The explosion of home improvement shows on television, the lagging housing market and big box hardware retailers on every corner have given rise to an army of homeowners taking on all types of projects, for better or worse. Before you rush off to burn a hole in your credit card and load up the family car with lumber, paint and spackle, take a few minutes to analyze your project. It will save you time, money and huge amounts of frustration.
First of all, take an inventory of your skills and be brutally honest. If your sum total of construction experience is a bird house you built at the age of eight, completing an entire bathroom remodel is probably beyond your abilities. That’s not to say that you can’t learn the necessary skills, but start with something small and work your way up. Changing out a faucet or toilet, laying a small amount of tile or installing laminate flooring can all be learned from numerous “how to” videos or even books. If you have the available funds but not the skills, consider hiring a qualified contractor to do the job. You will be dollars and many, many weeks ahead this way.
Let’s say you have a few basic skills and have successfully done some beginner projects. Make a list of all the things that need to be done to complete your project. If you just want to change out fixtures in your bathroom and add a coat of paint (and you have another bathroom available), you can probably finish up in a weekend or two for a few hundred dollars. If you are considering tearing out the tub and putting in a stand up, stone tiled shower, expanding into the guest room closet and installing a skylight in the ceiling, you will have a much longer, more expensive list and the project will likely take months, not weeks.
Plan out the project from start to finish. Depending on the changes you are planning, a building permit may be required by your city or county. A good first step is to visit your local building department. They will be happy to help you walk through your project and let you know what permits, if any, will be required and at what cost. Make a thorough list of materials and price them out. Be conservative; you will always need more than you think and be sure to allow for waste. Take into account any special tools required to do the job. If they are expensive, consider renting them instead of buying them. Plan each step and allow plenty of time to complete each one before moving on. Again, be conservative; things will take longer than you expect. Don’t make the mistake of trying to complete your project by an unrealistic deadline and having to rush.
No matter how good you might be, there are a few aspects of any project that are better left to professionals. Laying large amounts or sizes of tile or stone (especially in showers or tubs), rewiring or repiping your entire home, air conditioning work (a license is required to handle refrigerant gas in many states), installing carpet and installing granite counter tops all take special knowledge and tools that the average homeowner does not usually possess. Save money, do what you can do yourself and hire a licensed contractor to do the heavy lifting. In the meantime, read books, take classes and work on your skills. Soon, you could be showing off your beautiful kitchen to friends, with all the bragging rights that come with “doing it yourself”.
Debbie Bresee is a REALTOR® and Broker in the Brentwood and Nashville, Tennessee areas. If you'd like to browse through MLS listings of Brentwood or Nashville Homes please visit her web site.
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