Home Remodeling Tips
Is it time to remodel your kitchen?
Many homeowners think their kitchen is outdated from the looks of their worn cabinets, dated appliances and crackled countertop. What they may not realize is that there are many other reasons, more important than cosmetic, why a kitchen needs to be remodeled.
The National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) offers the following tips to help homeowners evaluate the current condition of their kitchen and decide if the time is right for a remodel.
- Adequate space: Are you satisfied with the amount of counter space, cabinet space and floor space in your kitchen? The position of your refrigerator or shape of your counter may be taking away useful workspace. According to the NKBA Kitchen and Bath Planning Guidelines, when replacing a countertop or changing the shape of your kitchen, keep in mind that a total of 158" of countertop frontage, 24" deep with at least 15" of clearance above, is needed to accommodate all uses, including landing area, preparation/work area and storage.
- Traffic flow: If there's more than one cook in your household, you may want to consider making more room around the main workspace. If you enjoy entertaining, you may want an open plan kitchen that allows for more social interaction between the kitchen and other rooms. According to the NKBA Kitchen Planning Guidelines, the width of a walkway should be at least 36" and the width of a work aisle should be at least 42" for one cook and at least 48" for multiple cooks.
- Children: Depending on whether or not you have children, and their ages, your kitchen may need to be remodeled. Dated appliances and the design of your kitchen can be hazardous for young kids. If you are in the process of extending your family, you may want more room for cooking larger meals and lower cabinets for easier access to children's food. Based on the NKBA Kitchen Planning Guidelines, microwave ovens should be installed 3" below the principal user's shoulder but no more than 54" above the floor to avoid accidents. The NKBA also suggests avoiding sharp corners on countertops with kids around.
- Efficiency: If your appliances are dated, they may be costing you more money than you expect. New technological advances with dishwashers, disposals and refrigerators could save you a considerable amount of money and may be well worth the investment. For example, purchasing a dishwasher with low-energy consumption, delay timer and economy cycle or half-load button will result in saving water and money.
- Universal Design: Is your kitchen accessible to individuals with disabilities? Will you be able to use your kitchen safely as you get older? Considering these issues is vital in a kitchen remodel. Employing Universal Design techniques in the remodel will help assure that the space is as accessible to or useable by all people, regardless of age, size or physical ability without the need for adaptation or specialized design later on.
- Location: Thinking about adding a deck to the side or back of your house? Incorporating a door into the layout of your kitchen would be a great convenience for outdoor entertaining. You also may want to rearrange the position of windows to allow more or less sunlight or to watch your children play in the yard. When rearranging the layout of your kitchen, according to the NKBA guidelines, the clear opening of a doorway should be at least 32" wide, which would require a minimum of 2'10" door. Keep in mind that a cooking surface should never be located under an operable window.
Before you remodel your kitchen, make a checklist of major and minor problems and keep notes of the features you dislike and like the most. When it comes time to sit down with a qualified kitchen and bath designer, they'll know exactly how to suit your needs, taste and style.
How do you keep up with new ideas, products, industry advancements? Does the designer ever leave the office? Does he/she go to kitchen and bath shows, seminars, conventions? Interior design shows? Subscribe to kitchen and bath industry publications? Have a library of design books? Read interior design blogs? There are many ways to keep pace with the ever changing kitchen and bath world, but it is important that this is done. Do you have any special accomplishments that I should know about? Accomplishments within the industry show involvement, motivation, interest, and recognition, all important to have as part of one's resume/career highlights.
- Remodel now while interest rates are low. Interest rates are at historic lows, so now is the perfect time to invest in home remodeling before rates increase again.
- Homes need regular maintenance and repair to stay in top condition. Replace siding to fix drafts or repair the roof to stop leaks. Even simple repairs can drastically improve home performance.
- Remodeling improves home value. Smart remodels protect your greatest investment—your home. Some of the best value adding remodels include replacing siding or adding a small bath.
- Modernizing makes your home more beautiful. Updating your home makes it more comfortable and functional. Consider replacing cabinets, installing fixtures, painting, or switching to new appliances.
- Energy-efficient homes save owners money. Saving resources can save you money. Remodels that improve home energy and water efficiency reduce bills, and installing long-life products will save on future replacement expenses.
- Attractive exteriors improve the curb appeal of your home. New siding, fresh paint, clean gutters, neat landscaping, and an intact roof improve the first impression of your home, increasing home value and sales potential.
