Before You Renovate, Take a Word of Advice From The Building Hugger

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Amy Nicole Swift, Detroit’s Building Hugger, and master renovator, has a few tips for you before you start planning your home renovation.

1. Develop a list of priorities and a realistic timeline for working through those items, even if that means planning 5 years out. It’s important to remain flexible. Renovations are always full of unknowns, no matter how well you might plan. Sometimes you have to compromise part of your vision to make a project work, but that can open up other creative opportunities. It’s all in your attitude: challenges can either be problems or they can be opportunities. Having a clear set of researched objectives can help guide you through the hiccups.

2. ​When you’re renovating an older home nothing will end up perfect. Don’t lose sight of why you probably fell in love with your old home in the first place: there’s an intrinsic beauty ​in its imperfections. If you expect straight floors, perfectly plumb doors, and flawless finishes then an old home might not be for you. Your home renovation will also never be really be “done” as there will always be another project down the pipeline — coming to terms with this will save you some anxiety.

3. ​Don’t take too much on yourself without starting a project without a solid plan.​ ​I work with a lot of homeowners that try to cut out the project management costs of hiring a general contractor and/or architect to save money, but that often costs them money or time or both in the long run. I suggest working with a building professional that is open to helping you save money by accommodating DIY projects in their scheduling​, as well as coaching you through some of those projects. It’s an approach I started to take in my business because that’s what Detroiters seem to want.

4. It’s important that you find building professionals in your area that are familiar with the era and construction method in which your house was constructed. You want to hire someone that can anticipate the inevitable challenges that come with working in an older home because they will already have an action plan in mind based on their previous experiences. What is the contractor’s pricing structure? Do they make money on a markup if they sell you on new windows or flooring as opposed to refinishing? Because of course they’re going to tell you the windows or flooring can’t be saved. Don’t work with anyone that’s pushy or doesn’t listen to what you want. Make sure your contractor aligns with your philosophy for restoration and shares your vision because you will be relying on them to guide you through every decision you make.

Amy works on restoring windows often, as she and Jennifer are pictured above. Another tip to keep in mind is:

5. New window companies have been very successful at convincing the public that replacement windows are significantly more energy efficient than historic windows. But that’s simply not true. ​A well maintained historic window with a storm panel is at least as efficient as a new window, and if properly maintained with paint and routine care, will last another hundred years or more. The ROI of investing in your historic windows is actually better because of their repairability. Unfortunately, as a dying trade​, ​window restoration has become a somewhat pricey boutique craft in recent years, but I’m hoping to shift that perception with a new approach to the services we offer.

Amy is wearing the Carhartt Force Performance Tank (color available next spring), Driving Glove, & Series 1889 Slim Double Front Dungaree. Jennifer is wearing the Carhartt Force Performance T-Shirt, Driving Glove, & Relaxed-Fit Sandstone Kane Dungaree.