- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Several months ago, I let you into the world of my remodeling project and provided you with some hints. Now that the project has entered its seventh month — yes, that’s right, seventh month — I’ve learned even more and will share it with you.

First, we did some things right. There are other things I would do differently. I wouldn’t say that they were done wrong, just that they needed to be done differently.

• Get professional help. I don’t know about you, but we have a lot of life going on in the Carr household. Even for a handyman confident in demolition, reconstruction and finish work — and that includes other members of my family, not only me — the biggest problem is finding time. Remodeling a kitchen, finishing a basement or constructing an addition is not for the faint of heart or time-challenged.

The professionals would include landscapers, construction artists and interior decorators — anyone who can take your concepts to fruition.

• Pick the right contractors. We hired three professionals: Tom for landscaping and painting; Jim for finishing the basement and following up on the residuals connected with that project; and finally, Susan, our “creative” consultant on the colors, materials, furniture and art choices.

We decided on the right contractors for the right jobs. Tom and his team really knew how to set up beds, design the layout and pick out the healthiest plants. All but one plant survived the winter, and now they’re in full bloom. One holly plant is starting to shed leaves and dry out, but the guarantee on the plants is 12 months, so I’ll be able to get it replaced.

Tom also headed up painting our interior and some outside repair work. His bid on this job wasn’t the cheapest, but his method of painting — one coat of primer on all walls, two coats of paint to follow — guaranteed a professional, seamless look throughout. It was worth the added expense.

My second contractor is a professional’s professional, providing only the best quality in work and craftsmanship. Jim, a former educator, now manages teams of contractors on jobs throughout the area. He has headed up plumbers, electricians, carpenters and painters.

Finally, Sue’s color selections and advice on furnishings brought my wife and me confidence in finding direction and focus on what the final product would look like.

• Get bids in writing. My contractors provided detailed bids with designs for all the work they would be completing. It gave us a stake in the ground as far as work requested and work completed.


Looking back, there are things we would have done differently. But there were also parts of the project that we learned had to be done differently than we had planned. As we moved forward with the demolition, construction and finally material selections, we found out just how realistic our plans and dreams really were. With those realizations came delays and budget changes.

• Plan earlier. If we had spent more time looking over other people’s remodeling jobs, pricing materials and touching base on what we liked and didn’t like, the work would have gone quicker and the budget would have been more in line.

Most of our budget increases were based on our selection in materials such as upgraded doors, lighting and flooring.

The question in remodeling, we learned, was not so much on how much can we get with our budget, it was more of what would we be happy with over the next several years. It is a choice between bulk and quality materials.

• Take measurements early and often. “I think that will fit” vs. “I know it will fit” can get expensive and frustrating. The 80-inch sofa that should go through the 83-inch tall doorway may not if you can’t compromise the 30-inch width of the door with the 32-inch breadth of the sofa. Measurements are most important when it comes to ordering furniture and placing it in the rooms.

• Use storage better. I now have about a quarter of my earthly belongings in storage. This has been the biggest challenge. All my files should have stayed at the house; all extraneous furniture should have been put away. Another way to have made this work better would have been to have a yard sale early on. As it is now, we just want to get the job done and get our stuff back in the house.

M. Anthony Carr has covered real estate since 1989. He is the author of “Real Estate Investing Made Simple.” Post questions and comments at his Web log (https://commonsenserealestate.blogspot.com).

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