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Book Report: Remodel This!

RemodelthisDo we really need another book on how to get through a home remodel? I mean, people have been remodeling since they started hanging pelts over cave openings, right?

And it's pretty much the same as it's always been: Figure out what you want, find someone to do it, pay a lot of money, rip your hair out when things go wrong, do the final walk-through and live happily ever after (or sue someone).

So, what's changed that made us need a book called "Remodel This! A Woman's Guide to Planning and Surviving the Madness of a Home Renovation"?

First of all, there are more aging houses that need work. And more women are remodeling than ever before, if only because there are more of us (simple population growth). And the remodeling industry is not straightening up the way it should have after so many decades of valiant effort by the National Assn. of the Remodeling Industry, the remodelers' segment of the National Assn. of Home Builders; the Better Business Bureau; Angie's List; contractor licensing boards; and local contractor associations.

It's still like the Wild West out there, with shady contractors doing shoddy work for truly clueless homeowners. Of course, there are awesome, excellent, amazing remodeling contractors in our midst, but how does one locate them, hire them and work with them?

"Remodel This!" intends to show women the way, and it's pretty successful at doing so with an insider's perspective.

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The truth is, I felt a little suspicious of this book before I read it. The authors, Laura Meyer and Robyn Roth, are Los Angeles attorneys who run a remodeling consulting firm, and they are beautiful and glamorous. Who needs all that baggage?

Plus, they have a lot of celebrity clients — Halle Barry, Jennifer Beals, Cheryl Ladd, among others — and they flaunt that in the book, on the cover and at their book launch party. But … these two have written a super-informative book that speaks in language that women should understand. For instance, a remodeling project is broken down into trimesters (that’s pregnancy talk), and the book includes chapters such as “Therapy, Anyone?,” “The New Man in Your Life,” “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?” and “Shop Till You Drop.”

I like how these attorneys don’t bash contractors, which seems to be a favorite pastime of many homeowners, attorneys and authors.

In fact, they put quite a bit of focus on the behavior of the homeowners themselves. Here’s one passage: “Remodels often don’t get finished on time and often go over budget. Remember, as often as not, owners are responsible for many delays, usually because they cannot make timely decisions or because they make changes in the middle of the project.” Wow. So, it’s not always the contractor’s fault?

That’s got to be brutal to the egos of homeowners who claim complete blamelessness in remodeling disasters.

Considering how many people hire an unknown, unproven, untrustworthy contractor or subcontractor to work on their home simply because he was available or cheap or seemed nice or for no reason at all, the chapter called “The New Man in Your Life” is one of the most significant.

I do think some of the suggestive language goes overboard and may make some feel a bit squirmy. The cover graphic showing a high-heeled woman playing footsies with the boot of a husky contractor is just not right.

And there are a few misleading bits of advice that could cause trouble. For instance, the authors say the homeowner should check all the materials delivered to the house to make sure that they are not damaged and that they are what was ordered. Though someone should do this task, I can’t imagine every homeowner rushing home from work to open boxes and packages to check on parts and pieces. That’s just not realistic.

For the most part, though, Meyer and Roth have made a worthwhile addition to the library of books on how to do a remodel right.


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