March 29, 2021
You love your home: It’s safe, comfortable, and welcoming. But as the years pass and the life of your family evolves, you may need to consider remodeling. Updating fixtures and countertops, creating additional living space, improving energy efficiency, and enhancing your property’s resale value are all great reasons to freshen up your living space.
Whatever your reason for remodeling, be sure to avoid the most common pitfalls that can derail or delay your project, drive up your costs, and make you wish you’d never started. Here are the top 10 remodeling mistakes that you don’t want to make:
Remodeling projects almost always end up costing more than you expect. So a good rule of thumb is to add 20 to 30 percent to your budget. That way you’ll be able to handle surprises—and you will be surprised at some point in your project. If you actually do come in under budget, you’ll have extra funds to use as you see fit. So be sure to:
It doesn’t matter how many HGTV shows or YouTube videos you’ve watched: Unless it’s a simple task or you’re an expert building tradesperson, you may want to consider having professionals do most of your remodeling work.
If you’re dealing with a simple project, you may decide to serve as your own general contractor (the person who oversees and manages the project). But complicated and skill-intensive work such as installing a roof, plumbing a bathroom, or wiring a room addition is time-consuming and potentially dangerous. Plus, the results will have a major, long-lasting impact on your home’s value. So don’t shy away from hiring professional tradespeople just to save money.
You’ve probably seen enough home improvement shows to know that it’s physically possible to remodel—or even build—an entire house in just a week. But TV shows are not real life, so:
It’s vital that you create a thorough, written plan before you start any work. Your plan should include exact details, down to all of the materials you’ll need and every product required—along with model numbers and finishes. So be sure to:
It’s a fact: Most people don’t fully understand construction terminology and can’t read blueprints. So if a contractor, tradesperson, or designer uses terms you don’t recognize or show you drawings you can’t follow, ask them to explain. When your home and your hard-earned money is at stake, there’s no such thing as a dumb question.
Don’t be afraid to ask about materials, layout, design, and the construction process itself. You need to fully understand what’s going on. Don’t bluff your way through technical project discussions like stay-at-home family man Jack Butler (Michael Keaton) did in the 1983 film “Mr. Mom.” When asked if he was planning to use 220-volt wiring in a remodeling project, Jack nervously replied, “Yeah—220, 221; whatever it takes.”
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your biggest items have to be the most expensive. For example, you can use high-quality throw pillows to spiff up an average but serviceable sofa. Or you can accentuate a lower-end dining table with trendy table décor and a higher-end overhead light fixture. Spend most of your dollars on improvements that add real long-term value to your home, such as flooring or storage. As an example, don’t install expensive baseboard moldings and then cheap out on kitchen cabinets.
Also be careful when spending on technology, which can be pricey to install but can quickly become outdated. For example, ten years ago it was really cool to wire every room in your house for video. But today’s high-speed, wireless streaming technology has made much of that obsolete.
Finally, don’t over-improve. Your remodeled home should complement your neighborhood, not dominate it. A home that’s significantly upscale compared to what’s next door can look awkward, and will probably not deliver the return on investment you hope for.
It’s vital to obtain the right building permits before you start work. If you use a contractor, they will likely get any necessary permits. But to help ensure that there are no issues later, check with your city or county building department to find out if a permit is needed for your specific project in your area.
Here’s why working without permits can come back to bite you:
Don’t underestimate the importance of correct measurements. The old saying, “measure twice; cut once” will save you time, money, and inconvenience. Missing the mark by even ¼ of an inch can cause huge problems, such as having to re-order expensive materials or needing to totally re-work parts of the job you thought were finished.
And while you’ve got your measuring tape out, don’t make another common remodeling mistake: Buying furniture or appliances that are too big to fit through your doors and hallways. Another similar mistake is buying area rugs that are too small. So write down the dimensions of your rooms, hallways, and window and door openings; then take those measurements with you when you shop.
Appliances are the visual anchors of a kitchen remodel, so be sure to choose them first. That way you can make sure that your overall design (and your physical space) can accommodate the appliances you want—and in the colors, finishes, and sizes you prefer. But wait to buy until closer to the time you need to install them.
You may be able to save a lot of money by buying your appliances at certain times of the year:
Having enough flooring material to complete your remodel does not mean simply calculating the square footage of your space. To allow for wastage, defects, seams, and cutouts, you need to order an additional 20%. For example, your 10-by-12-foot bedroom has 120 square feet (13.33 square yards) of floor space. But make sure you order at least 24 more square of flooring, for a total of 144 square feet (16 square yards).
As with appliances, there are certain times of the year when you may be able to get a better deal on flooring, such as:
So make sure to consider these helpful tips before starting your remodeling project. A well-thought-out remodel can increase the value of your home, the efficiency to your space, and the comfort of your family. Being aware of and avoiding common remodeling pitfalls will help you reduce stress, stay on budget, finish on time, and enjoy the fruits of a job well done.