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Tallahassee Remodeling and Construction - Do it Yourself (DIY) Remodel Projects and Tips

Friday, Oct 22, 2010
Tallahassee Remodeling and Construction - Do it Yourself (DIY) Remodel Projects and Tips

My fiance and I were more than excited when we walked into a three bedroom, two bath brick home on the North East side of Tallahassee that was a fresh listing on the market. You see we have been looking in this area for some time now and this home seemed to fit our needs and budget. From the outside, this home looked amazing. From a contractors point of view the construction was solid, the house was built on a slab, had a full brick exterior, hardy board siding and a roof that was in immaculate shape - all big pluses in my book.


My perspective on the house changed the minute we walked inside. The entry had been recently tiled. The newly installed tile was not level and was far from square. The grout lines were all over the place, some 1/4" thick and almost 1" thick in other areas. The floor was a real eye sore. In my mind I thought, no big deal - I can just tear up this floor and redo the tile.

The next room was the living room. My first impression was wow, look at the size of this room. My next thought was wow, what in the heck have they done to this floor. The previous owner had laid a vinyl floor that looked like wood. To add insult to injury, the flooring was installed wrong and the seeming and errors were obvious. The homeowner had also knocked out a wall in the room. The finish work on the dry wall was horrible, it was obvious this person had no idea what they were doing.

One bad room led to another. They had began remodeling the kitchen. The started by attempting to lay new tile. Like the smaller entry way, the kitchen tile was laid incorrectly. Lines out of square, some tiles sticking up, others sloping down. They did not finish the job, about 1/3 of the room still needed tile, and none of the existing tile was grouted. It was also apparent that they had run out of tile, as they began to make decorative inlays out of cut and mismatched pieces that had been left over. During the process of remodeling the kitchen, they had also ruined the cabinets (solid wood) while attempting to refinish them.

For wall coverings, the chose to tear pieces of gray wall paper that was textured like stone and place them in random puzzle patterns all over the wall in the kitchen and in the bathrooms. The hallway and other living room had also been tiled incorrectly, with mismatched tiles and patterns, far from square and far from level - I actually tripped on a few of them. This would be a real nightmare if walking bear foot. For the finishing touches, the previous homeowners decided to spruce up the molding by using quarter round on it. Their miter cuts were way off, some by inches. Not to worry though, they had plenty of caulking to fill in the gaps.

What was once a beautiful house had been turned into a disaster. I calculated it would cost me over 25k to fix the mistakes they had made, and that's with me doing the work personally. I was also not looking forward to having to tear out all of the stuff they had done wrong, as this takes twice as long as doing it right the first time, and the end result is usually not as good. Seeing this pattern emerge as I have been looking at houses is what motivated me to write this article. I hope that all of you homeowners out there will use this advice to make sure that your home does not get destroyed and that your money is not wasted. Follow these rules to make sure you manage and execute you remodel like a professional contractor.

1. Do Your Homework
So you watch DIY network, your handy and you have swung a hammer or two in your day - that's great, but its not going to be enough. Even with years of experience and practice, remodeling a home can be difficult and frustrating; and no two jobs are the same. What you see on television is weeks of work by dozens of specialist edited and cut down into a thirty minute segment. What you don't see is just how much time it really takes to remodel, the trips back and forth to the saw, the days when rain shuts down the project, etc. You need to determine what you are realistically capable of, once you have you need to do EXTENSIVE research on the proper techniques, materials, etc. When you are remodeling a house you only get one shot with many things, (tile for instance) so you have to get it right the first time. Not doing so is going to cost you time and money, every cut that is wrong, every trip to buy more materials because you made a mistake is going to cost you - you will quickly find yourself going from saving money to spending money.

2. Ask An Expert
So your ready to knock out that wall and double the size of your bathroom. Your certain its not a load bearing wall because Jo-Bob looked at it and said it runs parallel with the rafters so it cant be, and your buddy Tim said he knocks down walls all the time, piece of cake. Wrong. Before you demolish any walls you need to have a licensed engineer look at it. If he or she determines it is not a load bearing wall, you may be able to take it down. So the wall is not load bearing - but whats inside of it? Eureka! Is it possible that there may be pipes or electrical in that wall. It is very possible. Check the wall with a quality stud finder that has electrical and plumbing detection features. Even if you find nothing with the stud finder, remove the dry wall slowly so you can peak inside and be certain. You may find something that is out of your league and decide not to tear the wall down, because you were careful you only have to patch the wall, not replace it.

