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What if I Need to do Maintenance Before I Remodel Plan?

Today’s question is actually one I don’t get asked often enough. Here it goes: How can I get started now on my fun mid-century home update plans when I have this feeling I should do maintenance before I remodel?

Don’t forget to sign up for the summer Mid-Century Design Clinic by July 31st to get the early bird pricing!! Plan a deck or patio update perfect for you and your home!

I don’t get asked because  way too many people assume it’s the wrong question to ask!  Is this you?  Do you think you have to take care of some maintenance and repair work first.  You should replace the furnace, get a new roof on, repair that rotted deck – before you  can do the fun things … before you can start making your house into your home?

I understand the logic of this.  And if you are someone who likes to work before they play, eat a good dinner before desert or just generally earn their fun … I get it.  It sounds adulting and responsible home-owning 101.  

But it this case, it’s the absolutely wrong idea. 

Here’s the short version of today’s episode: Don’t let your maintenance to do list stop you from dreaming big dreams for your home.  All those inspection check list items are design opportunities in disguise!

Make sure you grab the Cornerstones of Mid Mod Design workbook to learn how to make the most of any maintenance update and make sure that your update home has as much (or MORE) Mid mod charm than it had when you started!

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Resources to Avoid Getting Stuck in Maintenance Before You Remodel 

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Read the Full Episode Transcript

Before we get started. We are deep into deck season. Now, are you loving your outside spaces? August 6th, I’m taking the mid-century design clinic outside to cover patios decks and outside spaces. Show up live or catch the recording. if you can’t make it. And I will walk you through the process of planning an amazing deck or patio update that will take your indoor-outdoor living space to the next level, perfectly suit your home and keep or improve on its mid-century flavor. I don’t want you to miss it.

Today’s question is actually one. I don’t get asked often enough, here it goes. How can I get started on my mid-century home update when I have maintenance stuff that seems like it needs to be done first? I don’t get asked this enough because way too many people assume they have to take care of maintenance or repair work – replace the furnace, get a new roof, repair a rotted deck – before they can do fun things before they can start making their house into their home. I understand the logic of this. And if you’re someone who likes to work before they play, eat a good dinner before dessert, or just generally earn their fun. I get it. It sounds like adulting and responsible home owning 101. I was raised in the Midwest and I totally have this work ethic also, but in this case, it’s absolutely the wrong idea. So here’s the short version of today’s episode. Don’t let your maintenance to-do list stop you from dreaming big dreams for your home. All of those inspection checklist items are opportunities for design in disguise. Hey there, welcome back to mid mod remodel. This is the show about updating MCM homes, helping you match a mid-century home to your modern life. I’m your host Hansmann architect and mid-century ranch enthusiast. You’re listening to season nine, episode four.

Before we get started the resources of the week this week is the same as last week. Grab yourself the new mid mod cornerstones guide go to midmod-midwest.com/cornerstones to follow along with everything that’s been happening on Instagram this week. I’ve gone live every day to dig deeper into those four design principles we covered last week. If you wanna make sure that your remodel stays mid-century when you’re done, you don’t wanna miss this. Plus there’s a bonus discount code in the guide that will get you all signed up for the upcoming mid-century design clinic for less. Grab the guide and then sign up for the clinic. It’s going to be an absolute gas, fun, informative. I want you to be there. Remember you can register for the clinic right up until we go live on August 6th. That’s a week from Saturday now, but sign up before the end of this weekend, by July 31st, to get your ticket for less. I hope I’ll see you there.

You’ll see the show notes with links to the references we make and a transcript of this episode on my website, at midmod-midwest.com/ 904. So something I hear from homeowners all the time is that they have plans to do fun remodeling projects on their house. They’re gonna be getting in touch with me soon…as soon as they get some of this necessary maintenance stuff out of the way. First, sometimes I don’t even get asked the questions. Sometimes people come to me ready to start on their plans now that they have taken care of replacing their deck, replacing a roof, updating outdated electrical systems. And of course we take their design concerns on and try to make the most we can. But honestly, when this happens, I already know that that client has missed a huge opportunity because they aren’t going to have the chance to get double duty out of the necessary update work and tweak the design of their house at the same time as they do those maintenance projects.

