Lessons from a renovator

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For homeowners who are looking to renovate, remodel and expand their homes here are a few tips.

When it comes to size, use the Goldilocks rule. With all the talk about houses that are too big and the trend toward small, what's sometimes lost is the notion of the right-size house.

Rightsizing is just that: making a place that fits you and your needs without excess or its opposite. So, unless you own a catering company, a kitchen that allows for plenty of counter space while avoiding the need to be on roller skates to get from sink to stove to refrigerator is an example of rightsizing.

Yes, details do matter. You've gotten the size and planning just right so that the completed renovation will function just the way you want. Now take the time to explore the details. It'll be these details that will bring delight to your day-to-day experience as you use your "new" home.

Avoid saying, "While we're at it, we might as well ... " Often the trick to managing a renovation project is knowing when to say when. It's really easy to go beyond what you initially thought would be the project, because everything in a house is so interconnected. But unless you have the funds and the desire to tackle the whole house at once, take it in stages. But first make sure you have a game plan, so you know what the end result will be.

Understand that the hip bone is connected to the leg bone. Sometimes tackling the whole house is unavoidable. It just makes a lot of sense to bring everything up to current standards. This is especially true for historic and older homes. And improvements to heating, cooling, plumbing, electrical, roofing and structural systems just might be necessary before tackling the fun stuff anyway. It makes no sense to have that dream kitchen if you can't keep the house warm in winter.

Make decisions early and often. You can never plan too much when it comes to a renovation. It doesn't matter if the project is to be done all at once or over several years.

Think of the project as an excursion. Sure, you can just land in a foreign country and figure it out as you go, but chances are you'd have a better time at a lower cost if you plan your trip beforehand. The same applies to a home renovation.

You'll definitely have a better experience by making decisions early and not changing things in the midst of construction.

Keep your sense of humor. Everyone considering a home renovation should watch The Money Pit first. Just remember that if it can go wrong, it will go wrong — and that it'll be all right in the end. So do your homework, trust in the professionals you've hired and enjoy the ride.

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