Abby's Guide to Home Remodeling
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Home Remodeling

You've lived in your home for 15 years, the kids have come, or the kids have gone and you are no longer happy with how your home looks or operates. With the plethora of home decorating and design shows on TV (indeed a whole cable network called Home and Garden Television is devoted to your dissatisfaction) you have decided something has got to give. It's time to face the task of remodeling your home to meet your changing needs.

If you're new to remodeling your home, the prospect can be pretty intimidating. After all, our homes are the biggest investment in our lives and a bad remodel could destroy their value. With all that at stake, it's really no wonder so many people are concerned about getting it right. However, that doesn't mean you should be frightened away. After all, a successful remodel looks good, makes your home easier to live in, and improves the value of the home. No matter what kind of remodel you want to do, you can make it happen. All you need is a good plan.

Before you choose appliances or fixtures, call in a flooring contractor, or choose a paint color, you have to have a plan. Decide why you want to remodel and what the desired end result might be. After all, someone modernizing a home for rental or sale is going to have very different priorities from someone who needs to address the changing needs ot their family. Determine the depth of your remodel, what you want your home to look like, and what the real problem is before you begin choosing the changes you'll make. It can prevent some real problems down the road.

Decide what you and your family like about your home and what you don't like. Keep a list, so you can make sure to retain the things you enjoy. It might sound simple, but most people never catalog what they enjoy about their homes, and can end up removing some good features without thinking about it. If you'll be working with an architect or other design professional, this list can help them understand what's important to you about your home. Make a wish list of things you'd love to see in your house, then narrow it down for realism. After all, most of us have eyes bigger than our budgets. This kind of planning will help you determine what kind of remodel you really need.

Home remodeling can be extremely costly, especially if you don't establish spending guidelines in advance. Decide how much you can really afford to spend, and be realistic about the probable costs of your remodel. Never just take the best case scenario - problems and unexpected expenses always crop up when you make major changes to a home. Include extra money in your budget to account for old plumbing and wiring, fixtures that don't work as planned, and strangely shaped spaces in your home. Of course, you can reduce the chances of an unpleasant surprise by checking out the area you intend to remodel. Examine it carefully, and have a good idea of the quality of construction, wiring, and other details.

Don't be afraid to call a professional, either. Many people are do-it-yourselfers, especially when they don't want to spend much. For a lot of projects, this is fine. You can put in a new closet on your own. However, when it comes to electrical projects, major plumbing issues, laying the foundation for a new addition, and other major changes, it's often easier to call a professional. It may even be cheaper in the long run, since amateurs often pay more to correct errors a professional wouldn't make.

Strengths and Weaknesses
It gets easier to determine the right type of professional help if you take the time to find your strengths. Are you decisive, and capable of making decisions accurately and in a short period of time? Do you have experience on other remodels or construction projects? How are you at sticking to your budget? What kind of interior and exterior design background do you have, and how are you at visualizing the finished remodel? Any areas that you know aren't your best are ones where you might need to consider hiring a pro. Sure, it's more expensive, but the job will be done better in the end.

You can also ask yourself if you have friends or relatives who might be willing to help. Many people get their remodels done more effectively by bringing in friendly help. However, there are a few things you need to know before you try this method. First, don't try calling a friend because you hope they'll do the work for free. That's a quick way to cause trouble in your friendship. If money is an issue, try offering a trade - your professional skills for theirs, babysitting services, lawn care or some other option. You should also be objective about your friends' and relatives' skill at the job. Just because we know them doesn't mean they're better than a pro. Many shabby remodel jobs have happened because people didn't stop to think about this issue.

Fast or Slow?
Do you want your remodel done all at once or are you willing to live with half finished rooms for a while? How about your family? Their opinions are an important part of any remodeling plan. If you need it done quickly, doing everything yourself is a poor idea. Most DIY remodels take a while, and might even render spaces in your home unliveable for a short time. If money is a priority, and you and your family don't mind dealing with an uncarpeted floor, using the secondary bathroom, or working around building supplies, you may be able to do more of the job yourself.

It all boils down to good analysis. If you plan well and know what you can and can't do, you'll have a much better chance of a successful remodel. The people who have the biggest problems remodeling their homes are the ones who don't stop to think. Never jump right in and start building. Take the time to decide if your plans are within reason, or if you need to scale back a little. Decide what you should and shouldn't change before you get started. That keeps you from needing to backtrack in the middle of a big project. Remodeling may be intimidating, but that doesn't have to keep you from getting it done. Just take your time and know what you need.

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