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Getting Oriented to Home Improvement

A Matter of Temperament

Home improvement is not for everyone, and I'm not thinking only about physical strength or even building skill. I'm talking about disposition. Can you think ahead? Can you plan? Can you handle frustration? All of these are prerequisites for staying sane while doing your own improvements.

You'll need to plan the steps, the materials, the time, and the design. What materials, colors, and textures would look best in this particular room? How wide should the molding be? Although design questions are often overlooked in home-improvement books, they can be the most important—and rewarding—questions of all. That's why I've introduced many projects with some notes on design.

What about frustration? In books, tools never break. You never run out of wood or have to change plans because the spousal unit turned thumbs-down to your brilliant, half-finished design. You never have to clean up at the end of the day and haul the tools back out in the morning. But all these frustrations are part of real-world home improvement.

Can you improvise? Ask anybody who does remodeling: Walls hide surprises, and the older the house, the more you may need to implement solutions to those surprises. In describing each project, I've discussed common issues you may confront, but given the huge range of construction details found in homes, there is no way I could cover them all. You may indeed need to learn some improvising skills.

Is This Project for You?

After you read about a particular project you might try, answer the following questions to help you decide whether that project is right for you—and you are right for it:

  • Are you good at solving problems in this field?

  • Do you own—or can you borrow or rent—the necessary tools?

  • Can you do the work alone? Will help be available if needed?

  • How soon must the project be finished?

  • Will bad weather hold you up?

  • How much of your house will be out of commission?

A Family Affair

Think your project won't disrupt your family? Decommissioning a spare room, even a living room, is one thing, but placing the kitchen or the only bathroom off-limits can be tough on the kinfolk, particularly those who thrive on neatness and routine.

Home work is inevitably a family affair, and I promise to squelch my social advice after offering one suggestion: Keep the lines of communication open. Make sure your family knows—and, if necessary, approves—your plans. Don't schedule a major project the week before the in-laws arrive, or the day before your significant other has to finish a major project at work.

Next: Local codes >>

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Simple Home Improvements © 2004 by David J. Tenenbaum. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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