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Do Your Homework
By Tracy Dickinson
home :: home & garden :: featured remodels

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Remodeled kitchen

The best remodeling projects come from good planning.

When you’re considering buying a new home, it’s easy to shop around. You can attend home shows, spend every Sunday afternoon wandering from open house to open house, or tour model homes at your convenience. The opportunities to evaluate builders and home plans are nearly endless.

But if you’re leaning toward remodeling your current home—or just wondering if that’s even a possibility—educating yourself can be quite a challenge.

Take Good Notes

Veteran remodeler and home builder Devan Kaufman of Kaufman Construction in West Des Moines encourages potential clients to take their time with the decision-making process.

“The more time you take, the smoother the process will go,” he says.

One key assignment he always recommends is for homeowners to focus first on what doesn’t work in their current floor plan. “You don’t have to know exactly what you want the finished space to look like,” he says. “A good remodeler can help you create a design you love. But you need to know why you’re not happy with the space as it is.”

Take some notes. What would you like to change? Is the kitchen too crowded for multiple cooks? Do you need a better space for entertaining or family gatherings? Do you dream of an outdoor room for enjoying summer evenings in comfort?

“There are so many choices to make, so many factors to consider, that it really helps to take it slowly and to spend time looking at other remodeling projects to see what you like,” Kaufman says.

remodeled lower level bar

Choose the Best Material

The Remodelers Council of the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines’ Tour of Remodeled Homes could be just the homework assignment you need to get your notes in order.

The Tour of Remodeled Homes held every September is a rare opportunity to view several real-world remodeling projects and talk with the builders themselves. This year’s tour (see sidebar) features a variety of projects in the metro from several of the area’s top remodelers, including two by Kaufman Construction.

“One of our tour projects is a master suite remodel with a new bath and closet,” Kaufman says. “The other is a covered porch with built-in grill and entertaining area.”

Kaufman, this year’s tour chairman, says the reason he participates is the same reason he recommends the tour to homeowners. “It’s the best way for us to showcase our work and talk directly with clients. I enjoy showing off what we do. I take pride in our work, and I think this is the best way for homeowners to see the options available to them and to get ideas for remodeling their own homes.”

Keep It Current

When gathering ideas for your potential remodeling project, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Find out what’s current, what the new trends are in home construction and remodeling. Consider how those trends might work in your space.

According to remodeler Rob Walker of Beisser Lumber, “After years of natural-finish cabinetry, we’re seeing a lot more kitchens with painted cabinets.” These can work with different decorating styles and can add interest to an otherwise neutral space, experts say. And they’re easy to change when you want a new look.

Colin King of K&V Homes adds that many homeowners who are happy with their current location decide to remodel so they can incorporate some of the latest home construction trends into their existing home. “We see people wanting to redesign their space to incorporate mudrooms and pantries that older homes usually don’t have. And updating kitchens and baths is always popular.”

And remodelers are seeing a lot of outdoor living projects—everything from covered decks to outdoor rooms with kitchens, fireplaces, and televisions. “People want to expand their living space into the outdoors and take advantage of the weather as long as possible,” King says.

KRM Development’s Dan Knoup adds, “Outdoor living additions are definitely more popular, but that hasn't replaced kitchens and baths as our most common jobs. It's hard to enjoy your outdoor space year round but you will enjoy your new kitchen every day of the year.”

“The remodeling business has been growing steadily for the past couple years,” Kaufman says, “and this year is looking really strong.” That means you have more opportunities to see what’s current and to talk to other homeowners about their own remodeling projects.

remodeled bathroom

Organize Your Thoughts

Once you’ve taken some notes and you’ve had a chance to see what’s available and what’s trendy, gather your ideas and talk to some remodelers whose work you like.

“A good builder will have ideas to play off yours,” says Walker, so have your notes ready.

Kaufman adds that you don’t necessarily need to be ready for the planning stage when you schedule that initial meeting. “It can be really helpful with cost expectations, design options, and timing just to talk to a contractor early on. And it gives you a chance to find out which remodeler you’re comfortable with.”

King adds that the initial meeting allows you to come up with a general budget, which helps keep the design phase focused. “Depending on the scope of the project, we sometimes recommend the client get some architectural plans drawn so that each of the bids they receive is for the same work.”

The best relationships are always based on honesty and communication, so the more time you can spend with a potential contractor before you start a project, the more confident you’ll be in your decision. And the better the contractor will understand your needs and wishes.

As Knoup explains it, “Some people know exactly what they want and others know that they need help and don't know where to start. Both situations have their advantages and challenges. I tell people to find a remodeler that they are comfortable with because the relationship you have with your remodeler can either make or break your project for you.”

You may not know how to make your current home fit your dreams, but that’s no reason to give up on it completely. If you get your homework done and find the right professional to help, you could be showing off your remodeling project to next year’s aspiring remodelers.

Tour of Remodeled Homes

Presented by the Remodelers Council of the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines

Saturday, September 21 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
Sunday, September 22 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.

Locations throughout the metro (see below)

$10 per person


Participating Builders and Projects:
Firstcall Construction – 7459 Barnsley Drive, Johnston
Fleming Construction, LLC – 4509 93rd Street, Urbandale
Grand Homes & Renovations – 1608 S 42nd Street, West Des Moines
GreenBuilt Projects – 684 Harwood Drive, Des Moines
Helland Construction – 14107 Southshore Drive, Clive
Kaufman Construction – 660 SE Woodcrest Drive, Waukee & 2540 Woodland Court, West Des Moines
Red House Remodeling – 1920 Ashworth Road, West Des Moines
Silent Rivers Design+Build – 4816 Stone Bridge Circle, West Des Moines
Williams Remodeling – 824 55th Street, West Des Moines


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