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Issue Date: January 2006 Issue


Remodeling 9-1-1

Don't invite disaster. For best results, follow these four guidelines from local remodeling pros when taking a home improvement project into your own hands.


Matt Peters

So, you’ve got the itch to make some home modifications. The problem is you tend to emulate Tim “The Toolman” Taylor more than “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’s” Ty Pennington. Not sure where you fall on that spectrum? Slowly put down the hammer and keep reading.

Most home remodeling pros acknowledge handy homeowners can tackle a variety of improvement projects on their own. But if you’re an aspiring do-it-yourselfer, it’s important to know your limitations. So, before you go tearing apart floors, unscrewing pipes and knocking down walls, here’s how to make sure you’ll get the best possible results:

1. Do your homework: Big box stores such as Lowe’s and The Home Depot frequently offer classes covering a variety of home remodeling projects. Read books. Search do-it-yourself Web sites. Above all, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into with every job. “The preparation is very important,” says Lisa Rettman, design consultant for Fashion Floors in Warrensville Heights. “Sometimes the novice doesn’t think about the prep work.” Part of that preparation is figuring out what tools and supplies you need before you start ripping your home apart. Being forced to repeatedly run to and from the hardware store will only increase the time it takes to complete the project and raise your blood pressure.

2. Home in on your goal: Once you’ve done your research, have a clear plan for exactly what the project entails and stick to it. Terry Bennett Builders & Remodelers president Terry Bennett says it is not uncommon for people to get remodeling fever and find themselves wrapped up in a project with no end. “People will say, ‘As long as I’m here, I’ll do this [too]’ and, before you know it, it snowballs,” he says. “I’ve seen an increase of this in the last two years.”

3. Your home is your castle: In most cases practice makes perfect. That is, until you’ve hooked up the water wrong, broken the law by not following building codes and generally messed things up so bad you don’t even know how to begin fixing them. Remodeling your own living space can be a rewarding experience, but practicing for the first time on your own home can have dire consequences. Seriously consider whether you feel comfortable enough handling any project you undertake. If your gut is telling you it’s out of your league, it’s time to start flipping through the Yellow Pages. “Don’t use your own kitchen cabinets as your learning curve,” says Alan Abrams, president of Cabinet En-Counters Kitchen & Bath Design Studio in Cleveland. “If you don’t think you know how to do it, don’t try.”

4. Don’t try this at home: Even if you are a home remodeling guru who has a virtual army of helpers at your disposal, don’t be duped by how easy large remodeling jobs look when they’re shown on television. “This is real life, you don’t have 500 people helping you,” Rettman says. The amount of time it takes to complete a job is one of the main reasons home remodeling projects go bad. Complete homes can be built within an hour of programming on TV. Don’t forget about all the footage left on the editing room floor. Ask yourself how much time you can realistically put into a project and how long you and your family can live without whatever portion of your home will be disrupted by the job. Always remember it’s going to take longer than you think. Experts at www.lowes.com recommend adding 30 to 40 percent to the length of time a project is expected to take.


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