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Starting a New Home Remodeling Project? Avoid These 12 Mistakes

At MainStreet Design Build, we want you to love the home that you’re in and achieve your remodeling dreams. So we’ve compiled a list of expert tips to ease your concerns by making you aware of the most common remodeling mistakes—and how to avoid them.

DIY Limits1. Not Knowing Your DIY Limits

This one’s a common mistake for both rookies and veteran remodelers. Sure, doing it yourself can be a good way to save money AND give you bragging rights around the neighborhood. But you should first consider the amount of time and energy you can reasonably afford to put into your project, especially if you have children. Then review your expectations regarding quality, and determine whether your work will live up to your own expectations (and those of others in your home). And don’t forget the added cost of having to hire a professional to finish the project, or fix your mistakes. Keep in mind that a poor remodel can actually devalue your home, and remodeling decisions can directly impact resale value.

2. Avoiding Permits / Ignoring Local Building Codes

Building codes vary by area, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all list to follow. Some routine maintenance items do not require permits. But remodeling projects such as window replacements, plumbing modifications, and bedroom additions do. Failure to acquire the right permits could result in fines, delays, and even difficulty selling your house. And worse, if something serious happens while you’ve been working without a permit, your homeowners’ insurance will not cover it. To get the necessary permits, you’ll need to meet your city’s design and construction requirements. But keep in mind that most contractors do not draft plans. So if you’re not working with a design + build firm, you’ll need to hire a designer to devise a functional layout of the room and an architect to create those drawings.

iStock_2226156Medium3. Setting an Unrealistic Budget

Remodeling projects often end up costing more than you initially expect, especially if you’re not a pro.

If you’re planning to tear down walls or rip up floors, there’s a good chance you’ll find something you weren’t expecting, especially in an older home. A design + build firm will develop an accurate scope of work for your project that results in a cost-effective budget and a smooth construction process. Through careful planning, you can expect to minimize your exposure to cost overruns while also allowing for contingencies and unexpected items. Make sure you start every project with a written contract that outlines your budgetary items in detail, from the start date to the approximate completion date. Any changes that are made during the remodel should be added to your contract in explicit detail.

4. Expecting Remodel to Pay for Itself

A word to the wise—your home’s value will not increase by the amount you spend on a remodel. Like children, remodeling projects don’t pay for themselves. However, you can expect to recoup some costs if you keep your project in line with neighborhood standards. Some projects do offer higher return— so be sure to explain your project goals to your contractor ahead of time. By working with a design + build firm, you’ll have the support of a team of professionals who will guide you through a decision-making process that results in a functional living space that is just right for you.

5. Expecting to Manage the Project On Your Own

Maybe you just like the way you look in a tool belt and hard hat. Or maybe you really are looking forward to serving as your own construction manager, and selecting individual contractors. While this may reduce the project cost up front, you’ll run the risk of having the work poorly coordinated, taking longer than expected and running over budget. Again, you need to consider the cost of your own time and energy. Hiring a reputable design + build firm offers many benefits. They will oversee the entire project, from concept to completion, and assume all responsibility for getting your project completed on time and on budget. They also have a keen eye for details and will run interference for you through the construction process spotting mistakes that many homeowners would otherwise miss.

archtectual-rendering6. Not Using a Designer

To get a professional-grade project, you need to hire a professional. This includes a designer as well as an architect and general contractor. A design + build firm offers the benefits of all, without the potential challenge of working with multiple independent contractors who approach your project individually rather than collaboratively. A design + build firm offers a perfect blend of form and function all under one roof—from technical know-how to advice on color and material selections that complement your home’s architectural style. They can also foresee potential design issues and offer better solutions.

7. Incomplete Research on a Contractor

It’s imperative that you do your research ahead of time. Focus on questions that require the company to explain and provide clear evidence of expertise. How much experience do they have in your type of project? Do they offer both design and construction capabilities? Or will you need to hire a second company to manage part of the project? Do they have industry accreditations, certifications or belong to professional organizations? Do they have insurance coverage? You’re looking for a clear pattern of proficiency, proper credentials and satisfied customers. You can also check Houzz.com, Google+, Angie’s List, and the Better Business Bureau for customer reviews and complaints.

4b-bloomfield-village-bathroom8. Hiring the Wrong Contractor

Not everyone in your office is capable of performing the same work as you, right? So don’t expect all contractors to be able to perform all types of projects. While there are projects that any reliable contractor can take on, there are many types of specialized projects that require a licensed professional. Do your research and make sure you choose someone who has a proven record of excellence in your type of project. Plumbing, electrical work, HVAC, and anything to do with gas or the structure of your home (i.e., kitchen or bathroom remodeling) should always be completed by a professional licensed in that specific trade.

9. Choosing Contractors Based on Price / Thinking All Contractors are Equal

When choosing a contractor, don’t just go with the cheapest. In an ideal world, the cheapest contractor would also be the one to provide the highest-quality work. But it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes the phrase, “you get what you pay for” does ring true—you will get cheap materials and sloppy installation. In addition to different pricing, every company has different levels of quality and service, which includes longer or shorter completion times and completely different specifications. When comparing companies, make sure you receive a detailed set of project specifications, not just a rough “bid”.

Architect10. Going Into a Project Without a Contract or Set Plan

A detailed plan will help you stay on budget and on schedule. Typical remodeling projects are broken out into several phases, some of which can be longer or shorter and often overlapping. A good design + build firm will walk you through each phase and have a clear plan for completing each phase, from project feasibility meetings through the final walk through. Discuss work hours, parking, dumpster placement and access to your home. Ensure that proper protection will be in place for the floors and entryways. Discuss how the job site will be left each day. Discuss everything—leaving no stone, brick, or tile unturned.

11. Not Setting a Payment Schedule—Paying a Large Sum Up Front

You probably already guessed it, but this one’s a big one. Make sure the payment schedule is detailed in the contract, beginning with the amount to be paid upfront. (Can’t agree on an amount? Check with your state’s contractors’ licensing board for rules about the maximum deposit a contractor can ask for.) Installment payments that start after the project begins should correspond to completed phases of the project. To ensure work is completed to your satisfaction, leave 10% to be paid once your final punch list items are complete.

check12. Cutting Corners on Materials

There are many lower cost alternatives that offer a look of luxury without breaking the bank. But there are some things you just can’t scrimp on—like fixtures, and drawer hardware. Before you choose a material, consider the items that will get the most use—and then think of the nuisance level when they fail. Leaky faucets, and faucet handles that don’t regulate water temperature correctly are not worth the money you saved in buying them. Add to that the higher water bills associated with leaks, and you might decide that some high-quality materials are worth the investment.

One comment

  1. Marcus Coons says:

    I agree with you in that it is important to consider the permits when looking into remodels. It is important to remember that doing this can help you avoid penalties. Personally, I would also want to take the time to consult with a professional in order to get the results I want.

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