The Home Remodeling Process

Posted by John on January 20th, 2014

In this post, you’re going to learn:

– How your home improvement project is exactly like the space shuttle

– How to use the Home Remodeling Process for your next home improvement project

After another full weekend of labor and our home office floor is finally finished.  Now it’s time to turn our attention to the remainder of the remodeling process.  If you’ve never upgraded a house or even a room before and you’re not sure how to get from start to finish, this post should help.  I’m going to borrow the design and build process from my engineering experience and give it a home improvement spin.  You certainly don’t have to follow this process to get a quality result on your home project, but it may help you to map out the entire project so that you have less surprises.

The Home Remodeling Process

Ever wonder how people can build something so complex like a space shuttle or an ocean cruise liner?  It not only takes talented engineers and enormous budgets, but a build process that designers can all follow throughout the project.  The hull team needs to know the requirements of the propulsion team, the propulsion teams needs to know the requirements of the mission planners, the mission planners need to know the budget and the available talent and equipment.  It gets complicated pretty quickly.  Your home improvement projects, while considerably smaller in scale can benefit from following a similar process.  If you’re renovating an entire house or doing a lot of work in one room that includes electrical, plumbing, framing, drywall or furniture building all rolled together, you’ll be much better off following some sort of build process.

In this post, I’m going to describe a basic, 3-step design and build process for home improvement enthusiasts that can be used on nearly every project.

The Home Remodeling Process starts with the Concept Development Stage, moves into the Detailed Design Stage and then finishes with the Build and Installation Stage.  We are essentially moving from early ideas, to concrete plans to execution.  Our home office project is still in the Concept Development Stage since we don’t have any concrete plans for furniture or room layout yet.


Let’s take each stage and do a quick breakdown.

Concept Development

This first stage is where you brainstorm.  Spending hours on Pinterest during this stage is NOT a waste of time as you are getting a feel for what you want your home or room to look like when it’s finished.  You also may be looking through magazines or making mood boards.  It’s important to think about the requirements for your finished space.

For example, the requirements for our home office are:

-Additional storage

-Floor to ceiling built-ins

-A desk and separate workstation

-A station for the kids to play or draw/color

-Possible coffered ceiling

-Additional overhead lights

-Concealed printer storage

Notice that we didn’t list dimensions of the built-ins, talk about the finished look or specific details like beaded face frame cabinets or dark countertops (both of which are on our wish list, but aren’t necessary for this stage of the planning).  We’re aiming to get all of our requirements for this stage written down, but not get bogged down in the weeds of specifics design elements.

This biggest goal of this stage is to come out of it with a desk and built-in layout that we like so we can move forward with designing it.  There are some tools you can use to make this part of the process much easier.  For example, we’ve been working with a free design software called SketchUp to design the room layout.  In a future post, I’ll be showing you a video on how to use SketchUp for basic room layout options.

Detailed Design

The next stage in the home remodeling process is the detailed design work.  We’re going to take the layout and desk selections we made in the concept design stage and add much more detail and depth to our plans.  When you’re finished with the detail design stage, you should be ready to start buying material and swinging hammers.

Some of the details we’ll need to determine in this stage of the process are:

-Built-in cabinet dimensions including finished paint or stain color as well as door style and any additional cabinet features

-Coffered ceiling design and dimensions

-Location of overhead lights

-Identify required permits

-Pick a paint color for the walls

-Develop a plan to determine the order for all the projects

-Figure out how to do each project (ex, wire an overhead light, install crown molding, etc)

You can see that there’s a lot more specific requirements as opposed to general ideas in this portion of the planning.

It can be tempting to just jump right to the detailed design work for some elements of your remodel and in some instances that may be acceptable.  However, if you’re talking about a large project with a lot of interrelated portions, it’s wise to start at the beginning of the process and work your way up to the finish.  By skipping steps, you’re opening yourself up to making a mistake later on.  For example, if I decided to build the coffered ceiling first without taking into consideration what the finished built-in cabinets would look like, I’d probably run into issues if I took the cabinets to the ceiling.  At that point I might have to make changes to the ceiling or the cabinets.  Wouldn’t be fun.

