Be prepared. When you're planning a home remodel, it pays to take this tip from the Boy Scout manual and do as much planning in advance as you possibly can. The more you know about what you want and how you hope to achieve it, the smoother your remodeling process is likely to be. Use these do's and don'ts to guide you.
DO know what you want. Start by clarifying the specific goal(s) of your prospective remodel. For example, saying, "I'd like dedicated kitchen areas for food prep, children's meals, and wine storage" will tell your remodeling contractor much more than just "I want to redo the kitchen."
DO accurately assess what you have. Take a good long look at your home, with a measuring tape at the ready. Decide whether your dream renovation will fit, in terms of both style and physical proportions.
DO do your homework and know the sizes and types of building materials available. Using standard sized lumber, cabinets, and even bathtubs will save you money and often time. And it will be a heck of a lot easier to order tile by color number than searching for an elusive "greeny-blue" shade.
DON'T ignore the law. Find out which jobs your local government requires you to pull a permit for and whether you will need to have the work inspected to verify that it is up to code. If you are converting a basement to sleeping space, you must include an egress window or door. Do not even think of skipping these steps. Failure to follow procedure will endanger your chances of insuring or selling your home, not to mention your family's safety.
DO be realistic about the potential ROI. Consider the value of your home and what features other properties in the neighborhood have, especially before putting your house on the market. It's perfectly legit to "stalk" real estate listings for your area to figure out how (and whether) to keep up with the Joneses.
DO take health into consideration -- your own and the health of our planet. Wherever possible, choose upgrades that will conserve energy and improve your home's indoor air quality.
DON'T pay good money for a remodeling job that relies heavily on materials which are overly cheap and/or trendy. If you are planning to stay in your current home for 10 years or more, choose good quality materials in classic styles. They will continue to look great and give excellent performance over the long haul. They'll also make your home stand out from the crowd for potential buyers.
DON'T focus on surfaces only. While your walls are opened up and your home life is basically in chaos anyway, take the opportunity to re-pipe your plumbing system and upgrade your electrical wiring. Neither of these is likely to be the hot topic of conversation at your next cocktail party, but they are sound investments and when you're ready to sell, don't kid yourself, a professional home appraiser will look a lot more closely at these things than the color of your wall paint.
DO be realistic about your budget. Add at least 15 to 20 extra to cover unexpected problems (like repairing water damage behind that shower you're replacing, perhaps).
DON'T overestimate your tolerance level. Will you be up to living in your home in the midst of a full-scale remodel-- even when you have no kitchen or floor? Equally important -- will your remodeling contractor be able to work efficiently and safely if you're around 24/7?
DO weigh the hassle of a home remodel against the stress of moving if all this sounds overwhelming. Remember "moving" means not only packing up and transporting your stuff, but also taking care of everything that precedes and follows it -- putting your existing home on the market, making it available for showings on short notice, shopping for a new one, finding new schools (and friends) for your kids, etc., etc. When you look at it that way, remodeling doesn't sound like such a hassle after all.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.