Home renovations come about in different ways. Some are planned months in advance. Others just sort of happen. You look around your home, realize all kinds of repair and maintenance jobs have piled up over time, and decide it’s finally time to get them done. Here are some suggestions for getting your home renovation project moving.
Make a list
However you arrive at your renovation project, you’ll accomplish it with a lot more ease if you make a list that prioritizes the jobs you’re going to do. A list brings order and staves off potential chaos. And it’s actually not hard to do.
Your list should have two columns: those jobs that must be done right away and those that can wait. For those that can wait, you should determine how long they can wait. Whatever you do, don’t be one of those homeowners who simply jumps in. Then you’ll find yourself halfway through one project when two others appear—and so on. Before you know it, you’ll be standing amid a scatter of uncompleted projects.
Experience is not required
You don’t need to be an expert to make a list of priorities. You don’t have to be a skilled contractor or the host of a home-renovation show on TV. You just need some basic knowledge of home repair, along with some common sense. With those in your toolbelt, a pen and paper or tablet PC, you’re ready to start.
As I mentioned, your list should consist of two columns: the jobs that require immediate attention (“need to have”) and the jobs that can wait awhile (“nice to have”). Begin with your “need” column. Take a walk around your home, outside and inside, and note down all the irregularities.
Notice that I didn’t say “problems.” Just jot down what doesn’t look entirely right to you. You’re not on a mission to diagnose cause and effect. No knee bone connected to the thigh bone. You’re just listing those aspects of your home that seem off somehow. For example, if you see a paint bubble in a bathroom wall, write that: “Paint bubble in bathroom wall.”
Be realistic and specific
Once you’ve listed all your need to haves, tour your home again and make a list of your nice to haves. These are up to you. But they should be realistic, based on your budget and time available. Koi pond in the garden? If you really want it—and you’ve got the budget and time—go for it. If not, leave it off your list.
Be specific in your list. Don’t write “total kitchen makeover.” Instead, break that project down into separate items like “redo countertops in tile” and “install new gas range.” When your list is specific, it will show the scope of your reno and help in your discussion with the contractor you choose to work with.
Check two boxes with one fix
When you’re finished with your list, my guess is your “need” column will be a lot longer than your “want” column. In fact, your need column might be so long that you start to doubt you’ll ever make it to your want column.
Don’t sweat. Keep in mind that your home is an interconnected system and that, as you tackle a project in the need column, you could very well check off a project in the want column. For example, when you fix the paint bubble in your bathroom, you could also install a new vanity.
Focus on structural repairs
Let’s rewind for a minute. Let’s go back to the process of making your list. As you do it, you’ll likely have some difficulty with that part of your list where you write down the urgency of each job. What can wait? How long can it wait? If you’re having trouble here, you might want to pause and call in a qualified home inspector.
An inspector has the knowledge and experience required to walk around your home and identify those projects that need immediate attention—to trace that paint bubble in the bathroom to a leak in the roof. The inspector will tell you structural repairs like this should be at the top of your priority list.
You might also ask the advice of a general contractor.
Fix water-intrusion issues first Water penetration is homeowner enemy number one. If there’s a leak in your roof or water intrusion in your basement, you should repair it before you undertake any other project.
That’s because even a small leak can cause big problems in other places. Every part of a home under a roofline is jeopardized by a leak: joists, trusses, drywall, insulation, trim, hardwood floors, paint. It goes on—and it stacks up exponentially as the water travels downward to the basement.
Make different priorities if you’re renovating to sell
Doing improvements you plan to enjoy for years yourself is one type of renovation. Doing improvements to increase your home’s value before sale is another type and it dictates different priorities. Here, you should focus first on fixing problems that will turn off potential buyers. This usually means structural issues like leaks and dry rot.
Beyond those structural repairs, upgrades to the kitchen and bathroom, wood decks and window replacements usually deliver the most return on investment. If you’re unsure, it’s a good idea to get a presale home inspection, which will identify those places where you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
Consider Home Protection from Mike Holmes Protection
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