If this process sounds a bit tedious and nerdy, understand that most of you are probably already following this to some extent already.  If you hired a contractor to help with your kitchen remodel and you told him that you want new cabinets, the first thing he’ll probably do is ask you how many cabinets, what sizes, colors, layouts, etc.  It’s unlikely that he’ll try to sell you a couple of 15″ wide stained cabinet within the first few minutes of meeting you.  If he did, you probably wouldn’t hire him.

The last part of the process is pretty straight forward, it’s the Build and Installation Stage.

Build and Installation

At this stage in the process, the wheels are already in motion.  I’m buying material at my local lumber supplier for my cabinets, I’ve already developed cut sheets and I’m stopping by my local township building to pickup my approved permits.  There isn’t much planning going on in this stage except for daily job plans.  For example, this Saturday, I’m going to accomplish X, Y and Z.

If you performed the first two steps thoroughly, this last step isn’t going to be very difficult, at least mentally.

I hope this post helped you understand how large, complex home improvement projects can be made easier through extensive planning.  It can be overkill at times, but in the end it’s usually worth the effort.

Here’s where our office stands at the moment…

office hardwood floor

If you’re interested in more home office work, you can also check out our friend Colette’s latest work.  She just installed hardwood flooring in her Ryan home and will be taking a similar approach to her space.  Check it out!

See you next time.

Posted in DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, ,

Our Hall Bathroom Painted

Posted by John on November 25th, 2012

Hey everybody! Hope all of our American friends safely and joyfully slept off their turkey induced comas. Lisa and I had a great holiday with our family. Thursday we drove up to Northeast PA and had dinner at my mom’s house. Driving for two hours back home after eating turkey can be dangerous, but luckily we made it back safe and sound. Friday was shopping and turkey round two with Lisa’s family.

A couple weeks ago, we finally got around to painting our upstairs hall bathroom. It’s been plain builder grade white since we moved in over two years ago. Since its our hall bath upstairs, it’s reserved for our daughter and the occasional overnight guests.

Here’s a shot of the bathroom before we moved in.

hall bath

Actually, a while ago, we showed the bathroom as a sneak peak in our 5 Tips for New Home Builders. When we built, we opted to skip the large builder grade mirror and instead asked the builder not to install anything at all. They were totally fine with that idea. After all, it was less work for them. We installed a couple Ikea Kolja mirrors instead for a more personalized look.

hall bathroom before

You can see that greenish shower curtain we added after we moved in. In keeping with that scheme, we picked Sherwin Williams Tidewater for the wall color. Lisa originally wanted a neutral bathroom, but once she found that shower curtain a few years ago she changed her mind.

hall bathroom being painted 2

hall bathroom being painted

The light bulbs in these shots distort the look of the room a little bit. We had CFLs in the vanity light, but switched to a clear filament bulbs for most of the after pictures. It’s a much whiter light.

hall bathroom after

painted bathroom tidewater sherwin williams

painted bathroom tidewater

We’re very happy with the color! Even though the room is still builder grade, the paint plays well with the white vanity and tile. If we never do another upgrade in this room, I’ll be fine with it. I’ve been asking Lisa to think of some crafts or artwork to dress the room up (100% her department). We do need to add a little more character me thinks.

How was your Thanksgiving break? Get any projects done?

Posted in Home Decor,House Tour,Staining and Painting. Tagged in ,, , ,

Christmas Gifts for Guys

Posted by John on November 19th, 2012

Can you believe Thanksgiving is this week already?  Ridiculous!  What’s even worse is we’ve already started decorating for Christmas.  Yikes.  It feels like it was Labor day just a couple of weeks ago!  We have a lot of fun Christmas activities planned per our usual holiday traditions.  There’s a ton to look forward to.  There is, however, one thing I dread every year and that is Christmas shopping.  I’m not a fan.  I never know what to buy Lisa.  It’s easier if she just tells me.  I can only imagine at least some of you suffer from the same ineptitude when it comes to buying gifts for your loved ones.  To help you out, Lisa and I are going to do back to back posts on what gifts we recommend this holiday season.  Yay!  I’ve written a post picking a bunch of gifts for the men in your life and Lisa will recommend gifts for the ladies.  We’re just trying to make life easier for everyone.  Plus, it’s fun to write lists.