So if you’re still in the step before that stage, in the example, if you’re thinking now that you might have to hold yourself back from doing fun projects on your house, in order to take care of those adulting level repair and maintenance tasks, don’t make this mistake. Just about any maintenance replacement issue can be a design opportunity in disguise. Here are a couple of examples. If you are replacing your HVAC system, your furnace is old and needs to be tuned up, or your air conditioning isn’t working. This might be an opportunity for you to completely change the layout of your basement space for less than you ever could, if you just decided with a perfectly intact furnace that you wanted to move it to another location in order to create better flow. But while you’re replacing it, it will never be easier to shift the location to shift duct work, to shift some of these things that might otherwise be in the way of future design projects.

If you plan these things together, you can bundle those costs into one price tag and one time expense, labor challenge, one episode of drywall dust in your house, ditto, other mechanical things like a hot water heater. It’s never easier to move it than when you’re replacing it. If you need to do electrical replacement or just replace the old BX cable inside your walls with Romex the best time to do that is bundle together with other design work, bundled together with tearing open your walls. For other reasons, if you tear open your walls and replace your electrical and then decide you wanna change the layout on your house, it’s going to feel like a wasted effort. It’s going to feel like an impediment that will stop you for making future changes that could make your life better. On the other hand, if you tie those two tasks together, it can make so much sense to do a little bit of layout shifting while you’re already taking care of some necessary tasks that your inspector told you you’d had to get done when you bought the house.

So that covers some of those sort of invisible, mechanical things happening behind the scenes in your house. Sometimes you have to do repair or replacement things on more visible elements. If you have trouble with your plumbing fixtures, again, mid-century era houses were built to last, but some of them are running on 70 plus years now, and old pipes are not necessarily the best pipes. If you’ve had, uh, water softener issues in the past, your pipes may be getting corroded and starting to fill up. You might have slow flow or slow, hot water to various parts of your house that could be improved with new plumbing while you’re replacing faulty or out of date plumbing. That’s your opportunity to also change fixtures. You love to replace the old ones. If you’ve got original vintage fixtures, you might wanna keep them. If they’ve been replaced in the eighties, nineties, or early two thousands, you definitely wanna choose something new that harkens back more to the era of the house.

This is where your style guide comes in. And the thing is you’re going to wanna be able to have a good decision making process in mind when it comes to, oh, you need a new faucet. Well, how do you choose a new faucet, by the way, we’re gonna be devoting an entire episode later this season two, how do I choose a new perfect faucet stove range, paint, color, light switch, light fixture. You name it. We’ll be doing all of that in the later episode. But my point is you wanna have the answer to that question? Ready? Before the plumber, who’s just come over to fix some old pipes tells you we need a new faucet here, which one do you want? We wanna come install it tomorrow. That’s a stressful situation that you can avoid by bundling together your maintenance work with a larger home update plan.

At this point, I’m just listing things off the top of my head from the new homeowner’s checklist. If you, for example, got your house, an energy test, and you found that you’ve got leaky doors or windows, you might think the first thing you need to do is replace your door, your window elements of the house that seem to be thermally faulty, uh, before you can afford to start saving up for other replacement. But if you just go to the window store to the door store and let them sell you on whatever they find to be there most easy to install an economical replacement, you might find down the line that when you’re thinking about the design of your home and how it suits or does not suit its original mid-century character, you’ve already made a very costly investment in something that you wouldn’t have chosen.

If you taken a little more time yet again, taking a pause before you just address a maintenance issue to think about your bigger, your master plan process will not only win you a better result, but will actually have the potential to save you money in the long run. All right, basically the point here is that every maintenance replacement is an opportunity to change something about the design of your home for potentially little or no extra cost. It’s also a great chance to fold in more sustainable choices on demand, hot water, better insulation in the attic, basically, even in a maintenance emergency. I want you to take a breath and look for a chance to tie it together. Some with something fun in design, if you have a suddenly emergent situation where something on your house has broken, you have to get it fixed. You need hot water in your house.

