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Home Updates Made Easy

Updated on November 23, 2008

Hints for Remodeling Your House


These are hard times. The economy is tanking, automakers are paying the price for a lack of foresight, retirement funds are in jeopardy, health care is a source of unhealthy stress and houses are losing value. President-elect Obama presents his economic team with some plans tomorrow (Nov. 24, 2008) and Bush becomes a shoddy reference for history books in less that sixty days, but it will take considerable time for the nation and its economy to rebuild.

So what’s to be done in the meantime? My wife and I looked around our neighborhood and noticed two things. First, houses on the market for two years haven’t sold; and second, seven houses on our circle were undergoing major renovation: new windows, siding, small additions and other projects.

That reaffirmed our conviction of a dozen years that our own house needed major updating to retain or increase value and be more marketable in the event we should ever decide to sell (we aren’t planning that, at least not for a long time).

Here’s what we did, and it’s worked to perfection. Perhaps you can learn something from our experience.

1.  We made a list of improvements that were needed: tile floors in three bathrooms and a laundry room; new toilets, sinks, cabinets and shower; hardwood flooring and steps in the family room, entryway and hall to the kitchen; new exterior doors; new light fixtures in bathrooms, hallway, stairwell and dining room; new door hardware throughout the house; refinishing all hardwood floors upstairs and installing new cabinet hardware in the kitchen.

2.  We got in touch with a contractor who was local, had a good reputation in the community, had done work we’d seen, related well to us and shared our vision for the renovations that seemed important

3.  We walked through our house with the contractor, discussed each item and then drew up a detailed checklist, room by room, of every alternation or improvement item desired.

4.  We requested a quote from the contractor for the alterations and discussed what we could do to reduce costs, agreeing that I would remove all carpet and   shoe-mould and do all the painting required, as well as minor work – like putting in new kitchen cabinet hardware and shoe-mould upstairs. We also asked for and received leads on where to shop for tile, flooring, cabinets, lights, and a new front door unit – saving us money by buying through the contractor’s name at his prices.

5.  We obtained financing, using a low-interest line of credit at our local bank and a credit card offer at low interest (paid off with the line of credit after payments to the bank made more principal available, since the bank loan interest is tax-deductible).

6.  We worked hard to prepare the job site - moving furniture, tearing out carpet   and trim, painting, hauling of trash.

7.  We did a last “walk-through” with the foreman of the job, using our detailed check-list . . . and then we left town for two weeks, allowing them to tear out all bathroom fixtures, floors etc. at once and proceed with construction without delays or interruptions, not to mention inconvenience for ourselves.

The result is a stunning improvement to our five bedroom, two-and-a half bath house that not only updated rooms left untouched since their original construction in 1973, but transformed it from a pseudo-Colonial home to a modified Craftsman-style house that’s much more in keeping with our current tastes, using a traditional look that’s always in vogue.




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