Whether you’re doing a facelift on the guest room or a complete kitchen remodeling, have you ever stopped to consider what makes for a truly successful remodeling project? Many people don’t, and that can lead to wasted money and an overall sense of disappointment with the finished product.

Successful remodeling is more than good products or quality workmanship, and it’s certainly more than how much money you can afford to throw at the project. The key to success is more fundamental then that, and it starts well before the first nail is ever driven.

Success comes from understanding exactly what you expect the remodeling to achieve. If all you want from that guest room is something a little brighter, then success might be as simple as picking a great wallpaper, or adding a skylight. 

On the other hand, let’s say you want to remodel your kitchen because you want to allow two cooks to work side by side, you need to increase your storage space for food and utensils, and you’d love a wide counter for rolling out those gourmet breads you love to make. If you’re remodeling within the confines of your existing cramped kitchen and you don’t add more space, the final result is going to be a disappointment. Even if you’ve spent lavishly on top-of-the-line appliances and granite countertops, you haven’t addressed the core reasons for doing the remodeling, so the results will never measure up to what you wanted.


With all that in mind, the very first step in any remodeling is to understand what you want to do. Break it down into its most basic elements, and then put that on paper. Is it more space? Is it a better traffic pattern or workflow? Is it more natural light? Upgraded appliances or fixtures? Do you really want a bidet, or a six-burner commercial gas range, or a pool table, or a place for the dog to lie under your desk while you work? It doesn’t matter what it is, and it doesn’t matter how large or small the item might be.  What does matter is how important it is to you.

Next, you need to take the needs of other family members into consideration. If you live alone, or if you’re the only cook in the family, then maybe your thoughts about that new kitchen are all that matters. On the other hand, if two people share the kitchen chores, or if the family wants it to be a gathering place, then the needs of those people need to get out in the open and down on paper as well.

Now, let’s talk about resale value. The person who is remodeling a house prior to putting it up for sale will have a whole different set of priorities than the person who is looking at the house as their forever home and is remodeling it to meet their own specific objectives. When you are remodeling with resale in mind, you need to look at what will appeal to the greatest number of people – from colors and patterns to room layouts and popular amenities – and make your choices accordingly.

Another key element is remodeling for resale to look at the cost of the project versus its potential payback.  If your home is one of the few one- bathroom houses in a neighborhood of two-bath houses, then sinking the money into adding a second bathroom might well pay back handsomely when you sell. On the other hand, a room addition that creates a 2,500 square foot home in a housing tract of 1,200 square foot starter houses will almost certainly not gain you enough in resale value to make the project worthwhile.

For your forever house – or at least the one you see yourself staying in for the next 10 years or so – resale value might not be as big an issue for you. While you should never completely turn a blind eye toward the value you may or may not be adding to a home when you remodel, when you intend to stay in the home for awhile the emphasis should shift much more to want you want personally out of the remodeling. Some examples might be creating a room dedicated to certain crafts or hobbies, or adding a play room for a growing family, or remodeling a bathroom to meet the specific needs of a family member with health problems.

Remodeling of any kind is a big, expensive, and exciting undertaking, so take your time and establish your priorities. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paul2887@direcway.com.


What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to opinion@inman.com.

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