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Home improvements? Plan before you start


By looking ahead, you can avoid becoming your own foreman

Brian and I have lived in our present house for nine years and have lived through three major remodel projects. In the spring of 2010 we embarked on our third project, a full upstairs remodel.

We didn’t know it was a full-blown remodel when we started. We just wanted to rip out the 17-year-old berber carpet that felt like sandpaper on our bare feet and replace it with something soft, the color of our dirt. Then the ideas started to pop up.

What if we replaced the walk-in closets in the smaller, back-to-back bedrooms with two-by-six foot closets and expanded one of the bedrooms? Wouldn’t an 11-by-15 foot room make a great "man cave"? And while we’re at it, shouldn’t it have a hardwood floor to go under his ultra-big weight machine and "waddle master?" (That’s what he calls an elliptical trainer.)

Brian spoke with our contractor and had him quote a price for moving the walls and, while they were at it, he asked if they could redo all the woodwork around the upstairs doors and windows. After the men agreed on the scope of the project and the price, I decided to join the fun and suggested that we go ahead and put in a granite countertop and Marmoleum floor in the small upstairs bathroom. (I’ve wanted to do that for five years.)

I was put in charge of that project because it didn’t involve ripping out walls and other manly stuff. I thought I could save money by refinishing the old oak vanity. I borrowed my neighbor's sander and worked on it for an afternoon. The next day I was off to Lowe's to see what a bathroom vanity cost. I found a reasonably priced one and ordered it. I then went to the flooring company that we had used before and started trying to find attractive granite tile and Marmoleum that complemented each other.

In the meantime, Brian was talking to a carpet company and a distributor of refurbished barn wood for the gym floor. Once he chose his barn wood, he had to find someone to lay it and someone else to apply the finish. As we saw how wonderful the bathroom was looking, Brian asked me if I wanted to update the laundry room. I said, “A new coat of paint would be nice.” Once he started painting the laundry room walls, Brian decided the black and white checked vinyl flooring was yellowing and said, “It has to go.” I agreed, but added that I didn't want to reinstall the old plastic laundry sink over a new floor.

That sent me to the custom cabinet-maker to build a cabinet for a new laundry room sink that would match the existing upper cabinets over the washer and dryer. I also had to find the new sink, faucet and towel bar for the room. (Does this sound crazy?) The process got even crazier, as I tried to coordinate who was doing what, and when.

We had some major glitches with the flooring: they sent six inches less flooring than the length of the laundry room. The installer’s solution was to add a strip at the end across the grain, rather than calling to see what should be done. I spent two days solving that problem and then found a dent in the replaced floor. It took a couple of weeks to get that fixed.

There is a moral to this story: plan before you start. If we had evaluated our wants and needs before we started, the contractor would have coordinated everything. It would not have cost us any more, and I could have spent my spring drawing landscape designs rather than playing foreman at my very own job site.

Ann Nickerson has lived and practiced landscape design in the Tualatin Valley since 1993. You can contact her at ann.Nickerson.net or by phone at 503-846-1352.