When it comes to remodeling projects – from the upgrades of the corner of one room to an entire house gutting – the experts agree that one thing is crucial: planning. Restoration projects, whether for a historical property or just a general tune up, are all about the details. Have a passion project on the horizon, like a pool or home theatre? A curb appeal reboot with exterior renovations and landscaping? Whatever the project, preparation is key.
Kent Hoffman, owner of OKC-based Kent Hoffman Construction, says that the No. 1 priority during your planning time is to get as specific as possible.
“Have a good plan and not just a description – a plan, where a designer or architect has done a drawing and the owner and contractor have signed off on it. From there, the contractor can develop the budget, timeline and commence work once it meets the owners’ approval,” he says. “The biggest mistake is to call me when you really haven’t thought [it through]. You have to have a plan for permits, and the contractor can break it down to where everyone has a good ground zero to start from.”
Not only does a lack of preparation slow down the process, but it can get pricey.
“When the builder and the subcontractors don’t have clear direction, money gets spent, the product doesn’t materialize at a good pace and momentum can be lost,” he says. “So have as much information as possible, whatever your project.”
Prepping Your Space
Be smart before you start when it comes to remodeling. Remember that your home will likely be chaotic for the next period of time, so get ready for go-time.
“Clear the space of all furniture, area rugs, art and mirrors, and make a space to store building materials – either in the garage or a spare room,” says David Trebilcock, owner of Tulsa’s Trebilcock Construction. “And if neither of these are an option, rent a storage container and have it on site. Always have a clear pathway to the room or rooms you are renovating.”
Additional expert tips include taking an audit of belongings for insurance purposes, as well as taking the opportunity to do a deep clean, donating unwanted items to avoid clutter. Before construction is also an ideal time to consider installing or updating to a top-notch security system, since many people will be in and out of your space.
Keeping Your Home Safe and Clean
You’ve taken the plunge. Now, how do you keep your home relatively organized during a major remodel?
“Try to keep plastic in doorways with zippers – known as zip walls – and cover your furniture with plastic. Cover smoke detectors,” advises Trebilcock. “Have plenty of drop cloths, shoe covers and extra plastic for daily use. If weather permits, try to turn your thermostat to off, or low enough so it doesn’t run very often, as this helps with dust in the rest of the house.
“Write down questions and concerns to ask your contractor about, and don’t forget to let them know they’re doing a good job every now and then,” he continues. “If something doesn’t look right, ask your contractor if it’s finished or in the process. Don’t just assume that it is finished; this will keep both of you happy.”
Other sanity saving measures include keeping ideas, contracts and receipts organized and in a safe place; establishing a safe room for pets; and using fitted bed sheets to cover furniture.
Trends on the Rise
Experts in the field of home improvement are noting emerging trends from the past few years.
“During the pandemic and immediate post-pandemic, we saw very linear designs with a very balanced view,” says Kathy Caviness, owner of Caviness Landscape Design in Arcadia. “I believe it was a needed space for order in a very unpredictable time. While those designs are necessary to reflect certain architectural styles, people are coming back to a more natural setting that creates more of an escape, bringing more nature into a space. Enhancements like water and fire features bring a much-needed peaceful aesthetic.”
She continues: “There is still a huge trend in bringing indoor living to the outside, creating additional ‘rooms’ and places to entertain,” she says. “A fire pit area creates a great conversation space, while a pool area is a great spot to entertain or retreat. A space to work from home on a covered patio is a new trend.”
Hoffman notes a trend for large remodels of kitchens, bathrooms and outdoor living rooms, and says an outdoor room can include a pool or detached cabana.
“In the new build world, you still see a lot of modern – but it seems to be coming back from the white modern box to a more traditional style,” he says.
In terms of favored projects, Hoffman enjoys “taking an older home that has great bones and completely bringing it back to today’s world of upgrades. That means down to the studs: wiring, plumbing, heat and air, but with enough of the bones left for a comprehensive remodel.”
Pool and Backyard Upgrades
Backyards trends are brimming with gazebos, pergolas and personal sheds. Hoffman is noting a call for cabanas, fire features, high-end audio/visual systems and even golf putting greens.
When taking on pool additions and backyard renovations, Hoffman says to confer with a landscape architect and find a reputable pool contractor by doing homework and asking friends. Check the Better Business Bureau and even drive around neighborhoods to get reference points and inspiration.
Integrating a swimming pool into a landscape takes some expertise to get that ‘wow’ factor.
“The first thing to consider is the easements of the property,” says Caviness. “That will determine the placement choices for the pool. Another thing to consider is your lifestyle. Do you like to entertain? Are there young children to think of? What is the topography of the site? Will it need retaining walls, or are there drainage issues to consider? We always ask to make a list of the features you desire in the order of what is important to you – like water features, spas, sun shelfs, lap pools and a diving area. We can tell you whether those features will fit into your budget.”
Landscaping, Caviness says, should not be overlooked.
“Landscaping is the ‘frame’ around a pool, and completes the look,” she says. “We love incorporating beds around the pool area to soften and bring nature into the design. Mature specimen trees can create a focal point. Evergreen trees and bushes not only provide greenery year-round, but can bring more nature, such as birds, into the outdoor space. Natural grasses are eco-friendly, softening the landscape and providing different textures.”
As you plan, consider the big picture.
“We love doing comprehensive projects that entail the whole package – pool, landscape, hardscape, outdoor kitchens, lighting, fire features and water features – especially nature-inspired designs, which are timeless,” Caviness says.
Hoffman reminds home owners that pool maintenance is ongoing – and says it’s more than possible to keep a pool attractive and ‘viewable’ all year round.
“You can keep it pretty,” he says. “But you have to pay attention, use the test kit, keep the water right and the filters clear, and use the skimmers. In Oklahoma, that is work – in fall and spring, it’s difficult with leaves, pollen and seed pods. The easy way is to hire a pool service company, and that’s in addition to chemicals.”
Consider safety factors before taking a mallet to a wall or spending a lot on materials.
“To keep a safe job site, always make sure the floors are clear of trash and debris, boards with nails are discarded, and power tools are unplugged at night,” says Trebilcock. “Cover all holes and vents so nobody steps in them, make sure there are no hot exposed electrical wires and that caps are installed on all plumbing lines.”
Stock up on masks, gloves and shoe covers, and if you wield equipment yourself, use safety glasses. Ensure you’re renovating legally, both with permits and covered with insurance. It’s also important to find out if it’s safe to sleep in your house during remodeling when fumes and unsteady structures can be tricky. Ensure the carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are functional and have a fire extinguisher on hand. Happy renovating!