Do you have a bathroom that needs an upgrade, or an addition that you dream about building? No matter the project, house remodeling can be both a scary and exciting prospect. But there are steps you can take to soothe your worries—and mind your budget, too. We talked to the experts to get their best tips for remodeling a house. Armed with their advice, you'll have all of the tools necessary to become a pro home remodeling planner.
Maybe you've assembled a carefully organized folder of photos, sample plans, and ideal fixtures and finishes. Or perhaps you just want your living room and kitchen to flow together better, but aren't sure how to get there. Either is OK, and both will have different remodeling design needs says Bill Shaw, owner of a design/build firm in Houston.
Before you begin tearing down walls, make sure you understand your home remodeling style. You'll save yourself headache in the long run, and will be able to better communicate with your contractors. No matter what, be prepared to make decisions—and lots of them.
Whether you're a home remodeling design expert or a novice, there's a common place to start, Shaw says. Create three lists: needs, wants, and wishes. "Needs are the things that must be resolved or addressed, or the project won't happen—the core reason for the home remodel," Shaw says. The key about needs is that they aren't cost sensitive.
Wants and wishes, on the other hand, are where reality and dream home remodeling ideas start to separate. "When we talk about budget versus what we want to do, typically most of my clients are not aligned," Shaw says. "To help them decide, I tell them that if they give me their core needs then I can give them an idea of what budget will work. Then we'll address wants and wishes as options, so we can decide what their package is."
While wants and wishes are more cost sensitive, as the project develops there may be some items on those lists that are more cost effective to do right away rather than later. In other words, don't ditch that pot-filler or marble countertop dream just yet. Keep your list handy and see if there's a way to work your wants and wishes into the remodel house plans down the line.
Online inspiration boards are great—up to a point. The problem is when you can't afford what you've fallen in love with, or when the ideas won't work in your spaces—that overpowering chandelier in a home with 9-foot ceilings, for example. One tool that Shaw encourages homeowners to ask about when approaching remodeling design is 3D modeling. "It really helps clients who may not be able to visualize it, so there's not that letdown during construction, when you're looking at a set of one-dimension drawings, and expectations and assumptions are not aligned," he says.
Every person involved in remodeling design brings something different to the table, and it's up to you to understand those services and how they're provided. And don't make the mistake of hiring based on the low bid, too. "Don't make the mistake of hiring based just on cost," Shaw says. "Quality is important, too."
Shaw suggests interviewing companies, putting a list of questions together, and doing your homework. Figure out what's important to you, what criteria you have, and how you can use the interview process to understand how remodeling design team members can help meet that criteria.
Realize, too, that there's no standard for what things cost. A home kitchen remodeling project in one area of the country may be completely different in budget from what yours will be. And variables differ, too—hidden problems in a home, for example, or deals you may find on fixtures or appliances. Exterior home remodels can also vary in price depending on region and time of year.
The kitchen is one of the most common spaces to update. After all, it's used multiple times a day and is often a central gathering spot for family members. However, there are a few additional kitchen home remodeling tips to keep in mind.
First, make sure you have a concrete timeline in mind. A prolonged basement or family room remodel is annoying, but living without a kitchen for longer than expected is downright difficult. Plan easy meals ahead of time and create a small cooking zone in an adjacent room. At minimum, you'll want a mini-fridge, toaster oven, microwave, and hot plate.
To stick to your timeline, order all appliances, fixtures, flooring, and other necessities in advance. This will give you a little wiggle room if you accidentally receive the wrong shipment or a package gets lost.
Unsure how to renovate a bathroom? Don't stress. Just like a kitchen, this is one of the most popular rooms to update, and a few extra tips will make the process go much smoother.
First, don't cut corners. You shouldn't cut corners on any home remodeling project, but especially in a home bathroom remodel. Moisture, humidity, and frequent use make this room especially prone to problems, so any shortcuts you take will end up costing you more in the long run.
Also choose your materials wisely. Opt for waterproof tile or stone flooring that can withstand moisture and heat. If you're replacing fixtures, such as a toilet or bathtub, measure twice. Then measure again. You don't want to order a new tub and haul it into your space only to realize that it doesn't fit.
Finally, be prepared for surprises—especially in older homes. It's hard to know exactly what is under the walls and flooring until you begin construction, so be prepared for the worst. Set aside a chunk of your budget for unforeseen costs, like rot or rusted pipes.
Remodeling on a budget is possible, you just have to make smart choices. Make sure that all of your basic needs are taken care of before moving on to wants and wishes. Work with a contractor to determine areas where you can cut costs—and where you need to invest. In the kitchen, for example, save money by opting for a cheaper appliance set, but spend money repairing a damaged subfloor. Structural issues always need to come before fancy finishes or materials.
We also recommend setting aside 10-20 percent of your total budget for unforeseen repairs. If you plan to spend $10,000 on home remodeling, $1,000-$2,000 of that money should be set aside for potential issues. If nothing comes up, then use that money to splurge on a want or wish.