So you’re breathing a little easier financially and you’re ready to get started on some of the many remodeling/repair/home-improvement projects you had to put off when the economy was feeling too dicey.
Watch out for one more roadblock: your spouse.
So before you hire a remodeling professional to help you finish out your garage or build scrapbook paper-sized shelves on every spare wall in the room your adult kids grew up in, you might want to have a serious conversation with your significant other about home-improvement priorities.
Here’s the direction most of the couples I’ve been working with are taking:
1. A “great” kitchen.
Men and women agree that a “great” kitchen is the best place to start. Most families, after all, spend most of their time in the kitchen. Plus, it’s where we entertain.
And it’s a room that we use every single day. So it makes sense for it to be the most beautiful, comfortable and functional room in the home.
Still, couples often do not agree on the definition of “great” when it comes to kitchen remodeling. I find that she is far more focused on how the room looks, and values luxury touches like granite countertops, a tile backsplash, a stylish finish on the cabinets and even just the right drawer pulls. He, on the other hand, wants to make room for his gumbo pot and make sure there’s plenty of space to entertain while he’s cooking for a party.
And depending on who does most of the day-to-day cooking, that person is going to push for a design that eases the flow of the room and makes it simple to move from the cooktop to the sink to the refrigerator.
2. Function, function, function.
Both spouses crave a better-organized home with more storage space and easier access to the “stuff” of everyday activities. If he stays up late and she turns in early, chances are good that they’ll agree to locate the media room on the opposite side of the house from the bedroom. If the master bathroom is in need of remodeling, few couples argue about the wisdom of installing two sinks instead of one so each partner has space to spread out during the morning rush to get ready for work.
I’ve met plenty of husbands who get even more excited than their wives about the bells and whistles they can get in new cabinets, drawers and closet systems.
3. A masterpiece in the master suite.
Because the master bedroom and bathroom are “joint property,” I hear few objections when one spouse or the other wants to make enlarging, rearranging or updating it a remodeling priority.
Most older homes have too few, too small closets, cramped shower stalls, small bathtubs that nobody ever uses and not enough room for the big bed and sitting room that are on most homeowners’ wish lists.
The disconnect: The wife might be concerned that she’ll regret tearing out the unused bathtub in favor of a roomy shower with lots of sprays and the husband might have his eye on an oversized soaking tub. My response: If you have a bathtub elsewhere in the house, one is enough. Put the shower in. And unless one of you frequently uses the small bathtub now, it’s unlikely you’ll use a big one, either. Put the shower in!
4. Curb your enthusiasm.
It’s hard for either partner to argue the wisdom of enhancing the value of the home by upgrading its curb appeal.
Before you spend your precious remodeling dollars on a state-of-the-art home theater or HGTV-inspired guest room that only gets used at Christmastime, take a walk around the outside of your house.
Replacing a weathered and worn front door, repairing or replacing roof shingles, upgrading energy-inefficient windows and trading paint-needy wood windows, shutters and overhangs with vinyl or composite materials will make your home look newer and save you–or whoever buys your house–the trouble of sanding and repainting year after year.
5. The great outdoors.
Before you start arguing over whether she gets a sewing room or he gets a man cave, you might be able to agree on one more remodeling project: a bigger, better porch or patio.
If you have small children, adult children who visit with their families or friends who like to watch the games at your place, an oversized patio with room for a high-quality grill, a big-screen TV, a dining table and plenty of chairs will keep them coming back.
Of course, you’ll still have to negotiate with your spouse about whether a $4,000 grill and surround sound for the TV are as valuable as a roof to protect it all from the sun and rain, but shaking hands on adding the space is a start.
The key: Create priorities for your remodeling dreams. If you can’t do it all at once, do it in the order that will result in the best value–and in keeping the harmony at home.
Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, has been president of JEB Design/Build in Shreveport since 1983. You can contact him at 318-865-4914 or by visiting www.Jeb.net.