So you bought a house, at a good price, that needs some renovation. Now comes the hard part: making your dreams come true. It’s been my experience that 99.99% of the time there’s a lot more to the home renovation than the homeowner is aware of, at least in the beginning. It’s just the nature of the beast. Here are a few of the more popular mistakes that people make. Perhaps this can save you a headache or two (or three or four…).
- Starting renovations too soon
If possible, live in your house for a while before making any plans to overhaul. Learn traffic flow, where you bring in and set down the groceries, where the clean and dirty laundry piles up, how the sun hits each room, where do members and guests naturally congregate. Getting a real feel for your house will help you make the right changes.
- Underestimating costs and time
Most jobs will cost more and take longer than you expect. There’s a remodeler’s saying, “The remodel will take twice as long and cost twice as much.” Now twice as much is an exaggeration, unless you’re making informed upgrades. But twice as long is not uncommon unless you have a fully vetted, experienced and ethical builder. Even then, some delays are inevitable.
- Expecting everything to go according to plan
Work on older buildings can yield a lot of unforeseen events. Who knows what’s behind that wall you’re opening up? New construction is more controlled, but that doesn’t always mean smooth sailing either. Be prepared for the unexpected.
- Not hiring a contractor from the start
You are about to spend more than you ever thought possible. You might as well do it right from the beginning. A good contractor is worth their weight in gold.
- Going for the lowest bid
Good professional help is worth the money. That means design as well as construction. Be willing to pay for a good contractor, and be wary of the one who’s cheap and available right away. Would you choose to eat at the restaurant that is busy or the one with the empty parking lot?
- Waiting too long to consult a general contractor
Ask a contractor to look at your plans while still in the schematic stage, rather than at the detailed finished plans. This way you can find out if your project is in the right budget ballpark before falling in love with a plan—and paying for a complete set of biddable drawings. It’s also a good way to meet potential contractors, get their input, and not misuse their time.
- Not asking enough questions
Ask lots of questions. There’s no such thing as a dumb one, and besides, it’s your money you’re spending. You should know why and on what. Asking questions upfront can help alleviate confusion and change orders. That brings us to number 8 …
- Making too many changes along the way
Changes that seem simple to you may require a lot of work on the back end, so be sure you check with your builder on even slight adjustments. Even moving a light switch a few feet can cost over $1000, dependent upon variables that are often hidden behind the drywall.
- Not setting up a timeline
Work with your contractor to put together a list of items that need to be purchased and deadlines for making decisions. The last thing you want is to feel under the gun to make an important fixture selection you’ll later regret.
- Not thinking about the weather and the outside
Gutters, grading, insulation and roofs may sound boring when there are fun fixtures to obsess over, but you’ve got to build a solid envelope if you want your house to hold up. If you’re faced with a choice of working on the outside or the inside, start on the outside. There is no point in putting in a new floor if the roof is getting set to leak.
- Sweeping interiors under the rug
On the other hand, too many times, interiors are an afterthought. Newbies often think they can do finish work themselves or throw their old couch into a new room. But if you want to love your space—and increase its value—make sure you leave room in the budget for working on interior design and décor.
- Skimping on quality
Spend good money on things you touch every day, like door hardware, doors, faucets, appliances, kitchen cabinets. This will send a daily reminder to you and your guests about the solidity and quality of your home.
- Trying to be your own general contractor
Aside from their experience with construction, materials, and sources, general contractors have something else to offer: accountability. When something goes wrong, or you have a question, there’s only one person you need to work with, your contractor. Obviously, he or she makes money on the home projects, but most of the time they’re getting discounts from their subcontractors and supply houses, so whatever percentage or fee they tack on is probably not far from what you would have spent trying to be your own general contractor.
Jim Edwards is the Home Advocate. He helps his clients build their dreams by hammering home the knowledge he has from years of real world construction experience. He has seen it all, fixed it all and helped homeowners avoid costly mistakes. Jim can be reached at email@example.com or by calling (608)480-1057.