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How to Plan a Room Remodeling Project


By F.R.R. Mallory

February 3, 2010


To remodel is to make a modification or addition to an original structure so that the appearance, functional utility and resale value of the entire structure increases. Nonstructural changes fall more into decorating and renovation. When planning a room remodeling project, consider; time, function, cost and value, appearance and difficulty. What does the scope of the job really look like? The best place to begin, if you are not an expert, is to live with the room for several months to determine the function problems that the room presents. A good remodel will correct room flow problems, improve appearance and increase overall value. The legwork you do in advance of the project will be in direct relation to how much you spend and what your finished remodel will look like. Often, a remodel will take years to recoup full investment, but any immediate return over 80 percent of cost is generally considered a good investment.



Measure the inside dimensions of the room as it currently exists. In the center of a sheet of graph paper, draw the room (in pencil) at a scale of one foot to 1/4 inch on the paper. Mark door openings by leaving that portion of the room line blank. Measure the width of the door and make a note of the size. Plot in windows as well. After you finish your first thin line, move your pencil outside of the first line and draw the line again so that the two lines represent the thickness of the walls. The finished thickness of your pencil line should be just over 1/16 inch thick (most walls are four inches thick). Draw any closets in the room onto the room drawing, following the same steps. Plot the exact location of any rooms next to your remodeling room if you plan any work in that area, like adding a door or opening a wall.



Measure and add cabinets and fixtures like toilets and tubs. Using a thin red pen, mark the location of electrical outlets to all affected rooms. Using a blue pen, mark the location of any plumbing or gas lines you are aware of. Using a green pen, mark any ducting vents, and whether they are in the floor or ceiling. This completed drawing should give you a good overview of your existing space.



Make several copies of this drawing. Using a copy, place tracing paper over your drawing and draw the new remodeled space as you envision it. This will allow you to see exactly how your new space will relate to your old space. Make several copies of your new drawing. Go to the service counter of your local hardware/lumber store---clerks can usually assist you in generating a materials list and estimated materials cost sheet (for free). Make a detailed list of your desired finishes for the remodeled space, as well.



Go to your city planning office and show the building planner your drawings and lists, not only for an expert opinion on what you want to do. Your building department will give you fee and permit information, as well as feedback on the scope of your remodel. This is a good stage to revise your plan if you discover a problem you had not thought about.

Don't skip the city, permits and fees, the experts at mybuildingpermit.com note that it is the law and work done without permits is subject to costly remedies or work removal. Don't ignore your home owners association or building codes/requirements. Historical homes often have additional restrictions and home values go down if a remodeling project is not in keeping with the neighborhood, the style of home and modern aesthetics.



Determine the real costs of the remodel for any parts of the remodel that you intend to hire a contractor to complete. Ask your friends, family and neighbors for recommendations of good contractors and select at least three to bid, on any work you plan to pay for. Only deal with contractors who are licensed (ask for their number). Interview your contractors and give them a set of your plans as well as copies of your lists, if that is part of the scope of their work.



Add 10 percent or more to the contractors' projected costs and estimate of time to complete the project. Consult with a good real estate agent familiar with your neighborhood and have her give you feedback on the relative value of your expected remodel. This should give you a good working idea of the scope of your remodeling project.


Tips & Warnings

Your drawing doesn't need to be professional, just accurate. Take your time. Using a professional architect can save money and improve design. When designing your remodel, keep the style of your house in mind and create a space that works with your home's style. Function trumps appearance.

Don't make your remodeling project too taste-specific if you intend to sell your home in the future. Design for a better space. Every time you open a wall, you risk finding unexpected problems and costs, so think and plan first.

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