House Beautiful

Plan and prep to get the most out of your remodel

Anyone who has been through any type of home remodel can tell you that it isn’t easy. There’s the noisy demolition and the profound disruption of daily life. And the dust! Yet the same folks will often claim that it was all worth it, in the end, if they are pleased with
the results.

But not everyone who goes through the process winds up satisfied. You can improve your odds of satisfaction, though, with a little forethought and preparation.

First, don’t assume

Assumptions can be dangerous; sometimes they are wrong and can lead to mistakes and regrets. When you’re talking about remodeling, these mistakes and regrets can be expensive and leave you without good options to remedy them.

So don’t assume that certain options are off limits. If you want to explore a possibility, explore it during the planning stages. Ask if you could move a wall, if you have room for an island, or if a small addition is within your budget. The answer to those questions and others might be no, but that will be a lot easier to take than learning after the project is finished that the answer could have been yes.

Clinton Krell encounters this too frequently, he says. As a sales representative for Spancrete, a company that sells a precast concrete product used in putting livable space below a garage, he says many homeowners never consider the option of adding space beneath a garage because they are unaware that it’s even a possibility, or someone has previously told them it was impossible. Even industry professionals, Krell says, have misperceptions about what Spancrete can do.

“Some homeowners, builders or architects may think that precast concrete is a difficult material to work with, since they may not have been exposed to using it before,” Krell says. “Concrete is a heavy building material, so some may think it takes a lot of additional design and detailing of the foundation walls. The truth is that Spancrete planks can be easily cut to accommodate building geometry, and the connections from the plank to the foundation are very simple to install.”

Krell advises homeowners to ask a lot of questions and even contact manufacturers, such as Spancrete, to gather information on their own.

Of course, remodeling misconceptions are not limited to Spancrete. Julie Arenz, an interior design sales consultant for Marling HomeWorks, encounters mistaken assumptions in her profession, too. For example, customers may decide ahead of time that they do not want oak or that they don’t like tile. She points out that product technology and styles change, and so perceptions of durability and even aesthetics may be misplaced if a homeowner has not been in the market for a while.

One example, she says, is laminate countertops. “With the new, high-definition laminate colors that are available, it takes laminate to a whole new level,” Arenz notes. “People are just amazed when they come into the show room and ask what kind of counter it is and I tell them it’s a laminate.”

Determine what doesn’t work

Arenz recognizes that not only is it hard to let go of preconceived notions about what is possible and what isn’t, it can be just as hard for homeowners to visualize different configurations of their current spaces. The problem is not that they don’t want to branch out and adopt a better design or layout. Rather, it is that they can’t see which possibilities exist.

There are a few ways that design professionals like Arenz help clients work through those mental blocks. One way, Arenz says, is for homeowners to document any frustrations or limitations of a current space.

“Really examine the way you work in the kitchen you currently have,” she says. “While you are preparing dinner, what would you or could you do to make it easier and more effective? If you are putting dishes away from the dishwasher, do you have to walk all the way across the room or do you just have to reach up, and there they go? Do you have to walk across the kitchen to get the grapes from the refrigerator, then walk back across the kitchen to wash them? Is one person trying to cook while the other is doing prep work and getting in the way of the cook?”

Answering those questions, says Arenz, will give designers valuable insights into what the homeowners need and what should be changed in the new design.

Visualize

Dream Kitchens’ Keven Schmidt agrees that some homeowners have trouble visualizing on their own. That is why Schmidt and Dream Kitchens invested in sophisticated design software that allows homeowners to see their potential spaces before construction begins.

“Our design programs are so sensitive that if we add recessed lights in the ceiling, the drawing lightens up on the screen,” Schmidt says. “You really get a chance to live in the room before it’s built.”

Clients have responded well, Schmidt says, and they appreciate the opportunity to see what they might be getting before the dust settles and it’s too late to remedy any problems. It also keeps timelines—and therefore budgets—tight.

“You can make changes on drawings much more easily than you can make changes with a hammer,” Schmidt says.

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