Last fall Tim decided to remove some unhealthy white pines from our backyard. If you know my husband, you won’t be shocked to learn that what began as a weekend project wound up involving a 65-foot hydraulic lift, a 5-man crew, and a full week of labor.
Oh, and he took down 11 trees, not 4. (Before someone accuses us of killing the planet, bear in mind these trees were coming down anyway, possibly on our home or children. If we hadn’t finished them off, Hurricane Sandy would have done it for us.)
Now we’re faced with a new dilemma: how do we transform our newly naked backyard into something usable? It looks like a battle ground – muddy trenches left by lift tracks, mounds of wood shavings from grinding stumps, bare earth that never received enough sunlight to grow grass. We live on a corner lot, so not only is our place an eyesore, we’ve also lost the privacy afforded by the old trees.
Since I’m clueless about landscaping and have the blackest thumb on the globe, the re-planting phase of this project terrifies me. That’s why I decided to start an idea book.
As the name implies, an idea book is simply a place to gather concepts and inspiration for a home project. It might consist of a manila folder stuffed with magazine photos, a computer file of jpegs pulled from internet searches, or an online idea-gathering account like Pinterest or Houzz. A-types might put together a three-ring binder with tabs and index, or a PowerPoint presentation, but there’s no reason to make it fancy unless that’s your thing. The main goal is to figure out what you like, why you like it, and to make sure you’ve considered your options.
Tim recommends idea books for these reasons:
- If you’re married or sharing the homeowner responsibility with someone else, an idea book is the best way to avoid miscommunication. It’s way too easy for people to use the same words when describing a project while carrying entirely different pictures in their heads. When I asked Tim if he could build a play fort for the kids, he said, “Draw me a picture.” I did him one better and built a model out of popsicle sticks. He laughed at me, but I got what I wanted!
- Likewise, an idea book is absolutely the best way to make sure your contractor is on the same page when putting together a quote. Getting numbers from multiple sources? Then you want to compare apples to apples. In today’s market, homeowners need to be especially vigilant about understanding the details behind the prices they’re quoted. Knowing what you want and providing a visual example is one way to avoid unwelcome (and unspecified) surprises. (Stay tuned for more on apples-to-apples quote comparison in an upcoming post.)
- At the start of a remodeling project most of us are like high school sophomores – we “don’t know we don’t know.” Whatever picture you have in your head at the beginning of the idea-gathering phase probably isn’t the one you’ll end up with when it’s over. In my experience, my early ideas are unrealistic, inefficient, impractical, or uneducated. In your case, maybe that initial concept is just perfect, and all your research has instilled greater confidence in your choices. Either way, the idea book is a win-win.