Residential Remodeling – Tips for Your Home Remodeling Project


Have you been living in your current home for a long period of time and find that it’s just not meeting your needs any longer?  Or have you just been in your home for a little while but are ready for some changes?  In any case, many homeowners find themselves in a situation where they are no longer happy with the house they currently live in but do not want to or are not able to move to another home.  A remodeling project is often the answer to this dilemma.  However, it’s important not to take on a remodeling project, no matter how minor, without doing the proper planning and working with the right professionals.  If a remodeling project is in your future, continue reading for some valuable information!

Common Projects

When you begin considering a remodeling project, you might find it overwhelming to decide on just a few projects when you may want to upgrade, fix or add to nearly every part of your home.  However, learning about a few common projects that other homeowners undertake may help you narrow down your own wish list.

Lance Roach of JL Exteriors says, “We’re seeing more and more people investing in their existing homes because they want them to look better and have more value.  We focus on exterior projects, so we see a lot of new and better siding being put on, upgrades in decks and additions of pergolas.”

“We are seeing a lot of kitchen remodels,” adds Lisa Giesbrecht of Elite Kitchens & Flooring.  “Often we are looking at replacing cabinets for a more functional, better organized layout and flow. Many of our remodels are simple updates with new countertops and tile backsplashes going in, or just a flooring change.”

“Organized storage is also a big trend in any of our remodels,” Lisa Giesbrecht continues.  “In cabinetry there are so many options for organization and we are constantly analyzing the space and looking for the best solution for storage.  This need for space carries over to every room; we are utilizing space between the studs for storage or display niches, finding places for built-in storage beneath windows or in stairwells, adding furniture solutions that double as extra storage.  I recently worked on a project where we created a small playroom underneath the stairs in a home.”  One big plus of adding storage to your home is that it will almost always be appealing to potential buyers should you ever want to sell it.  Not only will it be useful to you and your family while you’re still living in the home, but it may also increase your resell appeal.

Some common projects Lance Nelson from Sound & Security Innovations is seeing are adding whole house audio speakers, security systems, flat screen TV mounting and surround sound systems.  “We’re also seeing the trend of taking out old bulky televisions and cabinets and replacing them with flat screen TVs mounted on the wall, making the room much bigger by creating more space,” says Lance.  Updating technology in your home is a great way to keep your home modern and enjoyable for your family as well as any guests who come to stay with you.

RJ Lipert with General Security Systems adds more on the subject of security: “In today’s world security is becoming more important.  We provide products and services to help protect our client’s lives and assets.  New technology is available to help our security users communicate with their security and camera systems.  With the use of the internet and Honeywell’s Total Connect package our clients can connection, control security system and view cameras through smart phones, iPads and PC’s.  Our clients can also be notified of an emergency by our local monitoring station, emails and sent video clips to smart phone, iPad, PC’s.  With the use of Total Connect & IP wireless and wired cameras one can help protect their assets and loved ones.”

With today’s rising housing costs, more and more homeowners are discovering that basement areas are the best and most economical way to increase the amount of living space in a home.  Precast Products offers the Scapewel Window Well Systems, which allow you to make the basement living space as useful, comfortable and safe as any room in the house by turning basement windows into egressed windows.  Egressed windows provide safe emergency exits from the basement and the terraced step design of the window well meets building code requirement for emergency egress.  These same steps can be landscaped with flowers or plants for further visual enhancements.

Adding water softeners is also a common project for those who want to increase the functionality of their home.  “I like to think of a water softener as insurance of protection from the damaging effects of hard water,” says Jeff White of Aqua Systems.  “Hard water will scale fixtures and appliances.  Many home owners today are investing hundreds if not thousands of dollars just in plumbing fixtures and appliances.  If not protected, they quickly begin to show mineral and scale buildup from hard water.”   According to a study commissioned by the Water Quality Research Foundation, softeners help preserve the efficiency of water heaters and major appliances and keep showers and faucets unclogged.  The study also found that gas water heaters operated on softened water maintained the original factory efficiency rating over a 15-year lifetime.  On the other hand, hard water can lead to as much as a 48% loss of efficiency in water heaters.  Each five grains per gallon of hardness causes an 8% loss in efficiency and 8% increase in cost when using 100 gallons of hot water per day.  Lincoln’s water has approximately 15 grains of hardness, which would be equivalent to operating 24% less efficient than with softened water.

