By Chris Hillman
No matter how you look at it, home renovations can take up a lot of your time and even more of your money. Whether you hire professional contractors or take a more DIY approach, you’ll encounter potential pitfalls. Before you take the plunge into your next home renovation project, read these common mistakes and consider our simple solutions.
The Pitfall: Poor Planning
Isn’t it easy to browse home décor magazines and websites for inspiration to reinvent your space? Your imagination is a great start, but it may not be up to code. As tempting as it is to start a renovation project while your creative motivation is high, practical knowledge and thorough planning will always be what gets the job done on time and under budget. Every contractor can tell you stories about cleaning up someone else’s mess when inspiration outweighed preparation.
The Solution: Pen and Paper
Before you swing a sledgehammer, pick up a pen. Okay, these days it’s more likely to be a spreadsheet, but the goal is the same: know exactly what you’re doing before you do it. Research and list every step of your project, every tool and material you’ll need, and how much it will all cost. Measure carefully and write down every measurement. When surprises occur—and they will—stop and plan again. Don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board, because the drawing board will save you time and money in the long run.
The Pitfall: D-I-Why Did I Think I Could Do That Myself?
We’ve never had more information at our fingertips than we do today, and everyone agrees that a little self-confidence is a good thing. Online tutorials, materials lists, and social media do a great job of convincing us we are Norm Abram or Bob Vila, but there is a lot that separates the amateurs from the professionals. Experience, standards, regulations, tools, and materials are just a few numbers in a pro’s repertoire that can mean the difference between an elegant renovation and a complete fiasco.
The Solution: Know Your Limits
Before you begin planning any home renovation project, throw out your ego. You won’t be needing it. The very first question you must ask yourself is, “do I know what I’m doing or will I need a contractor?” Placing patio stones for a walkway? Go for it. Pouring concrete for a walkway? Let a professional handle it. Installing a light fixture? Give it a try. Rewiring your breaker box? Better hire an electrician. If you’re expecting a meticulous building inspector, if you have more than five figures on the line, or if you’re working with lethal voltage…call a pro.
The Pitfall: Flying By Night
You’ve taken our advice and decided not to DIY your new roof. Great. Now you want to save money, so you decide to hire your dry cleaner’s brother-in-law’s cousin, who “does roofs on the weekends.” When the job is done, you’ve got $2,500 left in your pocket and your roof looks great. That is, until a thunderstorm passes by and suddenly your house has an unplanned skylight and indoor swimming pool.
The Solution: Do Your Homework
Home renovating is an old-fashioned business, and you may benefit from choosing a contractor the old-fashioned way. Online reviews are convenient, but can be deceptive. When choosing a contractor, start by word of mouth. If your neighbor or coworker had a great roofing contractor, start there. Don’t be afraid to ask about licenses, membership to professional associations, and references. Get all estimates in writing and scrutinize every contract thoroughly before you sign. The value and structural integrity of your home may be at stake.