Renovating your home is worth the cost

by Patricia M. Cove
Posted 8/27/21

Searching for and finding the home of your dreams is often just that: a dream.

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Renovating your home is worth the cost

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Searching for and finding the home of your dreams is often just that: a dream.

Working toward and creating that dream home is more the reality. Fortunate or unfortunate as that may be, renovation is the path of choice for people who need to change, reshape, or reconfigure the spaces in which they live. I say fortunate or unfortunate because the process of renovating can be one of the most difficult, trying, and stressful experiences one can endure. On the other hand, if you plan appropriately, contract intelligently, work efficiently, and muster up all the patience you can muster, your renovation project may not only produce the house of your dreams, but may prove to be a pleasant journey in the process.

Well, maybe not pleasant… but at least tolerable.

Renovating has become a way of life with me. Not only is my career made up of the ongoing renovations of my clients but my own house has been under renovation ever since the day I purchased it.

As many owners of older homes discover, the rooms are often too small for the activities of today's lifestyle, closets aren't large enough, kitchens and laundry areas often outdated. As a result of 60s and 70s renovations, important architectural detail may have been concealed or removed altogether. Hardwood floors may have been covered in vinyl flooring or wall-to-wall carpet, and plaster walls sheathed in drywall. Transforming a house into a comfortable, attractive home, takes time, money, and patience.

Start with a clear plan. Although a very experienced contractor can often assist you in designing the renovation plans, the expertise of an architect or interior designer can provide an important third dimension to your project by offering specific design alternatives, additional architectural details, and various options that your contractor may not have the time or inclination to include. Designers and architects bring to the table a desire to create the roost efficient space, while also providing a spectrum of design ideas.

Make all your major decisions before starting work. Nothing delays a project more than making decisions as you go. Floor plans, elevations, and perspectives should be complete, and you should include them in a project "book", with all samples of materials, finishes, and colors. A designer or architect can maintain this book for you, or if you are the "hands on" sort, you may maintain it yourself. Just be aware of dye-lots (that's when you order one color, and you actually receive another color!); accurate amounts, (that's when you order one amount, but due to "repeats" and installation methods, you really needed another amount!); and lead times, (that's when you are told you will receive an item in one week, and two months later you haven't received that item).

Once your design is set, your materials, finishes, and colors chosen, you then must choose your contractor, and determine start- and completion-dates. 

A good contractor will submit all bids in writing, be fully insured, have proper licenses, good references, and be able to provide a good time frame for your project. The workers should arrive on time, clean up each day, and keep you, the owner, informed of progress and any unexpected set-backs. Yes, unfortunately, there are unexpected setbacks. This is when you tap into all that patience you had previously mustered. By this time, the initial excitement of the project has subsided, and the reality of a perpetual one-inch coat of dust on everything is apparent. Or, you are into week six of life without a kitchen, when you learn your much sought-after countertop material has been discontinued. These are the moments of what I call "renovation depression". It's when you begin to realize this was all a big mistake, and you want your avocado appliances and orange foil wallpaper back, because they would be easier to live with than what you are in the middle of now!

Don't despair! Take one deep breath, close your eyes, and envision that perfect space, the one you've been picturing since the day of house settlement. It may make you feel better to request a joint meeting with your designer and contractor to review the project to date, re-establish time lines, and determine a revised completion date. It may even be wise to establish weekly design meetings that often can ward off unexpected delays or surprises, while also providing an important communication tool that gives focus and direction to all the parties involved in the renovation.

Although delays and unanticipated problems can tend to dampen our spirits, it is important to focus on the completed project, and the necessary steps to getting there. If you have decided_ to be   a full participant in the renovation, make yourself available to the participating professionals, and complete what you have to do to get to the completion date. And when it arrives, you may look back and think about the things you could have done differently, but you will also have the satisfaction with and delight in a wonderfully renovated space.

Patricia Cove is Principal of Architectural Interiors and Design in Chestnut Hill, and can be reached through her web site: www.patriciacove.com.

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