Other projects that might cost a bit up front but would save money in the long run are those that make your home more environmentally friendly.  This can include lighting upgrades (switching from regular lights to LED lights can save money and waste by reducing the need to switch bulbs as often), incorporating solar options and upgrading appliances to more energy-efficient models.  Talk with a professional contractor or electrician who is familiar with energy efficiency who can take a look at your home and make suggestions that will help you become more ‘green’.

Other common projects include anything that is broken, not working properly or starting to show wear and tear.  This might include roofs, carpeting or other flooring, replacing and/or upgrading appliances, painting interior walls or hauling out old furnishings to make room for new.  Projects to increase or improve the amount of living space are also popular.  Major projects such as basement refinishes, room additions, sun room construction, deck additions should not be taken lightly, though, and she always be done with a professional contractor is skilled in these areas.

Professionals to Work With

Those who are familiar with remodeling projects all agree that consulting with or hiring a professional to take care of your project is the smart choice.  “It is always a good idea to involve a designer with your remodel,” says Lisa with Elite Kitchens & Flooring.  “We can help you avoid costly mistakes and do-overs by keeping our eye on the big picture.”

Lance with Sound & Security Innovations agrees by saying, “Our advice would be to contact a professional company to come up with a good design and get the wiring done before drywall is put up.”

The type of project you are considering will determine what types of professionals you will need to think about hiring.  Here are a few possibilities.

Contractors are normally used for larger projects, such as complete bathroom or kitchen remodels or deck building.  Using a contractor is a good idea because they take on liability for the project and they also probably have much more experience and knowledge than you do.  They will be able to tell you the correct way to go about your project, the best supplies to use and will produce a professional finished project.  There businesses out there now that allow you to be your own contractor.  They will help you choose subcontractors and get your project done.  Acting as your own contractor can sometimes save you money as well as giving you the satisfaction that you have done the majority of the work yourself.

–Interior Designer.
A designer will draw up detailed plans to help you get a sense of the final product.  They also help you with every selection on the project to make sure that all element works together.  Designers are usually involved in projects that do not change the structure of your house, such as redecoration.

Don’t neglect the outside of your home when you’re making remodeling plans.  Not only does a beautiful landscape add to the curb appeal of your home, but it also adds to your family’s enjoyment of the outdoors.  Depending on the type of landscaper you work with, they can help with anything from keeping your lawn manicured and green to adding in decks or water features.

–Plumbers and Electricians.
Any plumbing or electrical work should be done by a professional.  Trying to do these projects on your own can not only involve costly mistakes, but it can also be dangerous.  These are not areas to cut corners on, so make sure you choose your professionals in these areas carefully.

How Do I Choose?

Unless all you have in mind for your project is a few coats of paint and some new furniture, you’ll definitely want to work with professionals to help with your remodeling project.  Whether you’re looking for a contractor who can take care of everything from start to finish or you’re simply looking for a concrete company to pour you a new driveway, you should choose those you work with carefully. Here are a few tips.

Find out their experience and training

You’re going to want to work with professionals who are skilled in their field and the way most people become skilled in their
field is through training and experience.  Ask the candidates about their educational background, special classes they have attended, how long they’ve been in the business and any other questions that might help you to determine their skill level.

Ask for references and other documentation

Don’t be afraid to ask for references.  A professional will happily provide them and you will then have the peace of mind of being able to inquire about the company’s performance from an outside source.

Ask for pictures or to see a completed project

Seeing examples of the company’s past work is a good way to gauge if you have the same expectations for your project as the contractor does.  If yours is an aesthetic project (such as a bathroom remodel or new flooring), ask to see before and after pictures of projects that the company has completed.  If it’s an outdoor project (such a new landscape design), you might also get permission to drive by and see the project in person.

Interview them

Talking with a number of professionals should give you a good idea of which ones you get along the best with, which ones share your vision for what you want your project to accomplish and other important details that you’ll only be able to discover by interviewing them.  Make sure you’re not only talking to the owner or manager of the company, but also the people who will actually be managing your project and will be on-site.

Lance Roach sums it up by saying, “Always research the contractors you are thinking of using. Make sure they have the right insurance and knowledge of their trade. Don’t go with a contractor you don’t get along with as the project won’t be a smooth process like it should be.”