Christmas Gifts for Guys 2012

1.  Black Ops 2.  Of course!  It’s the most exciting violent video game release since Modern Warfare 3 and Black Ops 1.  I’m all-in on this game.  This is literally at the top of my personal Christmas 2012 wish list.  Last year I made the switch from the COD franchise to Battlefield 3.  This year, I’m looking forward to getting back to Black Ops.  Is this an annoying gift to give your boyfriend or husband?  Maybe.  Does it beat watching golf and college football all day.  Yep.

2.  A Cordless Drill.

If he doesn’t already have one of these, get him one.  These drills are a thing of beauty.  I use one on nearly every DIY project I attempt.  Porter Cable also has a great 2 for 1 deal.  You can get a cordless impact driver and cordless drill for a pretty reasonable price.  Once my cordless DeWalt dies (if that ever happens in my lifetime), I’m going to grab a cordless impact driver.

3.  A Miter Saw.  These saws rule.  We have a sliding compound miter saw and I can’t live without it.  This Hitachi is a pretty basic unit, it’s just a compound miter, but it’s a great entry model.  If you’re up for something with a little more versatility, a sliding compound miter saw gets the job done.

4.  Beer of the Month Club.  This is a great gift.  If the beer is delivered right to your door, you don’t even have to stop playing Black Ops 2 to go out and buy some.  It’s a perfect.  Plus, guys are usually parched after using their cordless drill and miter saw all day.  For real though, a relative gave me a beer of the month club membership for Christmas a couple years ago and it was sweet.  There are 3 month, 6 month and 9 month options depending upon your budget.

5.  North Face Etip Gloves.    What a clever idea.  You don’t need to take your gloves off to use your touch screen smart phone or iPad.  Ingenious!  This is a great idea for regular skiers or anybody who spends a lot of time outdoors.


6.  A Kreg Pocket Hole Jig Kit.  This is a DIY blog.  We’re going to recommend a lot of home improvement products.  This may be my favorite.  We’ve built a ton of stuff using pocket holes… our first home’s kitchen cabinets, our garage shoe organizer, the dining room, on and on.  This is such a smart and easy to use system.  Great buy for any guy, but really anyone at all interested in DIYing.

Honorable Mention
Neck ties.  Lots of neck ties.

I’m pretty sure the guys on your shopping list won’t complain about any of the items above.  Unless they hate DIYing, video games, outdoors and have a gluten allergy.  Then it’s pretty much a bust.

***Full disclosure:  Lisa and I are members of Amazon.com associates.  If you purchase any of the items above, we get a small kickback.  If you’re interested in joining Amazon Associates, go to Affiliate-Program.Amazon.com ***

Posted in Blogging,Favorites,Holiday. Tagged in ,, , , , ,

All About Nail Guns

Posted by John on October 2nd, 2012

If you can’t tell, the whole home project thing is going a bit slowly at the moment. We do have a couple home improvement tricks up our sleeve yet, so don’t go anywhere! In the meantime, I thought I’d continue where I left off with our air compressor post last week. This time I thought I’d discuss air powered or pneumatic nail guns.

Nail guns are generally task orientated so you use the nail gun most appropriate to whatever you’re working on. For hobbyists that do a good amount of light carpentry work, this may be a brad nailer or maybe a finish nailer. If you’re framing up some 2x lumber while refinishing a basement or building a shed, then you’re going to want a framing nailer.

Here is a list of nail guns and how I’ve used them.

