Redesign your home

Spring is the perfect time to refresh your indoor and outdoor living spaces

Story By Mary Hall

outdoor Oasis • Make the most of our mild climate by transforming your backyard into a open-air living room.

Spring is all about freshness and renewal, and what better time than now to plan a home remodel project? Whether you have your eye on updates to your bathroom or kitchen, or want to add a room or enclose a porch, or have recently purchased a home in need of work, this is the time to get your ducks in a row and plan ahead.

“On Hilton Head Island, the trend is toward remodeling existing homes, many of which are older and are showing the effects of the damp climate,” said David Gaal, president of the Hilton Head Area Home Builders Association and owner of Gaal Custom Homes and Remodeling. “It takes a lot of work to maintain a home in this area. Hilton Head is unique where the majority of homes are built from wood, which is susceptible to damage from water and insects.”

Go low (maintenance)

Many original island homes were built from cypress, but there has been a conversion to using man-made materials for new construction, which are engineered to be long-lasting and have the look of wood without the maintenance.

According to Home Advisor, products such as Hardiplank used in some local homes, are made of wood fibers with cement-like elements and are manufactured to look like wood, come factory painted or can be painted onsite, and are installed just like regular wood siding. They are long-lasting, don’t rot or swell with moisture, are easy to paint, are fire and storm resistant and don’t attract insects.

The material also is heavier and can be more expensive to install. Many people are familiar with Trex, a brand of composite decking material that looks like wood but can be used instead of treated pine to withstand the harsh Lowcountry environment and insects. These products don’t fade, rot or warp or need seasonal painting.

Make it desirable

Lifestyles have changed since many existing homes were built, and homeowners are opening up the interior, taking walls down to create large living spaces. Many homes on the island are purchased by couples who plan to retire in a number of years, and rent their homes in the meantime. There is an unprecedented trend toward remodeling to make the homes more attractive to rent and ensure the house is in good condition, according to Gaal.

Upgrading kitchens and bathrooms, a coat of fresh paint and improving curb appeal are ways to make your home more attractive to renters and buyers. Another trend is to take advantage of our nearly year-round climate and add outdoor living spaces to enjoy, which makes the outdoors an extension of the indoor living area. Adding or enhancing an existing backyard patio with an outdoor kitchen, seating area, fire pit or fireplace are all popular improvements in the Lowcountry to enjoy outdoor living year-round.

Builder checklist

Here are some tips from the National Association of Home Builders of what to look for if you’re hiring a builder or home remodeler. A complete list is available on the HBA’s website,

Make sure they have a permanent business location, and are licensed, bonded and insured.

Ask for references and to see examples of their work, both finished and in progress.

Make sure they provide you with a complete and clearly written contract.

Request a well-defined scope of work, detailed budget and timeline.

Do your homework

When thinking about hiring a contractor to remodel your home, Gaal recommended contacting the homebuilders association, which has more than 500 members and guidelines for building and remodeling.

As you think about what you’d like, make a list and prioritize it according to needs and wants, then set a budget and plan to stick to it. A professional remodeler will help you stay on budget throughout the process.

Use your imagination

So now comes the fun part – do a little dreaming and imagine what the finished space will look like. Research websites such as Pinterest and other home sites, watch home renovation TV shows, go on house tours, read home decorating magazines and save the looks that you like.

Don’t forget functionality and how it will work with your family’s lifestyle. If you want a new kitchen or bathroom, think about what that means. Cosmetic changes such as new finishes and colors, cabinets, counters and flooring are easy, but when it involves structural changes such as moving load-bearing walls, an experienced contractor is needed. Some parts of the project may require permits and approvals.

You may feel comfortable choosing colors, materials and style for your remodeling project, but if it’s a large project, consulting a design professional will help keep you on the right path.

And think about your end goal. Are you remodeling to improve your lifestyle and plan to stay in your home for a long time, or to add resale value to your house? According to HGTV, these are the top five remodeling projects and their return on investment:

· Minor bathroom remodel: 102%
· Landscaping improvements: 100%
· Minor kitchen improvements: 98.5%
· Exterior improvements: 95.5%
· Deck, patio or porch addition: 90.3%

A home remodel can be an involved project that easily goes off the rails. But if you plan well, you may be living in the home that suits your family for many years to come.

Get inspired

Now in its 35th year, the Lowcountry Home & Garden Show features more than 100 local home and garden experts displaying products and services for new home construction, spring fix-ups, whole home renovations, landscaping, gardening, interior design and decorating. The Lowcountry Home & Garden Show takes place March 27-29 at Buckwalter Regional Park in Bluffton.

The Lowcountry Parade of Homes will take place March 27-29. Held in conjunction with the Lowcountry Home & Garden Show and produced by the Hilton Head Area Home Builders Association, the self-guided tour is the Lowcountry’s largest annual showcase of newly built and remodeled homes.

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