From blueprints to reality: Planning a home renovation

Published on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 by Marja Broeksma

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If you are like most people your home is the single largest investment you will ever make. With so much at stake it’s no wonder there is a lot of anxiety associated with the process of renovating and remodeling within those four expensive walls. And, when it comes to kitchens and bathrooms, the projects entail a different set of skills than if you were taking on a bedroom, dining room or family room.

No matter what type of home improvement project you are considering, there are many questions to ask yourself before even
 getting started. Planning and knowing your options is the key.

So, before you pick up the phone to call a design professional, consider the following steps and guidelines to get you started:

Step 1: Decide why you want to remodel

Before a single phone call is placed, or product selection is made, ask and answer this basic question. The answer usually helps define the overall extent of work to be performed and budget of your project. Determining why you want to make the change can help you figure out your priorities. Some of the most common reasons for a remodel are listed here:

A) Have your family’s needs changed?
B) Do the colors and materials just not suit your tastes?
C) Have you lived in the house for a while and want to upgrade?
D) Are you sprucing it up so you can sell it?

Step 2: Make a list 

First, consider what is it that you and your family like and dislike about the spaces/rooms you want to remodel? Your “wish list” allows you to dream, while the “needs” list keeps your feet on the ground.

Then, list your “don’ts.” Keep track of the things that annoy you about your current house. A remodeling project is a chance to make the changes you’ve always wanted, so be sure that you take advantage of the opportunity. Let your design professional help you avoid other pitfalls, as well.

Start a clip file to create a visual representation of what you would like to see in your home. Cut out things you like in magazines. It doesn’t have to be a complete design idea. Maybe it is a color contrast or type of tile, or just a picture that reflects your style. Take pictures of things that you see as you drive around. Go to home shows and pick up brochures. Get color swatches at your local paint shop or home center. You can also search for photos on specific themes on the Internet. An inexpensive scrapbook is a great place to save your inspiration.

Think outside your space. Changing design in one room can affect the flow in adjacent areas. Keep in mind storage areas, laundry and service rooms and family and entertainment spaces. These additional spaces are vitally important to the comfort of your family and critical to your ultimate satisfaction.

Prioritize each list and eliminate items that you know are unrealistic or unnecessary. Items that are low on your lists can be saved for a later project.

By the time you are finished, what started as a rough collection of your dreams will have evolved into a clear-cut set of expectations and priorities that you can convey to a designer. 

Step 3: Choose a professional

When choosing a professional to help you work through the details, keep in mind that many people involved in the 
homebuilding and renovation industry do not specialize in functional kitchen and bathroom layout and design. For example, architects are great for structural and architectural details; however, some do not truly understand how to design a functional kitchen. A good kitchen designer will be able to look at your design and help you make a truly livable and aesthetically pleasing space for you and your family. 

Professional kitchen designers are trained to do good kitchen design, work with trades, contractors, architects and cabinet makers, oversee workflow and can see problems that the average person doesn’t see until it’s too late. Most National Kitchen and Bath Association professionals are certified, and all are qualified to assist in the remodeling your home. Meet with them and trade ideas and suggestions. Make sure they’re qualified for your needs (bathroom and/or kitchen certified).

Ask to see past projects and/or a portfolio. How do you know if a designer is qualified for your project? Ask for references and pick a designer that satisfies your taste and style. You should never be persuaded to do anything you don’t like or that does not fit your budget.