Trina Knudsen, © 2013 Trina Knudsen, Photographer
Remodeling usually represents a substantial investment of time and energy, but it shouldn’t cost more than it has to. Most people experience a major remodel only once or twice in their lifetime, so there isn’t much room for trial and error. You want to get it right the first time. Here are some of the more common costly mistakes you should try to avoid.
1. Doing projects out of sequence
There is nothing more costly for a remodeling project than doing the same project twice due to poor planning and improper project sequencing. Don’t redo the landscaping and add a deck when you are planning an addition next year. Usually people do projects as they can afford them — maybe windows this year and new deck next year. There is nothing wrong with this idea as long as you have a master plan you are working toward.
For instance, we hate it when clients come to us wanting a home remodel only to find out they just replaced all their windows. Windows have a huge impact on the architectural design of a house. Working around the new windows is going to limit the design. Often clients end up at least having to pay to remove and re-install some of the windows, and some end up having to buy new windows again to match the style of their dream home.
2. Blowing the budget
The client who stays within a budget is the client who plans ahead. The more detailed the project plans are, the more accurate the bids and the more realistic the budget. Making all the selections of finishes and equipment prior to commencing construction will allow you to get the big picture and consider the complete cost of the project. In addition, we recommend reserving 5 to 10 percent of the proposed budget as a contingency for the unexpected challenges of a remodeling project. Architects and engineers do the best they can to anticipate potential issues, but it is only when you cut into the walls, floors and ceiling that you know the whole story.
3. Gutting too soon
We cringe when we see someone decide they want to remodel and start tearing down walls without a plan. First, the planning stage takes weeks or even months. It may be three to six months from initial project inception before permits are secured and construction can begin. If you are overly excited about beginning the project, you may end up living in a construction zone far longer than you need to or be faced with rebuilding walls you could have saved when you took a sledgehammer to your house without a plan.
4. Not getting the right permits
Technically, all major home repairs and remodeling projects require a permit. Do not assume you can perform the work and worry about things like zoning and permits later. If an inspector sees your project, it can be closed down if you cannot show the proper permit. Even if the work is complete, under some circumstances you can be required to tear it all down. If you do manage to finish your project without getting caught, building without a permit can cause problems when you go to sell or refinance your home. Your work could be called into question and affect the appraisal or sale. If you hire an architect for your project, helping you or the contractor secure the right permits is one of the services they provide.
5. Overbuilding for the neighborhood
Overbuilding occurs when homeowners sink too much money into a house when either the market or the location (or both) cannot support the extent of the remodeling project. In an attempt to recapture their remodeling costs when selling, homeowners then price themselves out of their market. While most people these days aren't remodeling for a quick resale, and few are brave enough to try flipping houses in this market, you still need to think about how your remodeling choices will affect your future resale potential.
It is best to consult a real estate agent in the planning stage of your remodel to ask three questions:
1. What realistic value would the Realtor place on your house "as is"?
2. What is the price range of homes that are selling in your area?
3. In the realtor's opinion, what home improvements will most improve your home's resale value?
6. Not staying involved in the process
The homeowner is the most integral part of a remodeling team. It is important to stay involved throughout the project. If you aren’t living in the house during construction, we recommend visiting your project every day. Contractor’s questions need to be answered as quickly as possible, and errors can be nipped in the bud if you are paying attention. Sometimes interesting design opportunities are revealed, especially during the framing phase. If you don’t feel comfortable managing this aspect of the project, keep your architect involved during the construction phase.
Good luck and remember the more you plan, think and prepare for your remodel the more likely you will be to avoid these costly mistakes.
Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com