The Happy Home

Congratulations. You’ve decided to take the plunge and embark on a home remodel. You have stacks of dog-eared magazine pages, and your Pinterest boards are full of ideas, from outdoor sconces and eat-in kitchens to wallpaper and window coverings. But before the first hammer is swung, get prepared for what is about to come. Here are ten tips that will not only help you through your remodel journey, but will also help you focus on what makes a house a home.

1. Hire Right

One of the first and most important decisions you can make is choosing the right partner. Whether you are hiring a contractor, homebuilder or design consultant, select a person or firm that mirrors your aesthetic. If you love Shaker-style homes, don’t go with someone who specializes in Mediterranean architecture. Working with a partner who already understands your style will help ensure you are speaking the same language, and a well-written contract gets you on the same page from day one. “It is imperative you clearly define everyone’s roles and who is responsible for what,” says Annie Lazarus of Annie Lazarus Design.

2. Share Your Vision

You have a vision of what you want, so share it with all your project partners so they can help you bring it to life. Don’t be afraid to show your pages or Pinterest boards to your plumber, interior designer or cabinetmaker. Seeing what you want to achieve, from use of space to a specific look, will help your expert collaborators make recommendations suitable for your remodel, such as the fixtures that would complement your soon-to-be bead-boarded kitchen. “I firmly believe that your home should make you happy, so you should design it for the way you live,” Lazarus says.

3. Plan Ahead

Planning really does make perfect. After going through the design process, sit down with your contractor and map out a plan that includes not only schedule and timeline, but also everything you want to include in each remodeled room. The best part of planning? You will be able to define your budget and prevent the need for costly decisions down the road. Defining a scope of work is critical, according to Lazarus. “Homeowners should have clear, concise goals of what they want to achieve in a remodel; if you make changes or additions, it’s important to create a new scope of work to avoid surprise bills.”

4. Focus on Finishes

Keeping your project on track is easier than Hollywood would have you believe (think ’80s classic The Money Pit). Though factors like weather are beyond your control, you can help yourself stick to a schedule by making decisions before work begins. A key area to focus on is finishes and fixtures. If you select the materials for cabinets and countertops, flooring and faucets, backsplashes and lighting during the planning process, these items can be ordered and ready in time for installation.

5. Keep It Timeless

When deciding on the style elements of your home remodel, keep resale value in mind if it’s not a home you plan to stay in for the long term. What might be trendy can soon look outdated, so consider more timeless choices for items such as bathroom and kitchen fixtures, cabinets and counters. If you choose on-trend easy-to-swap items such as throws, pillows, art and furniture, when it comes time to sell, you will have a clean, simple slate for potential homebuyers.

6. Save for the Unexpected

You are most likely starting with a budget in mind, but have you included a contingency fund? With the remodel process can come many unexpected things — such as discovering additional replacement or repair needs once you open up walls — so having a contingency fund ready will save you a lot of added stress. A good rule of thumb is to put aside 5 to 20 percent of your budget for the unexpected. “Older homes typically have more surprises, so the more inspection you do with your contractor on the front end, the better,” Lazarus says.

7. Consider Resale

You’d love to have more closet space, but is turning that third bedroom into a shrine for your shoes really the best investment? Make decisions that add to rather than detract from your home’s value. Lazarus recommends having at least one bathtub in a household and an additional half-bath if you are planning to sell in the future.

8. Create Your Space

How can you live through your remodel when you are living in your remodel? Carve out a work-free space for your family. Keeping a floor or section of your home off-limits to workers will allow you to keep some semblance of home throughout the process. Remember to move appliances like refrigerators to places you can easily access, and keep items you use regularly, like that coffeemaker, nearby./p>

9. Dust Buster

How do you deal with the inevitable dust and dirt that comes with a remodel? Focus on protection. Whether it’s your valuables, furniture or lungs, being prepared will make for a happier home. Seal off rooms, roll up antique rugs and devise a waste removal plan that doesn’t send workers through the gardens. Lazarus recommends using zippered plastic sheets, which make it easier to access work areas without jeopardizing the seal. And most important, know your construction schedule well so you are prepared for when the water or gas must be turned off or when strong-smelling glues or finishes are to be used.

10. Communication Is Key

Remember, you are driving this process, so be an active participant and communicate clearly with your contractor, particularly if you are living off-site during the remodel. Know there will be plenty of last-minute decisions throughout that will require quick answers to keep your project on track. Being available will not only keep the project moving, but will ensure that the work meets your expectations. And if you are living on site, establish expectations with your contractor in the beginning, including work hours, access to your home and areas such as restrooms and storage of tools and materials.

Looks Are Everything

Want to add more value to your home without emptying your wallet? Focus on your home’s curb appeal — what can be seen from the street. According to the National Association of Realtors, curb appeal sells 49 percent of all homes, so if you are in the market to sell, think about the first impression your home will make on prospective buyers. Here are three ideas that will freshen up your home quickly.

Front Door

Brighten up your entryway by upgrading your front door. From a fresh coat of paint and updated hardware to a complete replacement, there are options for all budgets. And if you want to try before you buy, Home Depot’s Kathryn Gallagher recommends the store’s Augmented Reality app. “Using your phone’s camera, you will be able to visually see how thousands of products look in your living space, including a new front door on your home,” she says.

Front Porch

A front porch should be both warm and welcoming, so this is where a few simple signature elements can add easy inexpensive flair. Try a lantern in an unusual shape or unique finish or bright-colored pots near the door to set your home apart. Update your planters frequently with seasonal flowers to keep your front porch always looking fresh.

Front Lawn

Creating an inviting front lawn goes way beyond raking up the leaves; it needs to be neat and tidy to make your home beckon. Whether you go with drought-tolerant plants, hardscape or a lush green lawn, the overall look should be well-manicured and full, with no bare spots or weeds to disrupt the feeling that your home is well cared for.

What Will It Cost?

Planning to revamp your abode? Take a peek at Remodeling’s average costs for popular projects in the Bay Area last year.


Bathroom Remodel $20,980

Major Kitchen Remodel $66,810

Roofing Replacement $22,081

Home Office Remodel $34,947

Window Replacement (wood) $13,155


Bathroom Remodel $59,584

Major Kitchen Remodel $125,343

Roofing Replacement $45,883

Deck Addition (composite) $43,462

Window Replacement (wood) $18,612