Ready, set, wait…Before making any big changes to your home, ask yourself these big questions.
Q: How long do you plan to be live there post-reno?
The longer you plan to live in your home, the more creative you can be. But if you’re planning on selling the house in the next five years, keep potential buyers in mind with your choices. Go with neutral colors in the kitchen and bathroom, suggests Los Angeles realtor Karen Norris. For the same reason, consider maple cabinets. “Maple is the best wood to choose for cabinets, because no one hates maple,” says certified kitchen designer Judy Scott, an associate of The Home Depot. “Some people hate oak, some people hate cherry, but the majority of people can live with maple.”
Q: Are you just doing cosmetic fixes, or ready for an all-out overhaul?
It’s okay to make small changes one at a time, but think long-term about the next step, explains Scott. For example, if you’re buying a new kitchen sink, Scott suggests that you buy one with enough holes on the deck for the faucet, sprayer, and soap dispenser so you’ll be able to afford to add on later. (Cutting more holes into stainless steel or porcelain is a tough job.) And if you know you’re going to buy new cabinets later, don’t replace the countertop with an expensive granite one now. “The chances of reusing a granite countertop are slim to none,” says Scott. “Either it breaks when you try to remove it, or it doesn’t match the footprint of the new cabinets.”
Q: Are you prepared for long-term chaos?
Be realistic about how long these changes might take. Renovations can go on for months, so you need to be prepared to make do without that bathroom, kitchen, or bedroom. When checking references, one of the most important questions to ask is if the contractor finished the work on time. You'd be surprised how quickly a week can turn into a month. And if you're bunking up with the in-laws during renovation, that month, as you know, could very well seem like a year.
Q: Are your renovations keeping with the style of the home?
Any big changes you make to a home inside should reflect what future buyers of your home will expect from the outside. “If you live in a Victorian house, don’t make it too contemporary,” says Tom Silva, general contractor for This Old House. “Don’t change the woodwork or the floors. People who see a historical exterior will expect a historical interior, so stay true to the details.” The same goes for a contemporary or modern home, where future buyers may not expect old-fashioned details like antique crown molding.
Q: Are your DIY choices reasonable?
You may consider yourself handy, but many do-it-yourself jobs demand your time more than anything else. If you have a full-time job, are you capable of taking on a second one? Some jobs that are not technically difficult can take longer than you think. For that reason, if you start any job yourself, take a tiny taste of the job before committing to the whole thing. “It takes minutes to remove something and days to replace it,” says Silva, with a laugh, “and before you know it, you’re in over your head.” So take it slow. For example, while refinishing cabinets with a new stain “isn’t rocket science,” admits Scott, sanding down each one can take forever. “Don’t sand them all down at once,” she advises. Instead, do one door from the first step to the last -- sanding, staining, gluing, adding hardware -- and see how you feel. Because, well, you just may feel like hiring someone else to complete the rest of them.
A final tip: If you do plan to follow through with a large-scale renovation, do the smallest room in the house from start to finish -- the insulating, rewiring, painting, refinishing, tiling -- so you gain a sense of accomplishment. “Then when you want to pull your hair out later, wondering, ‘Why are we doing this to ourselves?’” says Silva, “You can lock yourself in your beautifully renovated room with a bottle of wine and two glasses and remind yourselves, ‘This is why we’re doing it.’”
Nestperts Karen Norris, Los Angeles Realtor; Judy Scott of the Home Depot
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