What to Expect When Remodeling Your Home

The big-and obvious-difference between building a new home and remodeling an existing home is that you cannot start from scratch. Just a few examples:

  • You have to do demolition before you can start construction.

  • The floor plan and style of your new kitchen must take into account the surrounding rooms and the architecture of the home itself.

  • Electrical, mechanical and plumbing components may need updating to be brought into compliance with current building codes.

  • Structural elements such as joists and load-bearing beams may need shoring up.

  • Slanting walls and floors require installers to adjust the height of appliances and cabinets accordingly.

  • With the multitude of what-ifs and maybes that come up during a remodel, costs can mount more quickly than most homeowners expect, and labor may take longer. You and any designers or contractors involved will need to be able to think on your feet and be creative problem solvers.

Tip #1: Look for professionals with remodeling experience. Contractors and designers who usually work on new homes probably won't be accustomed to anticipating pitfalls associated with remodeling.

Tip #2: As soon as you start moving walls, raising the ceiling, putting in an addition — in short, any kind of structural work — you're starting to get into big bucks. That's when you need to ask yourself, do I move or improve? The answer depends not just on remodeling costs but also on potential return on investment, moving costs, land values and local schools.

Decorating and Home Improvement

If you're updating your kitchen because you're bored with how it looks, a little redecorating might be just the ticket. Fresh paint, new wallpaper and updated window treatments can revamp a room. Throw in a new faucet or light fixture, and you're good to go.

Small jobs like these often fall into the do-it-yourself category. Other options include hiring a handyman or specific contractor (plumber or electrician, etc.) or having the supplier or retailer do the installation for you.

Pull and Replace Remodel

This type of project simply involves removing old items and installing new ones in their place. In a kitchen remodel, this typically includes some combination of flooring, countertops, cabinets, appliances, sinks, faucets, and lighting fixtures.

Some homeowners might want to tackle some of this work themselves, hiring specialty contractors for some of the more difficult aspects. Many suppliers also provide installation services for an additional fee. If you want more extensive help, kitchen designers, remodeling contractors and design/build firms can provide design, installation and project management services.

A kitchen remodel of this size and scope probably won't take more than a few weeks.

Gut Remodel

A gut remodel involves "gutting" the entire kitchen by tearing out the walls, insulation, wiring and piping down to the framing. Why go so far? Older homes often have outdated plumbing, electrical and mechanical infrastructure that can't run all the modern amenities. Extra insulation can help keep your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Gutting a room also provides the best opportunity to add structured wiring for all your phone, fax, Internet, television and networking needs.

A project of this size requires skilled labor from several different trades, which means it also requires a project manager. If you're not up for doing it yourself, a general contractor or design/build firm can do it for you. Some kitchen designers and architects also provide project management services in addition to design

Since a gut kitchen remodel probably will take two to four months to complete, installing a temporary kitchen in an adjacent room, the basement or garage is probably a good idea.


Sometimes, no matter how you try to reconfigure your home's floor plan, there's just not enough square footage. Even a small addition adds significant costs, though, because of the need to pour a foundation, add siding and roofing, and tie the new construction into the old.

In many areas of the country, building codes require an architect (sometimes even an engineer) to design or sign off on the plans for a residential addition. Even if that's not true where you live, for safety's sake, you're best off hiring an architect or a design/build firm to design your addition.

Depending on the size of the addition and other work done in conjunction, the project's length will vary. If the house will be open to the elements for a while or filled with workers for several months, you should consider finding short-term housing elsewhere.



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