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5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Remodeling My Home

Many people want to fix up their home to sell it for a higher price point while  others are just trying to update a few things and make their home a little nicer. Whatever your situation, home remodels can be rowdy even if this is your second (or third!) rodeo and you may not know everything that you are supposed to be doing.

Here in The Bay Area, home remodeling projects are hot. Many people are spending more time at home, even working from home, and want to make their home as cozy as possible.

A lot of unforeseen difficulties can occur when remodeling your home, and what once seemed like a weekend-long project can easily and quickly turn into a month-long endeavor. To avoid unforeseen and preventable issues, there are a few things you should properly acquaint yourself with to be fully prepared. Here are 5 things you need to know before any home remodel.


Know Your Home

To be as prepared as possible, you need to know what you are getting yourself into. You probably already have a plan in your head of what you want to do, but you also need to figure out if what you see in your mind’s eye is even realistic for your style of home. This planning will prevent your solo project from turning into two or three.

For example, if you have a home with a basement and you are looking at remodeling your main level bathroom, if you accidentally burst a pipe, gravity is going to pull all that water down and potentially cause water damage in your basement. This is also why it is important to know your own personal skill level and leave the big jobs to more experienced professionals.

We live in the beautiful age of YouTube and Google, where a wealth of knowledge is constantly at your fingertips. There is plenty you can accomplish without a professional, but there are three key questions you should ask yourself regarding your home before beginning any large or small-scale home remodel:

  • What year was my home built?
  • What style of home do I have, and what is the layout of my home? Is there a crawl space or storage area I need to keep in mind?
  • What exactly is the damage and what are the specifics of what I want remodeled in my home?

These three questions may seem very simple, but are essential for planning out your home remodel. If you skip answering these questions, you are likely to spend more money and waste more time on your remodel, and even then it may not turn out how you had hoped.

Remodeling your home is a costly and time-consuming process, so you should be asking yourself the important


See the Unforeseen

Along with knowing your home is the necessity to know what lies in the less visible parts of your home. Hopefully, before you purchased your home, you had the foresight to get everything checked out by a home inspector, but if not, you still need to know what is inside the walls of your house.

What was considered safe building material decades ago may have long since been proven to be dangerous. If you know approximately when your home was built, you stand a better chance of answering questions about the potential your walls have lead paint or if your insulation is asbestos or something safer.

There are other factors that need to be considered when remodeling your home, such as if your home has knob and tube electrical or modern grounded electrical. Your plumbing may be made out of steel or ABS plastic pipes and your sewer system could be made of brittle orange burg pipe. You may run into things that need to be updated for old homes.

The materials that make up your home will change the manner in which you need to remodel and the precautions you should take when doing a project. If you are removing lead paint to repaint, for example, you will want to wear gloves, safety glasses and a dust mask. A little knowledge regarding your home and its materials can keep you safe.


Common Potentially Dangerous Materials When Material Was Traditionally Used How to Safely Approach Project Involving Material
Lead paint Before 1978 Cover skin/eyes, wear a mask
Asbestos insulation 1940s-1970s Removed by a professional
Asbestos flooring/wallpaper 1920s-1970s Removed by a professional
PCBs as caulk or sealant 1950s-1970s Cover skin and wear a mask


Know Your Timeline and Financial Budget

If this is not your first home remodel, you likely know how it is easy to go over your set dollar amount. It may start with your partner wanting to spring for the nicer cupboard pulls in the kitchen and can end up knocking down a wall or two “to create a more open floor plan.” This can not be stressed enough: know what you want and stick to it!

In terms of any necessary permits you may need, you will want to call into your city or county permit office to find out how much it will be just to get your project off the ground. If your city has a current standard to build up instead of out, adding on to your home is going to require upwards of $1000 just to get the permit, depending on desired work.

Being flexible and sticking to your plan do not have to be mutually exclusive. Problems will inevitably arise and you need to be able to go with the flow, to an extent. Changing your plan for things such as not removing a wall once you find that it is load bearing is great. Changing your plan as you go for trivial decor or other aesthetic desires is not.