These things happen, but the more you can take a breath and think about if there are any bundled opportunities, even to the point of just asking the contractor who comes to help you with the problem. Is there anything else you often do at the same time that you tackle this issue? They may have some suggestions of how you could make this unfortunate expense, a secret win, or at least add a silver lining. But the ideal version is to cut down on those kind of maintenance emergencies by having a master plan. When I go through the master plan process with my clients, I ask them not just to tell me what they want their house to look like and how we want to improve the flow. But what are the upcoming maintenance things that are on the horizon? What’s the age of the furnace, the roof.

Do we need to think about hazardous materials in the house? Is there lead paint, asbestos in the popcorn ceiling, other things that need to be remediated? Basically our goal is to turn up as many of these future issues during the master plan process as possible, that comes up in the house discovery phase and when they can be planned for they’re less of a cost sink and certainly less of a nasty surprise. So you can always try to tie in your necessary, boring home adulting projects with a delightful design upgrade. And then they won’t even feel so onerous or expensive because they’re not just something you had to do. There’s something you wanted to do when you look at it that way, these tasks, aren’t something that has to be gotten out of the way before you get started. They’re part of the total package and we can always bundle ’em together with some design win to make them feel more fun.

Now, the other thing about these seemingly simple, just do it. First maintenance projects is that they often grow in scale. For example, replacing a roof means you’re not just going to decide to call a team of contractors and get some work done, but you’re gonna be choosing what material, what color will it be? You’ll make choices about price that will affect your ability to do other work in the future. And this is a perfect example of a project spiraling because roof replacement often includes gutter replacement. It may turn up that fascia or other trim around the house. Isn’t in great condition and needs replacing suddenly it’s not just a roofing project, but a small general contracting project. Just choosing a new roofing material is a design decision. If you start replacing your gutters and doubt spouts, they may be damaged in the process and most roofers will offer to replace ’em.

At the same time, you wanna think about what your future exterior color of your house will be because ideally in a mid-century house. And I’ve talked about this before, actually just earlier this season in the colors, what color should I paint my house episode? The first one of this season, you would like your downspouts to be the exact same color as you’re siding so that they are less visually obtrusive who really wants to point the focus, put the spotlight on their downspouts. Okay. So what color should your downspouts be? What color will your house be? Now you’re replacing your roof and you need to know what your new house paint color will be. Perhaps you didn’t plan to make that change for a couple of years now. But if you have a plan for the long term, again, if you have a master plan, these maintenance questions start having more answers in them than questions.

What I want you to avoid is the feeling that you’ve done work. You paid good money. You experienced the disruption of remodeling just a few years ago, and now you two years from now are ready to pick a gorgeous new color for your house and really take the style of it up a notch. And you realize you wish you hadn’t chosen those downspouts. You wish you’d chosen a different color for your replacement windows. You wish you had done something differently. So I understand not everyone has time to master plan an entire project before taking on the first maintenance upgrades necessary to a new home or any emergent maintenance project as it comes up. But I highly recommend taking an area specific approach to using the master plan method. And again, this is what we’re gonna be doing next week at the midcentury design clinic, we’re gonna use the steps of the master plan, process, dream discover, distill draft develop as applied to one area of the house in this case, patio’s decks and those outdoor spaces adjoining your house and your backyard.

And we’ll look at how all of the decisions in that area plug into a larger overall scheme. So that’s the glass half empty way to look at it. I’ve been giving you a lot of negativity. If you jump in and just take care of the maintenance project before you do your design-related decisions, you risk regretting that choice later, but let’s look at it this more positively. What if you take the time to run the master plan method around whatever maintenance choice you have to make. The best way of course is to have an entire master plan for your entire house. That’s why we call it the master plan method. But even if you just take your time to go through the five steps in any particular area, that means you can lock in some of the key decisions that you’ll make over and over again throughout your remodel project, throughout your lifetime in the home.

