When I was a little girl we lived on a farm in Michigan. The house was a 100 year old fixer-upper and my parents were true DIY-ers. They spent countless hours stripping kitchen cabinets (seven layers of paint), refinishing hardwood floors, painting, wallpapering, even adding a second-floor bathroom. The cosmetic changes to the farm-house were beautiful and I have many fond, warm memories of my childhood there.
Fast forward thirty-some years later: My husband and I just purchased Rapid Canyon Ranch (see THE OLD RANCH HOUSE post). Being an HGTV junkie I had all sorts of immediate DIY ideas and plans but reality was before I could start decorating and make the pretty stuff happen, the house would basically need to be gutted. Not only did it need new electrical, plumbing, insulation, windows and roof, but because of some the “must haves” we wanted which would require major renovation, there was no way we were going to be able to personally tackle such an undertaking. We didn’t have the skills, time, knowledge or ability to do what needed done. You can see by the before / after pictures below that we would have been foolish to even try to tackle such a major project. So we became HID-ers.
I know the joy of stepping back and saying, “I did that!” There is also no shame in admitting something is beyond our ability to do. I just watched a renovation show yesterday where a couple bought their dream fixer-upper home only to realize a year later they were way in over their heads. Most of us have great ideas they just aren’t realistic to do by ourselves.
If you are looking at a major home renovation – major being the key word – here are a few things to know ahead of time: (information reposted from from http://architecture.about.com/cs/repairremodel/bb/remodel.htm)
1. Draw Your Dream: Even before you consult an architect, you can begin sketching out your ideas and imagining your remodeled home. If you are adding or expanding a room, think about how the space will be used and how the changes will affect traffic patterns. Also consider how new construction will affect the overall context of your home. An oversized addition may overwhelm your house or crowd a small lot. A simple home design software program can help you visualize your project.
2. Learn From Others: One of the best ways to get inspiration and to avoid pitfalls is to follow the experiences of other homeowners. A number of Web sites offer online chronicles of home improvement projects, along with reply forms, message boards, and chat rooms that let you ask questions and get feedback.
3. Think Ahead: Although you may dream of having a spacious new addition, the project may not make sense if you plan to sell your house in a few years. A luxury bathroom can price your house beyond the values in your neighborhood. Some projects, such as vinyl siding on a Queen Anne Victorian, will actually decrease the value of your home. Moreover, your own family’s needs may be very different in a few years. Will the plans you draw today fit your future?
4. Count Your Money: Even the best-laid budgets can go bust. Chances are, your remodeling project will cost more than you expect. Before you set your heart on high-end ceramic tile, find out how much you have to spend and make sure you have a cushion against cost overruns. For must-have items that could wipe out your savings account, explore home improvement loans and other financing options.
5. Choose your team: Unless you plan to take on the entire remodeling project by yourself, you’ll need to hire helpers. Naturally, you’ll want to make sure that the folks who work for you are qualified, licensed, and properly insured. But, finding the best team for your remodeling project goes beyond a simple reference check. The architect who has won top awards may have a design vision very different from your own. Use these resources to find the professionals you feel comfortable with.
6. Negotiate a Contract: Whether you plan a simple carpentry job or a major project requiring the services of an architect and a general contractor, misunderstandings can lead to disaster. Do not begin remodeling without a written contract. Make sure everyone agrees on the work that will be completed and how long it will take. Also be clear on the types of materials that will — and will not — be used.
7. Get Permission: In most parts of the world, a legal permit is required before you make structural changes to your home. The building permit assures that the remodeling project meets local building codes and safety regulations. If you live in a historic district, the permit also assures that exterior changes to your home are in keeping with neighborhood guidelines. General contractors will usually take care of the paperwork, but small-time workers may not… and the permits become your responsibility.
8. Plan for Problems: The larger the remodel, the greater the chances for frustrations. There will be equipment breakdowns, supply shortages, miscommunications, and delays. Draw up a few friendly rules for workers. Tell them where they may park their trucks and store their equipment.