3. Have A Plan
This is perhaps the most important rule. Do not just start doing something and assume it is going to work out. You need to have a plan for everything, no matter how large or small. Not doing so will cost you time and money. Make sure you plan is as efficient as possible. If your going to paint the walls, install new floors and cabinets - which should you do first? Logic says you first remove the existing floor and cabinets, then you paint. Now when you paint, the drips and splatter land on the sub floor and not on your new floor. You also don't have to spend time taping off the cabinets because they are gone, just paint behind them. When the painting is done, the new floor and cabinets go in, nice work pro!

4. Have The Right Tools
You drive a nice new BMW. I drive a covered trailer, the contents of which are worth just as much as your BMW. Each job that you begin on your remodeling project will require specific tools. Some you can rent, others you cant. Having the right tools is imperative to completing a job professionally and quickly. Buy what you need when you need it, don't try to improvise one tool for another, it simply doesn't work. If it did I would carry my universal tool with me and not have to drive around a trailer filled with hundreds of tools. If you do have to rent a tool, plan to use it over the weekend. Most tool rental companies are closed on Saturday and Sunday, however they wont charge you for these days, so you get the tool for three days instead of one at no additional charge.

5. Investigate Before You Decorate
You are certain that the aqua green will go well with that red finish you put on the cabinets. Before you decorate consider this: you may sell your house some day. The best practice is to call in an expert for their opinion, such as an interior designer or decorator. If that is not in the budget then get some library books on interior design and color. Bring in friends and family members to get their opinion on your ideas. Try to decorate in a way that is universally appealing. You do not want to permanently decorate your home in a way that may not be appealing to future potential home buyers. Just because you like it does not mean that everyone else will. Try to decorate in a fashion that is current with the trends in the prevailing market place. You can add your personal touches with non permanent fixtures such as paintings or table decorations.

6. Start Small
If you cant tile your bathroom professionally, then your kitchen is not going to go so well either. Start with the smallest areas first if your not sure of your capabilities. In general, the smaller the area, the easier it should be to remodel. If you don't get it right, the wasted time and materials will be minimal.

7. Read The Directions
I am guilty of this remodeling sin, but have learned my lesson. Every product or material comes with directions, and each have different recommended best practices and techniques for installing the product. Whether its tile mastic, or a wood stain, read the directions and follow them closely, not doing so is going to again cost you time and money.

8. Don't Cut Corners EVER
This is perhaps the biggest problem I see when people try to remodel their homes by themselves. They think it will take a weekend and it takes weeks, they get frustrated and start rushing to get things done. When you cut corners, you are cutting value from your home as well. Do things the right way, plain and simple. If you run out of tile, go buy more, if you make a mistake that is obvious, redo it, if you need more time to finish a job correctly, then make the time. If something does not look right to you, then it probably inst, if you see a problem, fix it. Another big part of not cutting corners is following the directions. Some steps may seem like a waste of time, but if you do not follow them then you are wasting your time because the end result will be sub par and will not last. You will find yourself tearing things out and redoing them all over again.

9. Don't Be Cheap
If you cannot afford to do everything at once, don't. Far to often I see people who want to do 30k worth of remodeling with a 5k budget. Its not possible, the end result will be wrong and obvious even to the untrained eye. Shop the bargains always, but use the right materials for the job. You do not have to get everything done at once, make a plan, set the money aside and do it right, you will be thankful in the end that you did.

10. Have Fun
I have seen husband and wife turn on each other when remodeling together. Working with tools and trying to remodel when you do not have the experience can be very frustrating. Endless trips to the hardware store and the blame game is enough to push anyone to the limit. If you not having fun, your doing something wrong. Take a break, step away from the situation and clear your mind. Always remember that you are in control of the situation and it should be enjoyable. Working on a remodel with a spouse or family can be a wonderful experience as long as the remodel monster does not emerge from within us.

11. Ask For Help
Many hands make for light work. Don't try to do everything on your own, it will take too long and the end result will lack in many ways. Don't be afraid to ask friends and family for help. It will save your time and your lower back. It is also a good idea to hire help if needed. Day laborers are available in most places and are affordable - work smarter not harder.

12. Know When To Throw In The Towel
If you are half way into your remodel and it is already looking like garbage, stop. You are only fooling yourself if you think it is going to look better tomorrow when you wake up, its not. We all get in over our heads sometimes even myself. If your remodel is not going well, get out while your still ahead and have not ruined your home. Call an expert and do it right.

This article is intended to help those of you who want to do it on your own, I encourage everyone to experiment with their own remodel projects. For the sake of others that may one day live in your home, and for you own sake I have to encourage you to also make sure you know what you are doing and do it right. Its a shame to see beautiful homes ruined through ignorance and impatience.

Yours Truly,

Paul Adrianse
Owner





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