So if you take the time to fully realize what you want the exterior of your house to be, for example, before you replace the roof, before you update peeling, siding, or remediate lead paint, then you can take a big picture approach. You can start with your style guide process, even if it’s only dealing with the exterior materials at first. You will have made some decisions in that process, which will help you apply to the rest of your remodeling in the house forever. You’ll be making your life easier going forward rather than creating problems. Those style choices that you make in these first couple of projects are particularly important to keep consistent. As you go through all of the changes you might make to your home and to make sure that they already refer to the things you like about the house you have right now, it’s really important to having a polished, cohesive look for your house.

It’s also really valuable when it comes to creating that sense of flow between spaces that we’re talking about in the cornerstone workshop, that’s happening all week on Instagram right now today on Thursday, if you’re listening to this live, we’re gonna be talking about it in the Instagram live in the afternoon, having consistent materials that flow, not just from one part of your interior to the other, but flow from the outside of the house, to the, in things like having the same material happen in your fireplace and a little bit of decorative brick or stone outside the house, even having a color or a wood siding, stain color, a finished material like that flow from the outside to the end is really important to helping the house flow together and feel intentional. Any changes you make based on choices you like in the house will help the additions you make, the changes you make, the new work you do, feel intentional, organic, and not like a strange grafted on appendage.

You want it to feel like it grew out of what was there before. So we’re definitely gonna be diving into that as well in the mid-century design clinic. When we go through all of this a week from Saturday, we’ll be talking very specifically about how to interleave the shape and materials of two adjoining spaces inside and outside your house so that they feel related to each other. So in fact, it feels like you’re kind of in one big space divided by the thermal boundary of your house, whether you’re standing in your den, looking outta your deck or standing on the deck, looking in through a window at your house, you’re in a larger room than either of those two spaces, getting into all of the issues surrounding how you can empower yourself to make changes the way you live in your house.

By shifting the floor plan, especially as we think about indoor outdoor spaces is something that will be addressing more next week in the podcast and also at the design clinic. Um, but here’s what I want you to know today. The odds are that if you’re replacing any visible element of your house, you will be so much better served. If you’ve already done some work on your style guide, if you’ve done some of the work and figuring out what your personal vision is for the house, what mid-century modern means to you, and it will really help you. If you have that established before you get asked a question about, “Hey, I’m gonna get you a new faucet, which one do you want?” by a plumber, basically at an emergency level, whenever this comes up. So if you need help with those particular elements, I want you to go ahead and first take the style quiz, which will allow you to establish where in the broader spectrum of mid-century style, you fit.

You can go do that on my website, at midmod-midwest.com/style quiz. And then if you wanna go to the next step and start putting together a style guide for your house to help simplify these broader decisions and make some general choices about what kind of finishes styles, uh, stains shapes, et cetera you wanna use for the replacement materials in your house, then you can grab the freestyle guide workbook, uh, and along with listening to a couple episodes of the podcast off the top of my head, I don’t remember which those are. So go to the show notes and I’ll link to them there, but you can get that style guide workbook at midmod-midwest.com/style guide. Again, the reason I wanted to talk to you about this topic this week is, “oh, I just have to replace these rotting deck boards before I get started on my remodeling plans” is something that comes up way too often. And so if that’s you, if you’re thinking I need to do deck maintenance and then home design, I want to stop you right there. The short, short version of this episode that I said right at the top is I don’t want you to let your maintenance tasks stop you from dreaming big dreams for your home. And I don’t want you to do them first and then turn to design because those inspection checklist items are your opportunities to get two for one things out of your remodeling process. Almost every single time.

Guys, that’s all for now. If you’ve been following along with Instagram, this has been a really intense week. If you’ve missed it, you can go back and find all that content and follow along after the fact. But basically what I want you to know right now is that I hope I’ll be seeing you at the mid-century design clinic a week from Saturday and next week we’ll be talking a little bit more on the podcast about how to use the power of layout, not just your floor plan, but the layout of your entire three-dimensional space to make your home really wonderful. And this is honestly the best way I know to spend your remodeling dollars. Not on a fancy finish necessarily, uh, not even necessarily on those maintenance things, but if you can spend dollars and achieve a shift in the design of your home, a shift in the shape of your home, you can really multiply the effect of the effort and create transformative change in your house. We’ll talk about it next week. All right. See you then.

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