Smart Remodeling

The first step to remodeling your house is preparing for it.
The first step to remodeling your house is preparing for it.

Let's start with the bitter truth: Even with numerous remodels under my ubiquitous tool belt, I am still amazed that so many things can go wrong during a project. No matter how well prepared or experienced I am, I learn something significant on every job. I guess that's part of what makes me a victim of "flipitis" (an acute addiction to the property buying-fixing-and-selling process); there's always something new, it's never the same routine, and it's really hard to get bored.

Going through any kind of remodel requires organization, creativity, tenacity and patience. Even with a solid timeline and budget in place, your planning is just beginning. Here are some small (but important) things to pay attention to as you prepare for your remodeling adventure.


Organization and Order


Before construction even begins, set up a system to keep organized. At the very least, have a box of files or a notebook with dividers labeled for each room, vendor and a special section for that ever-increasing budget. You should have a phone list of every sub and supplier that you have contacted or plan to do business with at your fingertips and keep adding to it along the way.


A clean and organized jobsite will help you stick to your timeline, as you will not waste precious minutes, hours or days trying to locate your tools or supplies. As materials start to get loaded in, a permanent marker can be your best friend. Label everything and put all the tile, fixtures and hardware for one room together so that there is not a mix-up, such as the oil-rubbed bronze sink getting installed in the chrome-finish bathroom.


Designate a secure area on site or rent a container to store all your supplies and materials in an organized fashion, to facilitate locating them and decrease the chance of damage to your imported Italian sink.

Thinking Ahead


Where are all of your vendors, subcontractors and neighbors going to park when your house has more people in it than Home Depot on a Sunday morning? Designate an area, talk to your neighbors, borrow a driveway.

I once did a flip on a cul-de-sac that was a nightmare because I disrupted close quarters with cement mixers, slab deliveries and NOISE. My temporary neighbors were not happy with the uninvited chaos and did everything in their power to sabotage my remodel. Not nice.



Before you rough in your electrical and plumbing, have your lighting and plumbing fixtures on site. It's easy to put off ordering these items but you will save time, money and frustration by having them handy when you're laying out the space. Is the faucet going to be in the way of opening the medicine cabinet door? What height should the sconces be on either side of the window to avoid hitting the drapes?

Think Ahead

When you make big purchases such as tile, appliances, fabric and furniture, get samples of the materials whenever possible and mechanical cut sheets (for larger items) to help you install them. While you are waiting for these materials to arrive, the samples will allow you to color-match your paint selections, determine dimensions, allocate space, and give the visual incentive you need to complete the project.

Inspection and Codes


Know your codes (or hire someone who does). If you're rebuilding a wall or changing the floor plan, you might as well have the proper amount/spacing of outlets and think of any possible scenario in the future that may require a plug nearby.

Imagine a live band playing on the front porch at your New Year's bash? Fancy one of those must-have self-heating toilet seats? It's cheaper to run wire for speakers through an open soffit now than it is to decide you want some tunes in the family room after you have installed the drywall, taped and painted. If you think you may want it in the future, try to make decisions in the correct sequence.


Do A Dry Run

Before your kitchen faucet reveals its ugly leak during your housewarming, test everything. Turn on the sprinklers to examine proper drainage, take a shower, do a load of laundry, and run the dishwasher simultaneously to see if there's enough water pressure to enjoy that shower and ensure there aren't any leaks that could ruin the new suede faux finish in the study below the master bath. (Yes, it happened to me ...)

It's All in the Details

Try to think of creative ways you can make a big impact for less money, such as installing an outlet in the living room floor to avoid sloppy lamp wires or putting recessed lights over the master bed with individual switches above each bedside table. I love to allocate space in a front hall closet or obscure area for media recharging -- a center with lots of plugs to store and charge digital cameras, video cameras, iPods and cell phones helps with organization and cleaning up clutter.


If you replace interior doors thinking it's a simple high-impact, low-cost item, take it one step further and consider you probably need hardware and trim and should allocate funds in your budget for a carpenter to install them.


By the time you pay for everything associated with one little door swap, what is the total cost and is it worth it? Same with cabinets, windows and just about everything else. Don't forget the "extras," which can add up quickly!

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Famous Last Words

How many times have I seen appliances that don't fit, doors that don't close, windows that can't be installed and drapes that are too short? Too many!

Be precise in all of your dimensions and double-check your work and then heed the carpenter's creed (Measure twice, cut once) and check it again!


I once wasted an 18-foot beam I needed in order to install a new slider because it was cut too short. So, $500 down the drain. I also witnessed a fantastic kitchen with proper dimensions within the cabinetry to accommodate the appliances, but the door widths into the kitchen were too narrow to bring the appliances into the room. Big bummer.


With organization and smart thinking, you will be successful with your remodel. Above all, enjoy the process and expect the unexpected. The better prepared you are for things to go wrong, cost more and be delayed, the less disappointed you will be when it happens -- and it will happen. It's just construction! Your perspective during a remodel can really help you maintain a healthy mind-set.

Build on!