Remodeling projects: exacting and exciting

Home Work

July 12, 1998|By Karol V. Menzie and Ron Nodine

THERE ARE few things more exciting than starting a project that is going to materially influence the way you live in your house. Even if it's as simple as remodeling a bathroom, the result will make your home a more comfortable place.

If you've lived thorough a previous project, you have a good idea what will be going on. But if you've never experienced the joy and frustration of working on your house, it might help you survive if you have an idea what to expect.

How it begins will depend on what type of project you are undertaking.

If it's a renovation, it will begin with demolition. Even the simplest renovation requires some demolition -- removing old fixtures from a bath, removing windows that are to be replaced, tearing out door frames or old coverings such as tile or carpet.

If you're building an addition, typically it begins by digging, installing the foundation (usually concrete or concrete block) and having it inspected.

The next step, whatever the project, is framing -- building the framework for the walls and floors, with openings for door and windows.

With an addition, typically the shell is completed -- framing, exterior sheathing and roof -- before workers break through to the existing structure. There are exceptions.

When Karol remodeled her kitchen, the first step was to remove an old pantry alcove and the back steps. It left a hole in the house that was covered by a temporary plywood wall.

Once framing is complete, the trades -- electricians, plumbers, heating and air-conditioning specialists -- do their rough-ins, installing ductwork, plumbing and electrical wiring, in that order.

It's interesting to see how things go together, but most of what is installed up to now will be covered up later.

At this point, inspections of the framing and rough-ins are usually required -- exactly what is necessary will vary from location to location.

After the inspections are complete and the work is approved, insulation is installed and inspected and close-in work can begin.

Up to this point, work generally has been moving along at a fairly fast clip. People are usually amazed at the pace -- everything seems to happen so fast. After this point, things will seem to slow down.

Finishing drywall is a particularly tedious process. Even though work is being done on it every day, every evening it will look exactly the same. If it's a large project, this is the point at which you may begin to question your sanity -- or the activity level of the workers. Of course, one way to check that the work has been done is to monitor the new layer of fine white drywall compound dust that has settled onto every surface in the house, up to and including the dog. (Proper dust protection will minimize the problem, but some dust always gets through.)

Finally the drywall will be complete, the room will look like a room, and it is time for trim carpentry and painting. Since this is what you will see when the process is complete, it is generally done in a painstaking manner. This is especially true in remodeling where you have to match existing finishes and surfaces, which can be extremely time-consuming. Bear with it, the end is not far away.

You have reached the home stretch when electrical and plumbing fixtures are installed, door and bath hardware is put into place, and floor finishes go down.

All that's left is cleanup and final inspections, and you can put your new space to use.

Of course, in the real world everything will not go perfectly. Murphy's Law takes its toll on every project. The rain will not stop, fixtures will be out of stock, the plumber will break his arm. Demolition will reveal massive old termite damage; ductwork will hit a surprise brick pillar.

In most cases, such hitches are no one's fault. Don't get fixated on fixing blame. Count on some delays and problems, and prepare to deal with them quickly and fairly.

There's no reason your project shouldn't be interesting to watch

in progress, and a joy when it's complete. If you have done your homework, done the planning, selected your contractor carefully and provided the necessary information on time, there's no reason for it to be a nightmare. Instead, it will be a fun and rewarding experience you can do again and again as your lifestyle and income change over the years.

Ron Nodine is owner of American Renovator Inc., a Baltimore design-build remodeling firm, and current president of the Remodelors Council of the Home Builders Association of Maryland. Karol Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, e-mail Ron at or Karol at Or write c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.

Pub Date: 7/12/98

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