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Planning ahead is the key to a successful remodeling project
Monday, April 8, 2013
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By Jennifer Kotila
Staff Writer

A remodeling project can be a big undertaking for homeowners, and there are a lot of things one has to consider before starting such a project.

Dan Lundin has been in the business of remodeling and new construction for about 35 years, and he agreed to share his expertise about what homeowners should be aware of before beginning a project.

Lundin has worked at lumberyards in the sales department for the past eight years, and is currently the general manager at ProBuild in Cokato and Hutchinson.

Before that, he worked with his father remodeling old homes and building new ones.

“Asking questions and planning ahead of time is so cheap compared to having to make corrections after starting a project,” Lundin said.

When considering a remodeling project, reputable professionals should be consulted, Lundin said.

“If [homeowners] want to do the work by themselves, a good contractor will still help them figure stuff out,” Lundin said.

Allowing professional electricians, plumbers, and contractors to look at a home while planning a remodeling project will assist homeowners in having a realistic idea of what they are working with, and any problems that may occur, Lundin said.

“Nothing is impossible, but it may be cost-prohibitive,” Lundin said, noting a professional will be able to help a homeowner explore their options in consideration of their budget.

It is important for homeowners to keep in mind the initial cost and value of the work being completed versus its long-term value, Lundin noted.

For instance, roofing materials can vary greatly in cost depending on the grade of asphalt shingles or type of metal roofing material used, as well as in the projected life-span of each material.

Consulting their insurance agent regarding the depreciation built into their homeowners insurance is also important in figuring the cost versus long-term value equation for roofing projects, Lundin said.

Another example of a project where initial cost and value versus long-term value is important would be finishing basements.

“Homeowners can stick a lot of money into finishing a basement,” Lundin said. “They want to make sure the house appreciates in value by as much as they put into finishing the basement.”

When looking for a reputable professional, homeowners should ask for references, and can often find a list of local contractors at the local lumberyard, Lundin noted.

“It’s easy finding a good contractor in a small community like ours, where everybody knows each other,” Lundin said.

Reputable professionals will also have a current license and insurance for any work that is to be completed.

Professionals can help homeowners draw plans to scale, foresee any issues that can arise due to older plumbing and electrical systems, make sure the foundation will support the project, and make sure the roof will tie into the project.

One problem Lundin often sees is homeowners who come in with drawings on graph paper they think are to scale, but there is only a line for the walls, he said.

Homeowners forget to include the width of walls into their drawings, which reduces the area with which they have to work.

This can be especially problematic with bathrooms and kitchens, where space is usually limited, Lundin noted.

Once all the consultations have been made, and the project is thoroughly planned and ready to go, many municipalities require homeowners to obtain a permit before beginning a project.

If the home is within city limits, check with the local city administrator or clerk to make sure all the proper permits are obtained.

If the home is in a rural area, the county usually handles all the permitting, and homeowners should obtain the permits from the county planning and zoning commission.

Depending on the project, certain inspections also have to take place in order to assure that all codes have been followed.

“Homeowners and contractors need to make sure they are aware of all that stuff, because it can come back to bite you later,” Lundin noted.

He added that building codes are not in place to stand in the way of projects, but to protect the contractor and homeowner from future problems.

Issues that may arise when completing different projects

When remodeling older homes, homeowners should keep in mind that if a certain percentage of the home is to be remodeled, the whole home will have to be updated to current building codes, Lundin said.

Pre-remodels of older homes can at times also pose problems when a homeowner decides to remodel again, with hidden costs due to a former remodel that was not completed properly, Lundin noted.

Anytime lead paint will be disturbed in older homes, a licensed contractor certified to deal with it is required to make sure it is removed and cleaned up properly, Lundin added.

While roofs from the 1970s and 1980s are less steep and easier to walk on, older homes have more intricate roofs, which can add to labor costs for any roofing projects.

If a roof has been left with damage too long before replacing, homeowners may find damage underneath the shingles that may have to be repaired, adding to the cost.

Usually, homeowners choose to do roof repairs in the spring or fall to minimize damage to their landscaping and gardens.

Kitchen and baths tend to be the most expensive remodeling projects homeowners take on, Lundin noted.

Some things homeowners should keep in mind is whether their old plumbing and electrical systems are adequate to handle the upgrades they want to make, or whether the plumbing and electrical system will have to be upgraded, as well, Lundin said.

When finishing basements, homeowners tend to not consider large appliances, like freezers, may be more difficult, or impossible, to get out of the basement once walls are constructed, Lundin noted.

The walls and floor of the basement should also be water-tight before a homeowner covers them with Sheetrock, he added.

Access to utilities in the basement should also be kept in mind when remodeling.

Updating the outside of homes can often have a snowball effect, Lundin said.

Homeowners decide to repaint the outside of the home, but then, after realizing all the work involved, decide siding the home seems like a better option, he noted.

Once they begin to look at siding, homeowners will often decide to replace windows and doors, as well, he added.

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When replacing windows, homeowners should be aware that going from one type of window to another may create issues with code violations.

For instance, replacing a casement or sliding window with a single- or double-hung window may decrease the opening, Lundin said.

“A lot of people think the window will be OK because they can fit through it, but the size of the window (required by building code) is so a firefighter (with an air tank) can get in to rescue people,” Lundin added.

Lundin recommends that homeowners set aside some money for the “just-in-cases” that may occur when working on a remodeling project.

However, sometimes the “just-in-cases,” especially if a project is well-planned, end up being used for nice upgrades rather than unforeseen problems, Lundin noted.

“Just get the project planned out, that’s the biggest thing,” he said.

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