Taking into account your timeline is just as important as sticking to your budget. If you have family coming for a wedding in the fall and you want to finally remodel that unfinished basement, you need to know approximately how long everything will take. Padding your budget and timeline for an additional 10% will probably save you a lot of stress.


Know Your Skill Level

Depending on your personality, you might end up overestimating or underestimating your abilities. Learning a few home repair tricks like spackling and caulking on the internet will keep you from overpaying a professional, but unless you have the knowhow, you might want to stay away from big jobs like plumbing and electrical work.

You need to ask yourself before each step of the job, “Can I realistically and safely complete this project by myself, with the time constraints and budget I have set?” There are obviously some projects that you will not need to hire someone to do unless you want to and it is within your budget. Many things are easy for you to attempt:

  • Add a fresh coat of paint to any room in your home for an instant boost
  • Replace old light fixtures, doorknobs, outlet plates, light switch plates, and faucets
  • Add curb appeal with a new mailbox, different porch lights, or by fixing up or painting your old house numbers

That being said, although there are many things that are worth learning how to do to remodel your home, you will absolutely want to hire a professional for certain more ambitious projects. In order to stay within your budget and avoid time-consuming setbacks, do not be afraid to interview contractors and then hire a guy when:

  • Adding on to your home or demolishing in any significant way
  • Removing or rerouting plumbing
  • Messing with anything more electrical than changing a light switch cover
  • Tearing down or rebuilding walls

One of the most difficult things in your home remodel can be recognizing when you have overestimated your abilities and you need a professional. A little piece of advice: avoid being the one that recognizes his limitations and pushes forward anyway. You can hire the professional before you make too much of a mess, or after, but one will cost you less.


Use Your Support System

One of the benefits to having friends, generous coworkers, and church communities is that they are always there when you need them. You likely have someone in your life that is skilled when it comes to a nail gun or a jigsaw, and you will want that individual on your team when the remodel starts. Just do not forget to return the favor someday!

You would be surprised how far free pizza and beer will get you when trying to get people to come lend a hand with your DIY home projects. Many hands make light work and having an extra friend or two help out will be priceless to you. Even the most inexperienced and well intentioned of your buddies can help with:

  • Washing down walls to prep for painting
  • Moving large furniture out of the way for easier access
  • Removing old light switch and electrical outlet plates
  • Running to the store when supplies run low

If you have a friend or family member that is particularly handy, do not hesitate to reach out to them. Even if they are not able to physically come and help you with your desired project, they can probably give you some free advice as to whether your home remodel will get you in over your head or not, and that can end up saving you some green.


Know What You Need

Hiring a professional contractor, carpenter, plumber, or electrician can come in handy when you are new to the remodel game and you do not know what all you will need to be successful. There are certain steps you can skip when fixing up your home to save time or money, while other things will only cost you more time and money if skipped. A professional is the best option if a task is beyond your knowledge and skill-level.

Hiring a professional guarantees you a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to home remodels, but with that knowledge comes a price. The important thing to keep in mind is when to skimp, and when to splurge. This fact will inevitably bring you to the subject of what tools and supplies you will need for your project.

To be fair, there is a good chance that you will either under-prepare or over prepare when it comes to materials. You may look at a room and think you need 2 caulking tubes and 4 cans of primer when you actually need 4 caulking tubes and 1.5 cans of primer. This is normal and sometimes even the pros do not get the estimations right.

Having a truck or access to a truck will be invaluable when doing any home remodel. Whether you are hauling away the old stuff or are bringing in new materials, a truck will certainly end up being useful. There is no need to go out and purchase everything you think you will need, but the right tools will definitely save you.


About Element Home Remodeling East Bay

Element Home Remodeling East Bay is an Oakland based home remodeling contractor that specializes in custom home renovation projects.  If you have questions about an upcoming project or would like a free consultation, you can contact us here.

Element Home Remodeling

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