Almost everyone approaches the prospect of remodeling a house with excitement and determination. Unfortunately, those feelings can cool off rapidly once the reality of the situation hits you.
Home renovation can be a lengthy and frustrating process. Homeowners who realize they are staring down a disruptive, occasionally messy, and expensive remodeling project often make some big mistakes in an attempt to make the process less impactful. You can avoid these pitfalls if you know where to look for them.
We want to level with you:
While we would all love it if we could simply point to a picture in a catalog, say “That one!” and have the kitchen, bathroom, or living room of our dreams magically appear, it simply doesn’t work that way.
There is a lot of planning, negotiating and patience required on the part of you, the homeowner. Trying to make the process go faster or cheaper can sometimes get you into big trouble.
So here are the 8 biggest mistakes to avoid during your renovations:
Overestimating Your DIY Prowess
It’s true that you can save yourself some money if you are able to do a portion of the renovation work yourself.
But here’s your gut check:
Be brutally honest. Did a single semester of shop class in high school truly prepare you for large-scale carpentry work? Likewise, just because you can tighten up a leaky shower head; does that mean you should start soldering pipes on your own?
If you have actual construction experience, then you can and should jump into the project, assuming you want to. If you don’t have solid skills, you may end up doing some damage to your home, resulting in a repair bill on top of your remodeling costs.
Professionals ply their trades all day, every day. They can spot potential problems that the average person may miss, and they can do the job faster and more efficiently. This is especially true of highly specialized tradesmen like electricians and plumbers. Messing up in one of those areas can have serious consequences.
Going With the Cheapest (or Most Readily Available) Contractor
Let’s be clear:
You should not allow yourself to be overcharged or treated unfairly, but if you run into a contractor who is quoting you much less than others, consider why that might be.
Remodeling contractors should provide you price quotes with extensive details. They should have specific plans outlined for job aspects such as permit costs, a general contractor fee, a waste removal plan, and insurance.
Make sure your contractor has also included information about how changes to the project are handled once the project is already underway, as this can make a big difference in the final price tag.
Of course, also consider the way the estimate is written as well. If you receive a document saying something along the lines of “finished basement,” with few other specifics outlined, you can safely assume your contractor did not carefully price out your job. He may be quoting low just to get his foot in the door. That’s a red flag.
One last point:
If you run into a string of contractors who all have a waiting list, and then one who mysteriously doesn’t, maybe take a pause before hiring him. The best ones can sometimes require advance booking.
Being Too Trendy in Your Design Choice
Beware of catalog photography:
Catalogs or design books are great places to get inspiration and ideas for what you do and don’t want in your redesigned home, but going for exactly what you see in a trendy photo can lead to some serious buyer’s remorse.
The more bold or modern your design choices are, the lower your resale value will be. Imagine if you have gone all out on a completely modern, top of the line home addition in the late 90s.
Unless you were willing to pay for similar updates every few years, today, you would still be staring at a heavy cathode ray TV in the middle of a room full of mauve and teal furniture.
Sure, it looked fantastic at the time, but remember that trends change.
Think long term when designing your new rooms. Bold design choices aren’t bad thing, but maybe consign them to the aspects of a home that can be more easily (and affordably) changed. Think along the lines of paint colors, drapery, and decorative items.
When it comes to appliances, furniture and flooring, spend your money on quality over simply a cool design – and try to go for a more timeless look.
Ignoring Important (but Invisible) Aspects of Remodeling
The aesthetics of a remodel are the fun and exciting part. These are the aspects of a redesign that you can’t wait to show your friends, family and neighbors – the same features that you spent hours carefully selecting and comparing leading up to the final design. Appliances, flooring, lighting, woodwork, etc.
But what’s going on behind the scenes?
There are some very important and precautionary products you should buy to help protect your investment. These might include energy-efficient windows, mold barriers in bathrooms, increased ventilation, fire suppression systems, etc.
The problem is, these features aren’t flashy. They’re not personalized. Heck, in many cases, they’re not even visible.
But here’s the important part:
They should not be ignored! If you’re already spending 20k to redo your kitchen, spend the extra 1 or 2k to install the things your contractor recommends for prolonging the life of that kitchen. As they say, “Buy once, cry once.” Pay a little more up front to dodge costly (and totally avoidable) repairs in the future.
Ignoring Local Building Codes
A good contractor will do this research for you, and obtain any permits that you need before beginning any type of construction project. Seems easy enough, right?
Don’t get too comfortable just yet:
The average homeowner is amazed when they discover the types of work that require building permits. Moving a toilet over to the other side of the bathroom? You might need a permit for that – yes, even if you’re doing it yourself.
