As interior designers and remodeling contractors we’ve seen quite a few projects. While no two projects are the same, there are common pitfalls to keep in mind as a homeowner. We have highlighted some common themes that are most important to having a successful home renovation project.
1. Don’t start without a budget (and contingency funds).
You should always have a well thought out budget. Share this with the project professionals (at the appropriate time) to ensure that everyone is clear on how much money you have for the project. For most of us, there is a limit to how much we can afford on a remodel. And moreover, you may not want to overspend on your home if you plan to resell anytime soon as unnecessary costs may be difficult recoup in a sale.
While budgeting seems like common sense, budgeting for contingencies is not. This is an often overlooked part of the budget. Professionals will routinely add 5% to 15% to a project budget for unanticipated costs. A good contractor should be able to remain in budget but unexpected things will occur on a sizeable project. Be ready. And be certain to have the funds available.
2. Don’t wait to make a decision.
Your design and construction professionals should help you understand what the “critical path” items are (ie, those that, if delayed, will hold up the entire project). But waiting until the last minute to make decisions on fixtures or paint colors can still lead to delays. To keep the project on time and on budget, you should have all the details planned out in advance.
It is important to keep in mind that a construction project is a complex “dance” among various tradespeople. The general contractor tries his (or her) best to schedule each in a way that is most efficient and makes sense in terms of order. A delay in one area (say selecting kitchen fixtures) may require rescheduling many different tradespeople if, for example, the plumbing installation can’t happen at a particular time. Help the process by being prepared with your selections.
3. Don’t work without a design.
Similar to working without a budget, working without a design can compromise your budget and timeline. While certainly some basic jobs can be completed without full architectural review, any larger scale remodel needs a design. This provides a guiding focus to the project and documents your desires in an unambiguous way.
The design should only be as complex as the project requires. An interior designer or architect can work with you on the design well before bringing in contractors. In fact, it is the design documents that you will use in pricing out the project with general contractors. And you can use your design to keep the project inline with your scope.
4. Don’t distract from the project.
It’s easiest to not live in a home that is undergoing a major renovation. However that is not always possible. And let’s face it: it is unpleasant to live through a remodel. But the contractors have challenges of their own dealing with homeowners who are living inside their project space. Try to keep kids, pets, and vehicles out of the way.
It may be tempting to chat with the workers and various sub-contractors that come through your home. We all tend to feel an obligation to be hospitable to visitors in our home. Greeting workers is one thing. But don’t distract them with extended conversations. And absolutely don’t start directing their work. If there are questions or issues, always go through your general contractor and let him deal with the tradespeople directly.
5. Don’t ask for (too many) changes.
Change orders will happen. Sometimes it is due to an unavoidable discovery of outdated or out-of-code construction components that are uncovered during construction. But homeowners often will begin second-guessing their earlier choices once they begin to see actual progress.
Keep in mind that the time to decide where you want a wall to be is during the design process when it can be moved with the click of a mouse. And if you change which direction you wan the tile to be oriented, you definitely want to communicate that well before the contractors begin laying it! Changes in the midst of a project can cause re-work, wasted materials and will delay your project.
6. Don’t be surprised by surprises.
Homeowners often enjoy recounting all the missteps that happen during their latest remodeling project. They will speak with great intensity (or indignation) of the various things that happened that were unforeseen. It may be that a construction project uncovered unseen and unknowable issues like a cracked slab or unseen water leaks. Or it may be mistakes made that could have been avoidable. The truth is this: surprises will happen on most projects.
Be prepared when your contractors comes to you and says “we need to talk”. You will want to fully understand the situation and determine if someone is “at fault“. You can certainly pursue remedies with the contractors or subcontractors if your “surprise” was something they caused. But regardless, don’t be surprised when everything doesn’t happen to plan. Your design and construction team will be there to help you brainstorm through to a proper resolution. Often times, the contractor will present you with options and, along with your designer, can help you assess and select the best path forward. By anticipating surprises, you’ll be less caught off guard when you are presented with the situation.
7. Don’t (always) sacrifice quality for lower cost.
Home remodeling projects are expensive by nature. There are ways to save that make sense such as limiting the scope of your project, reusing existing components, or selecting budget oriented supplies. But be certain that you are not trading quality for a small cost savings.
There are a number of areas where it is tempting to reduce costs. One of the primary areas that homeowners look for cost reductions is in evaluating contractor bids. The lowest bid may seem the most tempting. But take into account the reputation of the builder. There are many shady contractors in the world. Make sure you’re hiring a reputable contractor first and foremost even if the bid is slightly higher.
Another area where the quality vs, cost may seem tempting is in the purchase of materials. Homeowners sometimes believe they will save money by purchasing the materials themselves. Keep in mind that your contractor and subcontractors may markup the cost of materials but they also typically buy the materials at wholesale prices. You will be unable to buy materials as cheaply as they do.
A successful remodeling project can be a lot of fun for homeowners as they see their home transform before them. By avoiding some of these mistakes, hopefully you can make your project a success and enjoy the process. Good luck!
Phone: (480) 842-5059
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Main Office & Design Gallery @ Thingz
(our offices are inside Thingz in the Scottsdale Design Center)
15125 N Hayden Road, Suite 100
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Design Gallery @ Boulevard Urban Living
13802 N Scottsdale Road, Suite 134
Scottsdale, AZ 85254