- Outdoor living spaces expand your home for entertaining. Join the popular trend of outdoor entertaining by adding a deck, patio, or porch to your home.
- Kitchen remodels enhance functionality. Don’t wait to have the best kitchen with a new stove, granite countertops and refrigerator with an ice drawer. Remodelers can also use good design to make your kitchen work better.
- Bathroom remodels improve comfort and add home value. Create the refuge you need at the end of a busy day by replacing cabinets, installing a new sink or tub, or improving bathroom lighting. And adding a bathroom can increase home value by 20 percent.
- Aging-in-place or universal design remodels increase home accessibility. Improve your home for accessibility by hiring a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) remodeler. They have the expertise to make your home visitable for an aging or disabled person.
Remodeling Dos and Don’ts
- Don’t neglect your home. Do maintain and enhance the value of your home with maintenance and remodeling projects.
- Don’t try complex remodels on your own. Do call a professional remodeler to get the job done right the first time and save yourself time and money.
- Don’t necessarily hire the cheapest remodeler. Do a thorough check on the remodeler’s experience, references, and qualifications, such as membership with NAHB Remodelers. Use these interview questions to identify the best remodeler for your needs.
- Don’t lose patience during the remodel. Do prepare yourself for challenges and realistically understand the time and money your remodel may require.
- Don’t try to remove or deal with lead paint on your own. Do call a professional remodeler or remediator to minimize exposure to lead paint.
Weigh Your Options Before a Do-it-Yourself Remodel
According the U.S. Census Bureau, homeowner do-it-yourself (DIY) projects account for 20 percent of all home remodeling performed nationwide. While there are a substantial number of weekend warriors out there, remodeling industry professionals report that between 25 and 30 percent of their work comes from fixing DIY debacles.
Some credit the desire among homeowners to tackle repair and remodeling projects to hit television show’s like ABC’s “Extreme Home Makeover” and the Discovery Channel’s “Monster House.” The introduction of cable channels with programming dedicated to all things home including HGTV and the DIY Network may inspire homeowners to take on home fixes and decorating challenges as well.
While most professional remodelers understand that homeowners will do some of their own home repairs or small renovations, overwhelmingly they believe that many jobs should be left to the pros. “The rule of thumb that I always live by is that if a handyman service in your area can do the project, then odds are that a good do-it-yourselfer can do it themselves,” says Bob Birner, CGR, CGB of Amazing Siding Corp. in Houston, Texas. “If they don’t do it, then that’s a good sign that you need a professional.” Birner adds, “Remodelers wouldn’t perform open-heart surgery on a loved one without medical expertise. Remodeling is open-heart surgery for the home—only professionals should attempt it.”
Still think you can tackle a big remodeling project? Bob Van Cleef, CGR, CGB, GMB, owner of Yankee Housewrights in Jamestown, R.I. cautions all motivated DIYers. “A homeowner should look at a project, consider the worst case scenario and ask, ‘If it comes to this, will I know how to fix it?’” says Van Cleef. Van Cleef and other professionals admit that when it comes to repairs and remodeling their own homes they hire professionals to do it. “I have been in construction my whole life and I still hire a pro to do work at our house, because there are certain things even I wouldn’t touch such as electrical, plumbing and framing,” says Van Cleef.
Advice for Do-it-Yourselfers
There are some home projects that professional remodelers believe can be tackled by determined DIYers (depending on skill level) such as hanging pictures, interior painting, caulking, changing door knobs and cabinet pulls, and some aesthetic work such as installing crown molding.
If you are willing to put the time and energy into a do-it-yourself home remodel, Barbara Rose Peck, co-owner of S.N. Peck Building, Inc. and Case Handyman Services of Chicago advises:
- Follow product directions. Read everything that comes with the product and take it seriously.
- Get a detailed, illustrated home repair and maintenance book.
- Conduct careful and thorough preparation. Set everything up and protect surrounding surfaces and furniture.
- Practice with the tools.
- Follow safety procedures and use proper safety equipment.
Consumers are cautioned not to take on more than they are capable of doing both in terms of time and skill. “The biggest mistake the weekend handyman makes is to take on a project larger than he can handle in a reasonable amount of time,” says Douglas Nelson, CR, CGR of New Spaces in Burnsville, Minn. “I have talked with people who have been remodeling their kitchen for more than two years.”
Remember, DIY projects should be fun and suit your skill level. If they’re not, then consider hiring a professional.