December 8, 2023


Home living innovation

Taking on a renovation in the new year? These homeowners have some advice

Hire someone who wants to listen.

With its tiny closet and leaky tub, the bathroom in Jean and Hal Parker’s 1934 home had never been ideal, and Hal’s knee replacement surgery last year gave the couple a preview of problems it might cause as they age, so they decided to replace the tub with a walk-in shower. Their contractor warned them that removing the tub could hurt the home’s future marketability, “but, ultimately, they listened to what we wanted, worked with us, and the bathroom is beautiful,” says Jean.

Leave project management to the pros.

Some homeowners choose to act as their own project manager in an effort to cut costs. Jack Rudelic’s word of advice on that? Don’t. After doing their research, Jack and his wife, Claire Rudelic, hired a firm that assigned a dedicated manager to their project. The manager coordinated the subcontractors’ schedules and more. “With two kids and two full-time jobs, it would have been next to impossible for us to do that even half as well as they did it,” says Jack.

Budget for takeout meals…or rent.

Sara and Michael Rice cut costs by continuing to live in their three-bedroom ranch while they had work done to open up the main living area, update the kitchen, and add a master bath, walk-in closet, and main-floor laundry room. “The biggest lesson we learned is that it’s really hard to live in a house that you’re renovating,” says Sara. “Maybe if we had to do it over again, we would have budgeted for an apartment or stayed with family.” Instead, the couple spent three or four months unzipping plastic dividers between work zones and eating a lot of restaurant meals during the heaviest renovation phase. “I do not advise it.”

Communicate and collaborate.

When Charles and Terri Sheldon refinished their basement a few years ago, they never knew exactly when their contractors would show up. Heeding the lessons of that experience, they selected a contractor for their kitchen remodel that uses Basecamp, a project management tool that facilitates client communication. “The [company] announced a day in advance when they were going to be there, what they were going to do, and, at the end of the day, what they had accomplished, both verbally and through Basecamp,” says Charles.

Research and renovation go hand in hand.

Jillian and Brian Parsons started researching renovation options years before breaking ground on an addition to their home. They even asked an architect to stop by shortly after they bought the house, in 2017, to take a look. “We had him walk through the house to make sure he felt like, structurally, down the road, we could do some work on the house,” says Jillian. Eventually the couple added on to the first and second stories and replaced the garage. But even with extensive research, Jillian notes, a home built around the turn of the century is going to have some secrets and surprises: “You’re rolling with the punches a bit, so being open and honest and transparent with the people you’re working with is key.”