If you feel that step one of the planning process is deciding what to do with that awful kitchen or where to add the extra bedroom, you’ve gone too far. Back up. Your first task, which could take weeks or even months, is to examine your needs, desires, and motivations for wanting to remodel in the first place.
Ask yourself this question: What should the home be like in five years? There is nothing magical about the number five, but it is a realistic time span for accomplishing several remodeling projects in an orderly fashion-projects you might not be able to do all at once because of limited resources. The idea here is not to focus on one particular project, even if it solves the most irritating problem at hand. The idea is to see in larger perspective what you and your family really want for your home. Then you can form long-range goals and design projects that best meet those goals.
How does your household discover its wants and needs and set goals? The best way is to make lists. Start a notebook. You’ll come back to it time and again. Your initial lists don’t have to be well written, logical, or even practical. It is important to include everyone in your family, even future members.
Sit down together and list what you want for your home. Be sure to note your desires as well as your needs, since extravagant fantasies don’t cost anything at this stage. There’s plenty of time to be practical later. Simply write down what comes to mind. For example: We need more storage or replacing the old kitchen cabinets.
Whenever possible, list the underlying reasons for each idea. Why do you want to make the change? Do you need more space, want a more modern look, or intend to make your house more energy-efficient? Reasons are important because they can help bring agreement over differences later on, they can help you see other ways to accomplish the same goals, and they can help you set priorities.
After everyone has had a chance to offer ideas, pool them together. You will have dozens of suggestions and 10, 20, or 50 reasons for them. After some refining and perhaps coming back to the list several times, you will have a tool to be used in the next step, which is to establish a list of concrete goals. These goals may change over the coming weeks and months, but for now read through your first list of ideas carefully. Try to identify the underlying reasons that overlap and build on each other.
These reasons and their suggestions will help generate some specific goals for your home. For example: A kitchen where the family can come together, or walk-in closets for clothes. Perhaps you’re thinking a basement recreation room for the children, or an upstairs master suite?
The final step is to rank this list by priorities. What should be done first, second, third, and so on? Again, this list may change over time, but if enough effort has gone into the preparation to this point, your goals should be clear now.
Many factors contribute to the process of ranking your goals. Urgent needs may cause you to place one goal higher than others. Or you may meet some goals with very little effort and therefore give them high priority. Some goals must be met before others: for instance, new siding should be applied before a deck is added. Some goals may meet the needs of more family members than others. Some may involve more chaos and debris than you’re willing to put up with right now. And so on.
Note that no goals are eliminated or compromised, they are merely ranked according to your priorities. This is important. Most likely your budget and time constraints would make a total remodeling or renovation of the house out of the question. Unfortunately, many homeowners still tackle the project all at once and simply squeeze it into the budget by making compromises. They usually end up dissatisfied. It is much easier to see remodeling as an orderly series of steps toward a final goal. You can undertake each step, or project, as time and resources permit. The only compromises are in rearranging priorities, not in reducing the quality of each project.