Friends, neighbors, and perfect strangers all enjoy regaling stories about their home remodeling experiences. It’s like a badge of honor to survive a major home remodel and live to tell the tale.
However, home remodeling doesn’t have to be full of drama. In fact, if you avoid these five most common mistakes, your project may end up being a walk in the park!
Mistake #1: Skipping the Research Phase
The research phase is not when you call a designer or contractor. This is your time to think about why you want to embark on a remodeling project and what that might mean.
The research phase gives you time to clearly define what you want to gain from your remodeling project. Consider more than just the aesthetics of the space. Focus on function—this can't be stressed enough. What are the major pain points in how this room functions? Is it too small? Is it too large? Is there not enough storage space? Is there not enough countertop space?
Also, consider how much longer you are going to live in your home. If you are preparing your home for resale, you should consider décor options that are neutral and appealing to a broad range of buyers. If you intend to stay in your current home, you can add a bit more personality to your remodel.
There are thousands of design websites and magazines that can give you information about features you like and don’t like, as well as how different types of materials hold up under different conditions. Check out homes of friends and neighbors. Visit local home shows and retail showrooms. Research what the costs of materials and labor are, as well as how much time similar projects have taken to complete.
You need to have a list of specifications for your remodeling project before you start to call contractors, and understand what features are must-haves, and which are just nice-to-haves. Remodeling a kitchen, for example, can range anywhere from $10,000 to $60,000. There is no way to compare bids from contractors without allowing each contractor to price out a bid based on a detailed scope of work.
Mistake #2: Not Setting a Budget
The research phase is critical for starting to understand what a project of the magnitude you want to undertake might cost. The overall cost is one of the biggest initial misconceptions when remodeling. This is due in large part to remodeling shows that gloss over the many expenses that accrue during the remodeling process.
Look at your must-have list and see if the dollars you want to spend match with the work that needs to be done. If there is a significant disparity, you may need to consider financing options or putting off the project for a bit until you can save up the additional dollars.
It’s extremely important to plan for the unexpected. Many experts will advise that you keep an extra 10 to 20 percent of the total project cost available in a contingency fund for unexpected expenses. If you think your budget and your project are a pretty close match, share your budget with your contractor and designer; they need to know your financial parameters and may have great ideas on how to maximize the dollars you want to spend.
Mistake #3: Not Getting Bids from Multiple Contractors
Get bids from several contractors. Yes, your best friend may have a contractor they simply rave about, and friends and family are a great start for getting recommendations, but what if this contractor’s personality and yours don’t end up meshing? You and your contractor are going to work extremely closely together throughout the project, and it is important that you communicate well. Talk to several different contractors. While you are discussing the plans, estimates, and budgets, you’ll get a good sense of how they might perform and if you will have a good working relationship with them.
Talking to several contractors also allows you to see how each of them will approach various challenges with your project and provide you with different opinions on how to solve them. By providing each contractor with detailed specifications, you’ll see how each of them choose to allocate your budget.
In addition to your own interviews, you can check with the Better Business Bureau local home builders’ associations to find out how long the contractor has been in business and if they have any complaints filed against them. Make sure the contractor has the proper insurance and is licensed in your area. Ask for references, and call them to check. This is a big investment you are making, both in money and time. Don’t feel rushed into any decisions.
We here at Kitchen & Bath Center can assist with every part of the remodeling process, including picking contractors that we have worked with extensively and trust to deliver quality work in a reasonable timeframe.
Mistake #4: Not Sticking to the Plan
Once you’ve chosen your contractor, you and your contractor will settle on a detailed scope of work and plan. Once that is solidified, stick to it to the best of your abilities. Once your contractor begins demolition and construction, they generally have all the steps planned out in a specific order to accomplish your project in the time and within the budget you set. If you keep making changes to the plan or the materials you want to use, the budget and the timeline will most likely start to creep up.
Of course, not everything will always go to plan. If an unexpected problem is uncovered (say, you discover a bad mold or mildew problem), you need to deal with it right away. Repair legitimate problems that are uncovered when you start opening walls. It’s why you have your contingency fund. If you don’t fix these things or try to skimp on fixing them, you’ll probably regret it later.
Mistake #5: Keeping Questions and Concerns to Yourself
Yes, you hired a contractor because they can perform a skill that you cannot, but that doesn’t mean you aren't allowed to question them. Communication is a two-way street; you can't solely rely on your project manager or contractors to predict what you'll have questions about.
If something doesn’t look quite right, say something. If you are concerned about how progress is moving along, say something. Your contractor will provide you with a thorough answer as to why project looks the way it does, or it will turn out that there was just a mistake in communication somewhere down the line and they didn’t fully understand what you wanted.
A common question that homeowners do not think to ask is related to permits. They just assume their contractor knows what permits are required and will obtain the right ones. Do not assume this! As the homeowner, you are responsible for ensuring all remodeling is completed lawfully. Always ask about permits. You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on construction only to find out when you go to sell your home that the proper permits weren’t obtained, and your buyer’s lender won’t finance the purchase.
Make Sure Your Remodel Goes Smoothly
If you are considering a home remodeling project, come in and browse the showrooms at Kitchen and Bath Center and talk to our expert project managers. We work with numerous contractors and installers throughout the area, as well as leading manufacturers for countertops, cabinetry, flooring, and hardware, so we can help you through the research and preliminary budgeting phases to get your project started on the right foot.