(via Porter Cable)

1. Brad Nailer. A brad nailer is pretty much the jack of all trades for hobbyists and DIYers. It shoot nails that range in length from around 1/2″ to 1 1/4″, maybe slightly longer depending upon the application. The nails are 18 ga, which if you’re not familiar with sizes the larger the number, the smaller the nail. I used a brad nailer to install all the baseboard and window trim in our first home. We also used one to assemble our sliding drawer project. You can’t use really long nails in these nor can you them to assemble 2×4’s or anything majorly large. There are a few different manufacturers on the market and the usually run around $100 new. This is a perfect first nail gun.

(via Porter Cable)

2. Finish Nailer. These nailers are a little bigger with 15 or 16 ga nails. They’re also capable of shooting much longer nails. These are more appropriate for specialty trim or carpentry projects. We used one to nail the MDF raised panel sections to the wall since the nail needed to go through 3/4″ thick MDF, 1/2″ thick drywall and then into the 2x wall stud. Price wise, they aren’t much more money than brad nailers.

(via Porter Cable)

3. Framing Nailers. These are some big nail guns. They shoot the regular flat head framing nails most of us are familiar with. They’re not very useful for smaller projects as they’re too powerful for window and door trim work. Framing nailers are a little more expensive than brad or finish nailers and can run around $200 for a new gun. They’re worth the price though considering how much time you can save framing up a basement or a home addition.

(via Senco)

4. Pin Nailers. These guns are considerably smaller than even the brad nailers. If you can’t tell from the name, they shoot very small, very thin nails designed to not leave a noticeable nail hole on your project. The downside? They are delicate, somewhat easier to break and are not ideal for all projects. You can’t use this gun for most window or door trim projects, the nails just aren’t long or big enough to grip something heavy. These nail guns are absolutely perfect for attaching small, thin pieces of wood that would look stupid with big nail holes in them or would otherwise split from larger nails. Pin nailers are not cheap either. Good guns can cost you more than a decent framing nailer!!

(via Senco)

5. Staplers. Staplers can be useful for certain application where nails just don’t provide adequate fastening. Like what? Well, like fabric or thin plywood. You can’t upholster a chair with nails, you need something to grab the fabric. The price for staplers is usually around the price of a brad nailer. I’ve never actually used one myself, but I haven’t worked on any projects that would require one.

Hope that helps to explain the basics of nail gun options. Any questions?

Posted in Carpentry,Garage and Tools,Tools. Tagged in ,, , , ,

DIY Fall Wreath

Posted by Lisa on September 17th, 2012

Hi kids!  We hope you had a great weekend – we sure did.  We kept the projects minimal and got to spend some great family time together.  I am not sure about you guys, but the weather here has been beautiful!  Fall is definitely in the air and we are so happy about it!

One of the projects I was able to was able to wrap up this weekend was a DIY Fall wreath for the inside of our front entry door.  If you remember, we recently painted the inside of our front door black, and I couldn’t wait to decorate it for Fall.

This is my first attempt at making a wreath from scratch.  I was able to get all the supplies from local fabric and hobby stores.

I started with a basic hay wreath.hay-wreath-1024x682


I decided to wrap the hay wreath with this awesome burlap wired ribbon.  Since it is wired, it was relatively easy to wrap around the wreath and keep it in place.



I glued the last bit of ribbon to the back of the wreath with hot glue.



I also purchased an orange and burgundy berry garland to add to the wreath.  I carefully untwisted each strand so at the end, I have about ten single berry strands.

I kept the main strand that the smaller berry strands were attached to so I could use it to adhere each strand to the wreath.  Catch my drift? This way I wouldn’t have to hot glue anything else, and I could always remove the berries to add something different.wire-on-wreath-1024x682


After the wreath was completed, I used orange wired ribbon to hang the wreath on the door.  I added a fancy silver command hook to the very top of the door (let’s hope it actually removes cleanly from the door – I wouldn’t want to have touch ups), and hung the wreath from there.

Here it is with the black door.



It’s tough taking a photo of anything against that door!!  I think it’s time to read a how-to book on our SLR.

Are you adding any wreaths to your home this Fall? 

Posted in Crafts,Home Decor. Tagged in ,, , ,

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