Other Tips

–“Have a budget in mind,” suggests Lisa Giesbrecht from Elite Kitchens & Flooring.  “There are budget calculators online that can help you determine the cost of a kitchen remodel based on the value of your home and your location.  We use this tool and assist our customers with meeting a realistic budget.”

Visit websites of professionals in the industry. Whether you are looking at contractors, those in interior design, sound and security installers or others, you can often get some good ideas by looking at their sites as many of them include photos or descriptions of finished projects.

Make plans for your family. If your project is going to be extensive and include areas where your family often gathers (such as the kitchen or living area) or uses often (like the bathroom), you should make sure you have a plan in place.  Maybe you can stay with family for a few days while the most intensive work takes place or perhaps it would be more pleasant to relocate to a hotel for a week or so.  Definitely don’t make plans for any guests to come stay with you during remodeling and don’t schedule any events, parties or gatherings at your home.  If you can, try to coordinate the project with a vacation you already have planned, that way you can give the workers time to work on your project with you and your family being in the way and you won’t have to experience the inconvenience of the construction.

Plan something for when construction is finished. Sure, you know you and your family will be happy when everything is done and will enjoy your newly remodeled home, but don’t you want your friends and family to all see it as well?  Consider having an open house once construction is finished to welcome your friends and family for a few drinks, some appetizers and a tour of your ‘new’ home.  Make sure you have business cards on hand of those who worked on the project in case someone wants to contact them.  You might even want to invite some of them so they can meet your guests in person!

Don’t try to do everything at once. You may want to put on a new deck, add a sunroom, finish the basement, remodel the kitchen and put new carpeting in all the bedrooms, but trying to take on this many projects at once can be overwhelming (and costly!).  To make your project more manageable (and to make sure you home won’t be uninhabitable for months on end), choose a few projects to start with and work from there.  Perhaps your entire wish list won’t be accomplished this year, next or even the year after that, but at least you’ll be taking on the projects in doses that your family and your bank account can handle!

Keep resell value in mind. If you plan on selling your house any time in the future (which most of us will do), try not to invest in large projects that are completely unique to your family and might not be appealing to someone who could be interested in buying it.  While it’s relatively easy to change paint colors or carpeting before putting your home on the market, it won’t be so easy to redo a darkroom or another large area of the home that most people will not be interested in.

Paying for Your Project

If you don’t have the money to pay for your remodeling project out of pocket, you may be wondering what your options are.  Mike Romanek with LincOne Federal Credit Union has some advice.  “A number of options exist for funding these types of projects.  For the low dollar improvements, a person may want to take out a personal unsecured loan.  Secured loans usually offer lower interest rates, so another option is if you own a vehicle would be to use the title to the vehicle as collateral for a home improvement loan.  The most used option is probably a Home Equity Loan, which can be used for home improvements.  Home Equity Loans most commonly come in two types: either a fixed rate for a fixed term or a variable rate Home Equity Line of Credit.”

If you are considering a loan, Mike Romanek also some advice on what you should prepare before seeing a loan consultant.  “Just like for any loan application, personal information will be needed such as listing of major assets along with employment and income information along with any loan information such as monthly payments and balances. If a person is interested in using a vehicle as collateral, then having the title with you is helpful. If looking at a Home Equity Loan, having the current value of the home by either the Tax Valuation or recent Appraisal is helpful along with the balances of any loans that the consumer has on the house.”

“Look at what improvements you are interested in doing now and also look at improvements you may be interested in the future as well,” concludes Mike Romanek.  “If you have a single project in mind, a fixed rate with a fixed term type of Home Equity Loan might be a good option. But if you are interested in doing multiple projects or have a major improvement you want to do in stages, then maybe a Home Equity Line of Credit might be a better way to go. When you have a Home Equity Line of Credit Loan, you only pay interest on the amount your borrow and when you are ready for the next stage in your project you have the Line of Credit to draw from instead of applying for a new loan.”

Planning a remodeling project should not be taken lightly.  If done incorrectly, it can mean months of disruption for your life and the lives of your family members, not to mention the amount of money it could cost you.  However, if done correctly by planning properly and working with the right professionals, your remodeling project can bring you and your family increased enjoyment of your home for the remainder of your time there.