A thick white powder has crept its way into every corner of my home. Every surface, every dish, and every article of furniture and clothing is coated with renovation chalk. (Ugh!) I'm tempted to write "dust me" on the piano but what's the point? I've given up (or is that given in) to the mess that was previously my sanctuary. Now it's just plain frightening!
The drywall crew took up residence last Monday morning and there's no keeping up with it. You'd think that after five previous home renovations, I would remember how horribly inconvenient the remodeling process is - especially when I've physically lived through each one of them - but I've conveniently blocked it out - kind of like childbirth (also an extraordinarily unpleasant process to my way of thinking.)
Having come too far to turn back, there's nothing for my discomfort, but to close myself off in my dusty bedroom, under my dusty blankets, and bury myself in a dusty book . . . At least there's a light at the end of the tunnel. With hardwood floors now being laid and tiling currently underway in the bathrooms, "Phase One" of the renovation should be completed within the next few weeks and some small semblance of order may be restored at long last. (Whew! Just in the nick of time. I don't do well with chaos which means I make life miserable for those around me.)
So while this is all very fresh in my mind, let's break down the "Dos" and especially, the "Don'ts," of remodeling so that you can learn from my OH SO painful experience . . .
DO remodel if you love your street, your neighbors or your site. If your location is irreplaceable or one-of-a-kind, you are a good candidate for a renovation vs. a move.
DON'T remodel if no matter what you do or how much money you spend, the house next door (with its overgrown lawn and wintering boat) is forever going to be the bane of your existence. No matter how beautiful your home comes out, you won't be able to control the neighbor next door and you'll never be completely happy.
DO remodel if your marriage is healthy and your kids are young enough to enjoy the results. We have a really short window of time with our children as it is. Why add displacement to the mix?
DON'T remodel if the kids are in high school (wait until they leave), your marriage is on the rocks, or "indecision" is your middle name. Life is stressful enough.
DO remodel if you don't like paying for other people's taste and find picking out finishes, fixtures and lighting much more exciting than picking out a Holly Ball gown (I LOVE the flea market and hate dress shopping.)
DON'T remodel if the mere thought of walking into a Home Depot, a plumbing supply store or a window showroom is overwhelming. There are a thousand and one decisions to be made with a remodel (and I'm not kidding.)
DO remodel if you have a trust fund, have access to hoards of cash, or are heirs to a large fortune (a small one won't do it). Absent that, a very ample home equity line is key!
DON'T remodel if money is tight. Renovations notoriously run over budget - not because contractors take advantage - but because one never knows what is behind the walls until they are actually opened. Even pleasant surprises are going to blow the budget! Believe me, you are going to want to take advantage of them. (We found four extra feet behind my son's closet and an extra foot and a half in the ceilings. Grateful? Yes. Expensive? Yes!)
DON'T remodel if you expect the project to "pencil out." It's very likely that it won't. Even the very best renovations of bathrooms and kitchens don't return 100% of their investment. Renovate for your own enjoyment, but if you expect a decent return, keep the design choices fairly neutral. Metallic tiles date a home very quickly. White honed marble is timeless.
So to sum it up, DO remodel if you have a vision for your home, a gifted architect, a reliable contractor, you love your present location, have a desire to stay put, have the wherewithal to pay for the construction, married a supportive mate, have flexible children, can overcome the clutter, and possess the personality to overcome the challenges. If that doesn't describe your situation, let me help you find a new home - one that someone else has gone to the trouble to remodel for you!
Now if I can only save up enough money for "Phase Two . . ." (See, I'm already forgetting - I suppose that's why I had a second child too!)
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.