Replacing a cracked window? That could require a permit too.
You bought a few 5-gallon buckets of driveway resurfacing material, and plan to make a Saturday afternoon of it? You may want to call your local municipality first.
Local building codes vary wildly from place to place. To make things even more confusing, some townships, boroughs and cities draw their boundaries right down the center of some roads. In other words, if your neighbor across the street replaced their own roof, you might not be able to do the same, depending on local codes.
So here’s what you need to do:
Call your local municipality and find out what kinds of permits you will need, and how to go about getting them. This is especially true if you’re doing any part of the remodel yourself.
Next, double check all the permits your contractor obtains with your local municipality to make sure everything is in order.
The last thing you want is to come home from work one day to a bright orange “STOP WORK” order on your front door.
When you initially begin shopping around for remodeling prices, what you’ll be seeing are estimates for absolutely straightforward jobs. Display rooms or catalogs that advertise pricing for the kitchen, bathroom, basement or bedroom shown haven’t ever set foot in your house.
That can come back to bite you like this:
Sticking with round numbers, let’s say you see a bathroom remodeling project advertised at $10,000, and you let that number get stuck in your head. You have already lined up many potential disappointments.
What were the measurements of that sample room? Were they even close to yours, or was the advertised room much smaller?
Was that room built into an existing house, or was it newly installed?
Did that home have mold, corroded pipes, or termites that weren’t discovered until a wall was removed?
The answers to each of those questions could swing the price wildly in either direction.
Prices in showrooms and in catalogs can maybe help you get a ballpark idea, but the only way to truly know what kind of budget you’re looking at is to have some contractors go to your home, and look at the site for themselves.
Often, contractors will be able to assess potential problems right then and there, giving you a much more accurate price range. Also, taking the proper measurements will do a lot to help estimate costs.
Talk about practical ways to keep costs down. Your contractor will be able to suggest some less expensive materials, or other small changes that can make your project much more affordable.
Take their quotes into consideration, and be as realistic about your budget as possible from the beginning. It will help you avoid some nasty sticker shock later on.
Getting Excited Mid-Project and Adding Expenses
This tip sounds like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised by how often homeowners fall victim to it. Sure, you think you’ll hold your ground now, but your resolve may fizzle about ¾ of the way into the project.
As the initial construction dust settles and you begin seeing what your newly finished room will look like, some homeowners get overly excited, and decide to start making (expensive) changes to the project.
The cabinets and countertops are in, and they’re looking fantastic! You’re so happy with the way everything is going you suddenly think to yourself “Know what? I think I will go for that copper sink after all. Oh, and might as well upgrade the lighting to show it off better!”
You just added easily $3,000+ onto your final costs with 3 sentences.
There is a reason that contractors carefully draw up proposals for you; it’s so that you know exactly what you’re getting and know exactly how much it will cost. Veering off course too much can leave you struggling to afford the finished project.
Take the time to decide on design elements before locking into a contract. You’ll be just as excited for your newly remodeled room when it’s all finished – and more to the point, you won’t have buyer’s remorse over impulsive upgrades.
Assuming You Know More than (Respected) Professionals
You can learn a lot by reading online articles, or watching DIY videos on Youtube, but the bottom line is this:
Nothing trumps real world experience.
A home renovation project can be full of unexpected surprises – and not all of them pleasant. Customers can sometimes feel at odds with their contractors, especially if it seems like they’re not being kept in the loop.
This is why it’s so important to vet your contractor before signing on with them. If you are working with a respected professional who comes highly recommended and has an excellent track record, you can and should trust that he knows what he’s talking about.
Circling back to the point above about budget:
It can be a hard pill to swallow when you find out there’s a problem in your home that will add more money onto the final bill. In an effort to avoid these expenses, some homeowners might take to the internet. They’ll look for any bit of information that contradicts their contractor, and try to use that as a reason to ignore sound advice.
Later on down the line, the problem may become even more unavoidable, and wind up costing money via repairs or even rip-outs of the work already completed.
If you’ve hired a trusted professional, it really is in your best interest to listen to them.
Ready to Get Started?
If you’re looking for reliable, experienced and licensed general contractors in the Chicago area, be sure to check out Maya Construction Group.
We’ve been in business since 1998, and since then we’ve completed over 400 remodeling projects for our customers.
We have helped guide hundreds of customers through the remodeling process from beginning to end, all the while earning their trust and delivering on our promises. We want to do the same for you.
To get started, schedule a free no-obligation estimate. Call us at 773-305-5789 or use our online form here.
We hope to hear from you soon!