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Plan and Execute Your Home Improvement Project

Plan and Execute Your Home Improvement Project

While You Were Out, Flip This House, Trading Spaces - these shows make it seem so easy to transform your house in a matter of days. But for those of us without a team of celebrated professionals working around the clock, remodeling can seem a daunting task. However, whether you're giving your long-time home a much-needed makeover or attempting to increase the value of your property before selling, there are a few ways to make the process work for you.

Remodeling endeavors come in large and small packages. For limited budgets, sometimes small changes - a fresh coat of paint, revamping those dated cabinets, new window treatments - can make a big difference. And with companies such as Home Depot and Lowes offering do-it-yourself tutorials, not to mention free online guides for just about any project, even the most inexperienced homeowner can tackle home improvement projects. So whether you want to upgrade your style, need to adjust your house to fit a new lifestyle, or are looking to improve your home for a higher list-price before putting it on the market, your home renovation is just a few steps away.

Step one is to prioritize. Divide your projects into three categories: 1) Must Haves, 2) Would Like To Haves, and 3) Wouldn't It Be Great Ifs. Then consider your budget (the amount of money you have and/or plan to borrow to upgrade your home). Be realistic! Home improvement involves a commitment of time, money, and inconvenience under the best of circumstances; don't make it worse by getting embroiled in projects beyond your means. When devising your budget, remember that hiring professionals (in case you're not able to do it all yourself), such as electricians, architects, plumbers, carpenters, etc., can increase your costs significantly. Plan accordingly.

Assuming you're revamping your property for resale, you'll be glad to hear that the most important projects are also the most affordable and the most manageable for even novice do-it-yourself-ers. First, clean the house and yard like you're expecting a visit from the president. A good, thorough cleaning can make a world of difference. (Of course, if you're remodeling, you should clean after the construction is completed.) Next, get rid of excess clutter - not only does it junk up your house, but you also don't want to have to pack up all that stuff anyway. As a bonus, you can hold a garage sale and make a little extra cash at a time when you surely need every penny. For things you just can't part with, make sure you've got adequate storage to keep your stuff neat and out of sight. Building shelves and storage cabinets is a task even the clumsiest amateur can manage, especially with the easy-to-assemble products offered at your local hardware store.

So what comes next? Well, a fresh coat of paint inside and out can do wonders for upping the aesthetic value of your home. This also gives you a chance to modernize your color scheme and remove that tired old wallpaper or those dated floral borders. Buy a design magazine to see what colors are in style, but remember not to stray too far from the classics - your property should have personality, but anything too outrageous or cutting-edge will send some potential buyers straight out the door. This is also a good time to modernize those old window treatments; especially for those with sewing skills, curtains and shades provide a quick and cheap means of improving the look of your home.

If your house needs more than a good cleaning and a new paintjob, then more serious renovation should begin in the kitchen and bathroom. Studies show that improving these two rooms provides the best dividend for your efforts when selling your property. New cabinets, tile, countertops, fixtures, flooring, appliances - these things make a big difference. Best of all, a lot of these changes can be accomplished without professional help, depending on the scope of your project. If you can't do a major overhaul, try the little things - replace or at least repaint the cabinet doors and upgrade the hardware; install new faucets and lighting fixtures; buy refurbished appliances if you can't afford new ones; and switch out that embarrassing old sink for a better one.

Now, if you've done all this and still haven't exhausted your budget and/or patience, consider a new life for your floors. Replace old carpet and linoleum or refinish scuffed-up wood floors. Installing flooring such as Mexican tile is also an attractive alternative if you can afford it. After that, if you've still got money to burn, you can think about upgrading closets, making major landscaping improvements, etc.

Once you've prioritized, you'll need to come up with a plan. If schematics need be drawn up, this is the time. If you're going to need professional help, start getting estimates, and be sure to comparison shop. If you plan to go it alone, price your tools and materials. Keep careful track of your budget, and if you discover that you can't do everything, re-prioritize until you're within your means. Remember to be flexible, and try not to get your heart so set on something that you lose sight of what's practical and affordable for your situation. Remodeling almost always involves some sort of unpleasant surprise or unforeseen problem - leave room in your budget and schedule for such things, and be prepared to scale back your ambitions if necessary. Most importantly, keep in mind that small changes can make a big difference, and you too can learn to do it yourself.

Remember, you don't have to be Bob Vila to improve your home. You just have to plan ahead, choose the projects that make the most sense for your needs, and do your homework. Who knows, maybe the next time you're watching one of those home improvement shows on TLC, you'll be able to say: "I can do that!"

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