Home renovation tips from local homeowner


Whether updating your kitchen, building a backyard deck or re-siding your home, living through a major home renovation, whether you or the professionals are doing it, presents its challenges. Over the past eight years my husband and I have gutted and updated our kitchen, replaced an asphalt patio with a vinyl deck, had our roof re-shingled, put in some new windows and done many other things to renew or maintain our home. Utilizing tips learned from our personal experiences, enhance your own efforts in home improvement and repair.

If some or your entire home project entails hiring outside help, get cost estimates from multiple sources. The differences in price quotes for siding and roofing for my house were substantial (be careful not to compromise workmanship to save a few dollars). Ask for references, especially from friends and neighbors who have contracted to have similar work done. Certainly, if using someone unknown to you or your circle of acquaintances, check with the attorney general’s office to see if this individual or company has any complaints lodged against them. In fact a call or website visit to this government agency (http://www.maine.gov/ag/consumer/index.shtml) will provide you with information about the legal rights you have as a consumer when you contract with a service provider or purchase tools, appliances or other materials for your home overhaul. In tandem with these factors, your comfort level with an individual(s) who will be at or in your home for hours, days, weeks or even months at a time is also important.

Updating our kitchen was something we mostly did ourselves. With today’s Internet opportunities, the average homeowner can Google videos on www.YouTube.com , www.Askthebuilder.com , and www.doityourself.com or easily find other user-friendly detailed and illustrated information on an array of home projects. Also, during operational hours, many companies offer “live chats” to accommodate the need for assistance should you waiver about where to begin or get stuck. But if you lack the know-how or bravado to attempt an entire redo, consider what aspects entail little expertise and which might just take your time or effort. Removing old tiles or cabinetry, bringing loads of demolished materials to the dump, and other tasks that don’t take an expert to accomplish, can effectuate significant cost savings if you are willing or able to do them. Conversely, using the pros for those tasks that demand time or an expertise you lack can not only help you save your energy, but money, too (we learned the hard way that our plumbing skills are inadequate).

“The right tool for the right job,” is my husband’s motto, but do you need to pay for, own and store it, or should you rent or borrow it? A friend first lent us her table saw for several weeks while we worked on our kitchen. Inspecting our handiwork was such a confidence builder and the construction process so enjoyable, we ultimately thought it was worth purchasing our own, an expense that has since been justified given all the jobs we’ve tackled and the savings from not paying exorbitant fees to professionals.

Shopping online has also been a huge cost saver. For example, even with my new refrigerator from Sears, it was cheaper to get it online than to purchase it locally, once all the hidden fees like hauling away my old fridge and the set up and delivery of my new one was included (interestingly, my local Sears could not price match the online Sears for an identical refrigerator). At other times, finding a product that was cheaper online facilitated a price savings in negotiating with a local vendor.

Finally, an unmentioned and overlooked hazard to any interior demolition and/or reconstruction: air quality health issues. After experiencing severe breathing problems (I have asthma) and an exam with a pulmonologist and some invasive cardiac tests, I was fortunate to have a savvy cardiologist who asked, “Are you doing some home remodeling?”

Since then, we are careful to maximize the work we do outside (especially sawing), to contain the workspace by hanging plastic sheets over the doorway(s) to the room(s), to place drop cloths on furniture, and to use an air purifier (not filter).

Despite the learning curve involved, the financial savings, along with the satisfaction of viewing our workmanship, has made the process of expanding and increasing our home renovation knowledge worthwhile. Complimentary comments from friends and even the pros have only added to our incentive to do as much of the work ourselves as possible.