So you came up with a plot to complete a home improvements project, have you? Excellent. My name is Ryan M. Bruzan and I am here to help guide you through the most important phase of any DIY project: the plan. If you do not have a plan, then expect to make numerous trips to the home improvement warehouse and spend much more money than is necessary and that your budget will allow. Go ahead and ask me how I know. Better yet, let me tell you. I have been making a living doing DIY projects for my customers for eight years now and I still don’t know it all. But I have learned numerous tips and tricks along the way that are essential to accomplishing my goals in the least amount of time while staying within budget. Allow me to share them with you.

We’ve all watched those TV shows that turn an old, dingy kitchen into a completely made over modern kitchen in less than 30 minutes claiming that the project can be completed in one or two weekends. And some of us have even made the attempt to our peril. But what all those shows fail to show you is the process by which those projects get done so fast. Let’s face it, there is no way anyone can remodel a kitchen in a few weekends by themselves even if they know many of the tricks of the trades that help speed up the process. There are many questions to be asked and numerous issues to be considered and the time adds up very quickly. Here I am going to include a few of the most relevant questions as I can think of that you will need to consider to before you set off to make your project go well.

First off, you have to have a plan and a decent plan at that. Attempting to wing it because of your drive and determination will hit you harder faster in both your wallet and on your watch and most often will cost you much more than is necessary. Let’s look at a typical small kitchen remodel project. We will consider that you have an L-shaped kitchen and your goal is to replace the cabinets, add granite countertops, paint the walls, change out the pantry door, add a new hardwood floor and upgrade the trim. Without getting deep in details, I am going to help you through several steps of the process and start you with the questions that you must answer though I may forget a few as perfect as I strive to be, not to mention the mistakes that may occur along the way or any unforeseen issues that may arise.

Please, please, please don’t be hardheaded about the plan as it is always the most important part of any project. I guarantee that if you don’t have a plan in place, there will be no overall desired result. Without a plan, many of the processes have a strong potential of being compromised. Here are some things to consider and a starting list of questions to ask.

General Questions

  1. What is my budget? How much can I comfortably spend to achieve the desired result and how will I keep within my budget?
  2. What do I want to do and is it realistic?
  3. How can I know if the efforts and investment I make will allow me to recoup the costs and add real value to my home at that 70-80% return mark upon sale?
  4. What do I need to take into consideration before I sink a lot of money into my project?
  5. How much will the entire project cost not only in money, but also in time (which is much more valuable than money).
  6. Even more importantly, is my project going to allow a tax write off?
  7. Do I need a building permit before I do the project?

General Answers to the Questions Above

  1. This all depends on how much you have saved up and how much you may have to borrow. Even though you may be ready for such a project, you have to know how you will pay for it.
  2. Knowledge is the most important factor to reality. Your location also plays a role here. You must know the trends that are happening in your area. I highly suggest the you get others involved in your planning. By far the absolute best person to get involved in your project is your real estate agent. They know whats going on in your area and can offer you the best advice as to what you need to do and what you should do to accomplish your goal. After you get your agent’s advice, contact an interior designer. Note that if you are going to change the layout, it would be wise to contact a certified kitchen designer to ensure your plan is feasible as there are many standards and legalities that you must consider especially if you are to sell your home at a later date.
  3. Again, a good real estate agent will have this kind of information. A good real estate agent will tell you that if you plan on adding granite over cosmetically improved low-quality cabinets, to put it bluntly, buyers and their agents will laugh and you will more than likely not sell your home based on your kitchen.
  4. This will be dependent on what you wish to accomplish. Create a detailed list of each aspect of your project. Include everything and don’t leave nothing to chance. Determine the type of products you are limited to. Yes, limited to. Your goal is to gain the highest value possible while you enjoy the results, however long that may be. In this case, you are doing all the work yourself. Some things to consider: type of materials and where you will get them; are the materials readily available or custom ordered; if custom ordered, how long does it take to get them especially if you order the wrong item, miscalculate the measurements or get a defective item.
  5. Timing is everything. If you are living in the home, your are going to need a kitchen even while you are working on your project. Make sure your plan covers that. Whose kitchen are you going to use while you are working on your new one? How will you prepare your meals or even the kids’ lunches. A contractor knows that in order to deliver on time, he or she must take everything into consideration and most importantly, how to prevent a standstill if and when something goes wrong. You will too. When gathering your materials, where are you going to store them until they are ready for installation? If you don’t have a garage or a basement, will your supplier house them until you are ready to pick them up? If so, how long can you leave them there before they start charging a storage fee? Can you use a bedroom or living room for storage and how much of an inconvenience will it be to you and your family? Keep in mind that the bigger the items are, the more space they are going to take up. If you are purchasing raw materials, you will need to consider each individual project. For instance, if your are finishing your own cabinets, finish them before you start tearing up your old kitchen. If you are finishing you own floor, it will have to be laid before anything else gets started.
  6. Check with your accountant. They will be able to help you realize the cost realities and how it will effect your bottom line.
  7. Very important. Even if you aren’t planning to change the layout, contact your local building department to see if there are any requirements before you begin. The last thing you want to do is spend all this time and money only to be hit with a violation at the sales inspection of your house. Do not take this for granted. You may be capable of doing your own electric work, but if the building inspector cannot see your work before you cover it up with wall boards, you will most likely have to tear down a portion of the wall so he can see that the electical work was done by code.

Now that we have covered some of the questions you need to have answered before you even put a hole in your olds walls, it’s time to move on to the next phase: Methods, Tools and Purchasing. In my next report we will talk about the different means of procuring your materials and what to expect in terms of time acquiring them and the money you will spend that you probably didn’t think about.

“I would love the opportunity not only to serve you, but also to make a new friend.”


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