service to create formal construction drawings.
This is where the rubber meets the road — or in remodeling parlance — the framing meets the foundation. After viewing your budget and design, your contractor should be able to let you know whether your budget and design are realistic.
For starters, word of mouth and your own eyes work well. You’ve seen a neighbor’s or friend’s remodel or addition, and you’re in awe. But even if the contractor comes with rave reviews and testimonials, check Yelp and other reviews. If you still like what you hear and see, ask the contractor for copies of liability insurance. If it’s a big project, you may also consider doing a full-blown check on your contractor — looking into their license, certificate of insurance, lien history, bond number, and certification—to ensure you’re dealing with a professional who is in good financial standing. You don’t want someone cutting corners on your dime.
Working with your contractor, plan backwards from the completion date, allowing room for weather issues, material and labor shortages, inevitable construction changes and delays from the city.
Pull permits. Some DIYers (and even contractors) think they can save money by skirting City Hall and not pulling a permit for a small job. Who will ever know? That’s foolhardy thinking. By pulling a permit, your project will have to meet the latest safety codes. Also, were you later to file an insurance claim on a structure or improvement that your insurance company knew nothing about, the insurer might not honor it. In its eyes, the improvement never took place, as no record exists. Furthermore, should you go to sell, your unpermitted addition is usually not counted as part of the home’s overall square footage, which will likely hurt your resale value.
Don’t get too trendy with your improvements
Although you may be dazzled by the latest design trends, ask yourself if they will equally enthrall the next buyer who comes along. Perhaps, on second thought, a more classic, understated approach will return you greater value.
If you’ve ever tried to fit a square peg into a round hole, then you know what it’s like to try squeeze a sofa, wing-armed chair or a refrigerator through a narrow door, hall or other elbow-scraping passageway. If it’s in your budget, opt for ampler pathways. With each passing year, you’ll grow happier you took this roomier approach.
As mentioned, the top cost vs. return remodeling project in 2019 is a new garage door. Runner-ups on the list were manufactured stone veneer (No. 2), minor kitchen remodel (No. 3), deck addition (No. 4), siding replacement (No. 5) and entry-door replacement (No. 6).
Your list, however, will likely be far different. In the end, it should reflect your goals and desired lifestyle. That said, here are few more pointers to keep in mind:
Make a good first impression
Although No. 6 on the 2019 remodeling list, you might want to make it No. 1. There are literally hundreds of styles to choose from to help your home make a grand welcoming statement. Whatever you do, don’t cheap out by installing a flimsy front door. If budget is an issue, simply repaint the one you have. Be bold. If you go overboard, it’ll cost you a can of paint for the do-over.
Light it up
You don’t hear about too many homeowners calling for their homes to be darker. When remodeling, install larger windows to bring the outdoors inside. If not in the budget, simply brighten things up painting your walls a shade or too lighter. Maybe even consider adding a skylight.
Make a small room appear larger
An inexpensive and beautiful way to make a small room appear larger is to use mirrors. Mirrors are great for reflecting light and creating the illusion of more space. Placing a large mirrornear or across from a window is always effective.
Deck out your house
Besides its cost-vs.-return value (No. 4), a deck off a dining room, family room, or master suite expands your living space. Come up with some unique features such as built-in benches or a fire pit to make it a cozy and homey gathering place. Use higher grade materials to increase the life of the deck.
Update your kitchen
When most people think of remodeling, the first place they think of is the kitchen. It’s the hub and nerve center of the home. But it can also be the costliest area of the home to remodel, so restraint is required if you’re working with a limited budget. Resist moving water and gas lines to accommodate the reconfiguration of sinks, ovens, stoves, dishwasher or icemaking refrigerator. Also, try to work with your existing cabinets, which can save you thousands of dollars. Clean and lightly sand them and have a professional painter come in and spray them to make them look factory-fresh. Add some new knobs and drawer pulls to reflect your personality and your home’s architectural style, and your kitchen will shine like a designer showroom.
That should be enough to get you started. Okay, one last tip. If you lean green and want to do your part for the environment, consider shopping at stores specializing in recycled building materials. Google “architectural salvage” for a nearby vendor. You may find a vintage front door or fixture that will instantly make your home unique. And at half the price, you may even be able to afford to go out dinner while your kitchen is under construction.
Happy hunting and happy remodeling.