Like all homeowners, when my husband and I moved into our home I quickly came up with a list of home improvements I wanted to do. Some were DIY projects, and some required the craftsmanship of a skilled contractor.
One of the many things I have learned working as a landscape architect on projects for clients or at my own home, is that no matter the complexity of the project there is a common process to all home improvement projects, from design concept to finished product. This process is pretty much the same whether it is a new brick walk or driveway, stone patio, light post and fixture, front porch, stone veneer or an arbor just to name a few. And knowing that there is a process to follow makes any task seem more doable and less overwhelming.
I’ll take you through the basic outdoor renovation process along with notes on the renovation of the front of my house, and chimney, with a new stone veneer material made of concrete (manufactured stone). My project also included other design changes to the house that you will see in the after photos. Since I did not take photos of my house before the renovation the before photos I have provided are actually photos of homes in my neighborhood that look like my home before I did the renovation.
The Basic Process of a Renovation Project:
A successful renovation needs a well thought out design. Look for examples of existing renovations in your area, in books and magazines, and online to help you visualize the end result for your project. Depending on the complexity of your project it may be wise to get design expertise from a registered landscape architect or architect to ensure that your completed project will add value to your property.
My stone veneer renovation project included the chimney and the front-facing gable of my house. The existing dated stone veneer had to be removed from the front wall of the house. I redesigned the exterior wall coverings, increasing the height of the new stone veneer. The new veneer was also applied to the brick chimney giving it the richer architectural detailing that I wanted.
You may be required to submit drawings of your project to your local building department.
Permits and Inspection Requirements –
Check your local building department to see if there are any permit and inspection requirements for your project. It is important to check the required permits so you will not have any surprises later.
Also, if you are hiring a contractor to do the installation of any project ask if they will be getting the required permits. If that is not part of the service they provide then you will need to acquire the permits yourself.
Select Materials –
Knowing where to go to select the building materials for your renovation can be overwhelming if you are not familiar with what is available to you either locally or online. Using a local building material distributor that specializes in the materials you will be using on your project can give you more selection and a higher quality product, as oppose to what is available at the home improvement store. After you select your materials, get a cost estimate for your actual design. Getting a cost estimate allows you to make alterations to your design, if necessary, to fit your budget. Other questions to ask them include, when can the materials be delivered, the cost of delivery, and is there some guarantee if the materials are damaged during delivery.
I emailed my design for the wall veneer to the building material distributor for a materials estimate. After getting the estimate, I was able to decide whether I was within my budget or if I needed to make any changes to my design.
Do-It-Yourself or Hire a Contractor –
For a DIY project there are several questions to consider – do I have the needed skills and knowledge, the tools or a source to rent the needed tools, the needed extra help of friends and family, and the time? Some projects, like my stone veneer renovation, are not for a DIY’er, and will require skilled labor.
If you decide to hire a contractor, the best sources to find a contractor that has the required skills needed for your renovation project is from people you may know who have used a particular contractor, your local Chamber of Commerce, the product manufacturer or the building material distributor. Get several contractor names, have them look at your project, and ask what their experience is with the building material you will be using and get a written estimate and a timeline for completion. Also, ask if they are licensed and if they carry liability insurance and workman’s compensation.
Do not pay a contractor the full amount of his/her fee upfront. Set up a pay schedule with the contractor, for him/her to receive payments over the timeline of the project, from start to finish.
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