May is Home Remodeling Month. So what are you doing about it?

Do you have the right plan to take advantage of it?

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Published on 05 May 2023

WIFE: “Hon, it looks like the neighbors are getting a new kitchen.”

HUSBAND: “Good for them, hope they enjoy it.”

WIFE: “Get serious. Our cabinets are the original from 20 years ago and now the doors creak!”

HUSBAND: “Kind of like you and me, eh?”

 

We are getting older. All of us. Everyday. And some of us notice it. The same goes for our homes. And some of us notice it—to the tune of 763 billion dollars spent worldwide to improve the home in 2022. It is expected to top 1 trillion in the next few years. But what does this trend mean exactly and why are we spending so much money in the process? Are we doing the right thing? Do we have a solid remodeling plan that accounts for everything?

It’s all in the “Why”

Einstein once said if he only had an hour to fix a problem, he’d spend 55 minutes understanding it, and 5 minutes actually fixing it. We think he was on to something.

Every good plan starts with the answer to the question of why. Why do you want to go down the home improvement path in the first place? Do you want to just improve your home in some way, or improve how you live in your home? We did an informal survey of our staff and here’s what they came up with:

  1. Fix what’s broken (deferred maintenance).
  2. Change what YOUR neighbors might be tired of looking at (keeping up with the Jones)
  3. Change what YOU are tired of looking at (Covid hangover, tired home)
  4. More space (growing family)
  5. Functionality & usefulness (Home office, entertainment, fitness)
  6. Make your life at home better in as many ways as possible (1-6)

All are legitimate reasons and come with different price tags and complexity to be sure. For instance, upgrading appliances is not the same as repositioning them for easier access and use and neither of those are as simple as you might think.

Nothing is Easy

I will now speak the most famous of last DIY words…How hard can it be? Getting a new refrigerator involves visiting a few showrooms and picking one out. Simple, right? Hold up bucko. Not so gosh darn fast there.

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Just like the cereal aisle, but shinier!

Even that simple task assumes your new fridge will fit in your 20-year-old old space. Newer ones may be able to share your inventory with your smart phone and schedule your next pickle ball game, but they have yet to make one that is modular. Most newer models are taller and deeper than older models. That’s not a small problem.

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BEFORE & AFTER: We did reposition this refrigerator, but also remodeled the entire kitchen and created a built-in look for the new fridge in its new spot. Solving one problem often means solving lots of others.

Everything Touches Everything

“It’s not uncommon to get a call from a homeowner that wants to know if we can just shave off a couple of inches from an overhead cabinet or move their existing island out a half a foot so their new fridge can fit,” explains John Murphy, owner Murphy Bros. Design Build Remodel. “Which is a lot like asking, would it look weird if I shaved off half your head?”

Now what? You could always sell, but that’s a bit drastic for a new fridge. So then you are left with potentially repositioning an appliance to fit a new space occupied by something else. That’s even more problematic, usually involving design layout & plans, permits, finish carpenters, plumbers, electricians…you get the idea.

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CLICK TO PLAY. Some of us learned this little ditty in grade school.

“It’s hard for homeowners to see the complexities in their homes,” explains Murphy. “The countertops and the cabinet are connected, the floor and the walls are connected, the walls and the ceiling are connected. And all of them have to coordinate. It’s like the old song Dem Bones.

In none of these little scenarios did the question arise, why we are doing this? Do we have more people to feed? Do we need more space to feed them in? Is the workflow from the fridge clumsy and well, just plain stupid? Is the island too small regardless of how big the fridge is? Are we just tired of looking at that old vertical monument to harvest gold?

“All, not most, all successful remodels start with the question of “why” answered by a crisp and thoughtful scope right up front. Without that you’re just wasting time and money,” asserts Murphy, a 40-year leader in the Twin Cities remodeling industry.

Follow Einstein

“The best advice I can give homeowners is to use the Einstein approach. Look at all of it carefully, honestly, and thoroughly. What are the unintended consequences? Assess what you are really trying to do and why it matters. And then find somebody who can help you turn your "genius" into something concrete.” suggests Murphy.

“That’s where we start with our clients. Slow and deliberate. It’s the only way to really help people clearly identify ways to make their home lives better, not just different. Remember, different is easy, better is way harder, and much more valuable,” concludes Murphy.

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