Redesign and Renovate Your House or Apartment: Introduction

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At the start of a renovation project you are full of anticipation and good ideas. At the end of the long process you are rewarded with your vision realized, your residence transformed. In between are months of planning (hours poring over catalogues and trekking through showrooms) and construction (dust and disruption), as well as possible delays, cost overruns, and frustration. House-and-home magazines are filled with titillating “before and after” stories, whereas books and websites are written about the pitfalls of the process. You may ask, “Why bother?” The answer is: it's most definitely worth the effort.

You probably have at least one reason for wanting to renovate your house or apartment.

For most people the pressing need is for more usable living space. A new baby needs a bedroom, a flourishing home-based business needs office space, stereo-blaring adolescents need a recreation room. New domestic technology has created space problems in addition to making our lives easier. Where do we put the microwave, food processor, computer and printer, CD player, or Nautilus machine? Many homes are large enough but poorly organized or laid out, with a lot of wasted space that could be turned into living space or desperately needed storage. In an apartment or row house, with finite available square footage, a radical reevaluation of the layout may provide solutions. In a freestanding house there are more options: alter the floor plan, convert an attic, or construct an addition.

Renovation can also be a way to personalize your environment. There is something very reassuring about living in a place that was designed especially for you. There is a place to display your ceramics collection, and a large window perfectly frames the view you love. You finally have the French doors to the balcony that you have fantasized about and a large bedroom with a skylight over the bed. The bathroom has a shelf for your radio, room for all your cosmetics, and a soaking tub.

There are strong aesthetic reasons to renovate. Your house may be dull and characterless, with small, dreary rooms and long, narrow hallways. The kitchen and bathrooms are inefficient or unattractive. Much can be done to add character to a house that was originally poorly designed. On the other side of the coin, many people undertake the arduous chore of reconstruction in order to preserve the historic character of their period homes. A good many formally gracious old houses and apartments have been unsympathetically “modernized.” Restoration-minded renovators study the architectural style of the house, examine documented prototypes, and attempt to reconstruct the house as it was originally built.

Finally, there are the practical reasons for renovating: to upgrade or repair a deteriorated building, to make a house more energy-conserving or maintenance-free, and to increase the real estate value of the property.

THE SCOPE OF THE RENOVATION PROJECT

Not every renovation is disruptive, expensive, or time-consuming. A minor renovation project may entail removing nonstructural partitions, replacing windows and doors, substituting new cabinets for old, and adding closets and cupboards. Moderate-sized projects would include adding a greenhouse or installing a new bathroom or kitchen.

Adding one or more rooms to a house would be considered a major renovation. The term “gut renovation” refers to the process of entirely re moving the interior fixings of a house, rearranging the interior spaces, and replacing kitchen, baths, and mechanical systems. Remodeling a barn or burned-out masonry shell would require an equal amount of work.

Any renovation project, regardless of its rationale or scope, requires an enormous amount of forethought. This guide outlines the sequence of steps between planning and completion and discusses available options at every juncture. With it in hand you should be able to monitor your renovation with confidence.

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