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Ann Architect, Renovation Design GroupAnnie Architect, Renovation Design Group

Renovation Solutions is weekly column on architectural home design by Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer, Principal Architects of Renovation Design Group, a Utah architectural firm focusing on home renovation design.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Be safe when tackling a remodel on your own

By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer

Re-mod-el (v.): to alter the structure of: remake; as in: "I want to remodel my (fill in the blank — kitchen, basement, bathroom, etc.)."

With few exceptions, everyone has a desire, if not a plan, to remodel something about their home.

The psychology of this desire — whether it is called nesting or upward mobility — has filled volumes, so we now accept it as human nature.

Understand construction safety issues before you decide which portion of your remodeling project to do yourself.

We all want to remodel (unless you have just finished a remodeling project and have sworn to never to do it again). But even then, like a mother wanting another child, the pain will fade and you will find yourself wanting to change one more thing.

Accepting the inevitable remodel, there is also a natural impulse to save money in the process. With the challenging economy and easy access to home improvement stores, more people are trying to remodel their houses themselves.

It is tempting, knowing that you can buy the same part at Home Depot for $12 that you paid the plumber hundreds to replace.

Just remember that while the task may be simple in theory, you need to think through all the steps and consequences.

Not only is it possible you may lack the knowledge, but you may also lack the tools. Having the right tools for construction is half of the job, both for finishing the job successfully and for doing it without injury.

If you need a $200 ladder to make it safely to your roof to install the $12 part, then it suddenly doesn't sound as appealing.

Dealing with power tools is another potential pitfall. From table saws to nail guns, there are many powerful tools available (which amazingly don't even require a license!).

It is up to you to apply some common sense and to obtain proper training if you decide to remodel your home yourself.

Renting equipment can be even more dangerous. Large machines are capable of immense damage. We have heard of several homeowners accidentally destroying their homes while trying to excavate their basements!

Anything dealing with electricity is another obvious warning flag. Electricians charge high amounts for good reason. Beyond the immediate risks, improperly installed electrical wiring and equipment can be dangerous.

The key to safe remodeling is being honest with yourself (and your spouse) about your abilities. Also consider the impact your do-it-yourself approach will have on the remodeling schedule.

If you can only work on your project a few hours on Thursday night and all day Saturday, the progress will be slow and painful.

Finally, though it seems painful to pay for a building permit, remember the inspectors will also help keep your project safe during construction and for years to come.

If you decide to remodel on your own, always remember, safety first! As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

© 2009 Renovation Design Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Renovation Design Group.

If you are considering a remodel project, please Request a Free Consultation with Ann or Annie.

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