It wasn't too long ago … okay, it was actually several months ago, that I let you into the world of my remodeling project and provided you with some tidbits of what to be aware of during this August type project.

Now that I've entered my seventh month of the project I've learned even more, all for your benefit.

First, I'll share some items that I did right. Then other items that I would do differently.

What We Did Right

  • Get professional help. I don't know about you, but we have a lot of life going on in the Carr household. Even for a handyman who feels confident in demolition, reconstruction and finish work, (and that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm talking about me) the biggest problem is finding the time. Remodeling a kitchen, finishing a basement or constructing an addition is not for the faint at heart or the time challenged.

    The professionals would include landscapers, construction artists and interior decorators -- anyone that has to actually bring your concepts to fruition.

  • Pick the right contractors. We hired three such professionals: Tom for landscaping and painting; Jim for the finishing of the basement and all the residual projects connected with that project; and finally, Susan was our "creative" consultant on the colors, materials, furniture and art choices.

    From day one, we decided on the right contractor for the right job. Tom and his team really knew how to set up beds, design the layout and pick out the healthiest plants. All but one plant has survived the winter and they're all now in full bloom. I have a holly plant that is starting to shed leaves and dry out, but the guarantee on the plants is 12 months, so I'll be able to get it replaced.

    Tom also headed up the painting of our interior and some outside repair work. His bid on this job wasn't the cheapest, but his method of painting – one coat of primer on all walls, two coats of paint to follow – guaranteed a professional, seamless look throughout. It was worth the added expense.

    My second contractor is a professional's professional, providing only the best quality in work and craftsmanship. Jim, a former educator, now manages teams of contractors on jobs throughout my market area. He has headed up plumbers, electricians, carpenters and painters, to name a few.

    Finally, Sue's color selections and advice on furnishings brought confidence for both my wife and I in finding direction and focus on what the final product would look like.

  • Get bids in writing. Both my contractors provided detailed bids with designs for all the work they would be completing. It gave both of us a stake in the ground as far as work requested and work completed -- and deviations from both.

    Doing Things Differently

    Looking back, of course, there are things we would have done differently. But there were also parts of the project that we learned had to be done differently. As we moved forward with the demolition, construction, and finally material selections, we found out just how realistic our plans and dreams really were. And with those realizations came delays and budget changes.

  • Concentrate on the plans earlier. If we had spent more time looking over other people's remodeling jobs, pricing materials and touching base on what we really liked and what we really didn't, things would have gone quicker and the budget more inline. Most of our budget increases were based on our selection in materials, such as upgraded doors, lighting, flooring, etc. The question in remodeling, we learned was not so much on how much can we get with our budget (bulk purchasing), to more of what would we be happy with over the next several years (quality purchasing)?
  • Take more measurements early and often. Okay, this is where the "I think that will fit," vs. "I know it will fit," can get expensive and frustrating. The 80-inch sofa that you believe should fit in the 83-inch tall doorway may not fit if you can't compromise the 30-inch width of the door with the 32-inch breadth of the sofa. Measurements are most important when it comes to ordering furniture and placing them in the rooms.
  • Use storage better. While I now have about a quarter of my earthly belongings in storage, what I have in storage has been the biggest challenge. All my files should have stayed at the house, while all extraneous furniture should have gone away. Another way to have made this work better would have been to have a yard sale early on. As it is now, we just want to get the job done and get our stuff back to the house.
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