Intro to Home Remodeling

You are about to get some of the best advice you could ever hope for when it comes to remodeling. In fact, you can learn to avoid some of the worst mistakes homeowners often make.

home contractor measures 2x12 before cuttingYou see, I owned and operated a successful remodeling business for over twenty years before passing the torch to my son-in-law in 2011. I succeeded because I truly loved the challenge of turning someone’s home into a show place. It did not matter whether it was updating a kitchen straight out of the 60’s on a shoestring budget or building the kind of walk-in shower that your neighbors would lust after.

I’ll not only cover numerous time-tested remodeling tips that will help you avoid some of the most common disastrous mistakes but includes many proven tips and techniques for making the right product selections and where to find them.

More importantly, this post contains a detailed interview worksheet for weeding through prospective contractors to find the right one for your remodeling project – one who you can trust!

I paid the price to acquire the skills of my trade, and for about the price of a double skinny latte you can now leverage what I know to tackle any size project with more confidence and less stress. Now, let’s get started!


Out of the hundreds of completed remodeling projects, there has only been a hand full of homeowners who did not have an emotional attachment to their homes. However, most folks were dissatisfied to say the least with something if not everything about their homes…be it an outdated kitchen, a tiny entryway, a pink bathroom from the 50’s, or just worn out flooring. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being disgruntled over a worn out toilet, tired paint colors, or kitchen cabinets that look older than you. In fact, you do not have to feel a bit guilty about wanting more. So, just go for it!

Making a Wish List:

Now it is time to sit down at your kitchen table, clear your mind of everything that is competing for your attention and concentrate on what you would like to change about your home if money were no object.

Go ahead – fantasize. Have a little fun! Then, start listing all the changes you would make. It is not important that you organize the list at this point. It is all about brainstorming. Later, you will organize your list by major categories (kitchen) and subcategories (cabinets, flooring, etc.).

Do not be concerned about missing something, as you can always go back and revise the list. And, this is definitely not the time to be anxious about how much it will cost, or you may someday regret not considering something that should have been on your list. You can always eliminate items when it comes time to budget the project. The point of this exercise is to produce a list of priorities – what you can live with and what you cannot live without. Well, you get the point!

Now, practically everyone has seen home improvement shows on TV at one time or another. They are a great source of ideas. But, I cannot begin to tell you how many calls I have gotten over the years from frustrated homeowners who proudly launched their do-it-yourself project only to discover that it is harder than it looks.

I am in no way dissing these programs. Most of them are professionally produced and highly informative. However, you must understand that most of the people showcased on these programs are more than just weekend warriors. You also have to remember that the shows are edited for TV – “bloopers” have been eliminated. And yes, they are using the latest and greatest tools furnished by their sponsors.

Renting professional tools might seem like a perfectly logical solution, but you will quickly find that most rental construction tools have seen better days. If you prefer to rent, I recommend checking out the tool rental department at The Home Depot, www.homedepot.com.

Creating a Vision:

This brings us to the next phase – visualization. You may be one of those homeowners who have the funds to hire an interior decorator. That’s great! Then, you and your decorator can work together on communicating your vision to your contractor. Otherwise, you can pass on hiring an interior decorator and do what Becky did. In fact I will never forget what an elementary school teacher by the name of Becky unwittingly taught me during my early years as a general contractor. She and her husband owned a beautiful, white wood frame home with high ceilings and a rap around porch in an older section of the County Club subdivision.

Spending hours brainstorming with homeowners over what they wanted to accomplish with the remodel was routine for me. However, that all changed when Becky placed an expandable folder on her kitchen table. It was filled with magazine clippings of everything from kitchens to bathrooms. Without hesitation she started showing me how she wanted her kitchen to look. I could clearly see what she wanted to accomplish. Needless to say, this was one of the most enjoyable projects of my twenty year career.

What Becky did intuitively, I highly recommend that you do purposefully. Select photos of styles that convey your desires and vision. As you decide on the style, paint colors, and other finishes with your contractor make an organized file of all the samples. The purpose of having a portable file like this is to minimize purchasing mistakes.

A decorator would take the sample collection one step further and make a story board (collage) of paint colors, wood stains, tile, carpet swatches, fabrics, etc. glued on a foam board. Compiling your own story board will not only save you valuable time but will prove to be much more effective than relying on your contractor to read your mind.

Do not jump the gun here! This is not the time to launch a buying spree for paints and flooring. All of the purchasing tips for paints and flooring are covered in a later post.

When you visit your local paint store to collect samples for your story board, solicit the help of an experienced professional. This person will help you make the right color and finish choices, again saving valuable time and money on your project. Be sure to select a minimum of three color schemes, a favorite and two alternates. Then, you are ready for a collection of flooring samples.

Choosing the right flooring can be challenging, due to the number of choices. Simplify the process by first deciding on the types of flooring you want to use. For example, do you want travertine or porcelain tile for your kitchen? Do you want hardwood throughout your den, living room, hallway and dining room? Don’t know what you want? Chapter 5 will help answer these questions when I cover flooring in more detail.

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