Take care of all mechanical systems throughout the house. This means that every portion of the plumbing, electrical, heating, air conditioning, and ventilation systems must be upgraded to meet modern living needs. You may be able to use the existing systems, but they might be outdated and require some expansion or upgrading.
Electrical systems, particularly in any house built before 1960, may not be adequate to handle all of the modern appliances in your household.You can pretty much rely on your inspection report to point out most of the deficiencies in you mechanical systems, but it is probably worth a few extra dollars to call in several specialists, one to look at each system. They can also provide an estimate of what it will cost to have them make the necessary repairs or upgrades to the system. With that in hand you can evaluate, in terms of your own capabilities and pocketbook, whether or not you want to do the work yourself.
Make a complete floor plan of the room arrangements you want to alter. Complete. Don’t just sketch the kitchen and then start knocking down the walls. Measure and draw each of the areas to be affected. An extra couple hours spent at this stage may save you thousands of dollars and immeasurable headache and heartache later.
Locate and price all of the equipment you plan to install in the house: kitchen cabinets, stall showers, tubs, sinks, toilets, refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers -- anything made by an outside manufacturer that has a prescribed size and power or water requirements. You need to evaluate the make and model of each piece of equipment, and whether you have enough space for it in the room where you plan to put it. You must also make allowances for bringing power or water to your equipment, if that is what it needs to operate. Only after you’ve done careful planning should you go ahead and buy the equipment you need.
Now you can consider the decorating, the color paint you will need and how much of it, wallpaper, flooring, and so on, and what has to be done in each room.
How about the outside?
In most incidences, renovation of the outside of a house is not a primary consideration -- at least not in making the house functional and livable. It may be a personal concern. It may be a concern of the neighborhood, or the block where the house stands, particularly if the house hasn’t been painted in fifteen years and stands out as an eyesore. There may be some dangers involved -- if, for example, the facade has loose stonework or broken stoops steps. Most of all, there may be a personal pride lurking in your soul that drives you to repair the front of the building before you do anything else. That’s your privilege. It is usually not necessary, but you can certainly work from the outside in, if you wish.
Even if you are not attending to the facade first, make sure that the roof is watertight, and that the gutters and leaders are performing their function of carrying water away from the building. Water runoff has a considerable amount to do with wet basements, so if you have a problem with a flooding cellar after heavy rains, making the gutters and leaders work properly may provide the solution.
Even as these mechanical systems are being upgraded, it is important to develop a full plan for your entire renovation. One of the reasons you need a complete plan is economics, but it is just as important that you have a full knowledge of exactly what you have to work with. It is only through the development of a well-thought-out plan that you can be sure all of the space you need will be provided. You can run into some serious problems, for example, if you decide to create a bathroom and forget to allow enough space for the door to swing into the room, or if you forget to allow enough closets in a bedroom.
A special thanks to the following contractors for contributing to this article: DFW Appliance Repairs, and Sinclair Masonry of Houston.