7 Remodeling Mistakes to Avoid

7 Remodeling Mistakes to Avoid


Our homes are typically our single largest purchase and investment. Given that, it’s critical when considering doing work to renovate or remodel your home, you avoid some common mistakes that often occur. If you take even a few of these to heart, it could save you stress, time, and even money. Chuck Hamilton, executive officer, Lehigh Valley Builders Association, had a couple of great tips to share.


If you take even a few of these to heart, it could save you stress, time, and even money.


1. Use a licensed contractor

One who is licensed through the Home Improvement Contractor Registration. Licensing, which has been in place since 2009, is done through the Attorney General’s office in Harrisburg. “If a contractor is licensed, that means they have to comply with requirements including having insurance, being financially stable, and using a standard contract, which all weigh in the consumer’s favor,” Hamilton said. You’ll be able to identify a licensed contractor as they promote their license on their advertising and vehicles (PA license #). If you’re looking for a licensed person or company, use the state’s website:
hicsearch.attorneygeneral.gov for information.


2. Watch for lead paint

If your home was built prior to 1978, it may contain lead paint. There are rules through the Environmental Protection Agency on how to deal with this, as there are potential health risks. Lead paint should only be removed by certified people, as there is a process to do it safely. Hamilton says, “Ask your contractor if they are certified to work on homes built before 1978.” Be aware, there is added expense to do this properly; if you are comparing bids and one is significantly lower than the others, you may want to investigate as to how lead paint will be addressed. For more information, check the EPA website at epa.gov/lead.


3. Call those references

You shouldn’t feel awkward asking for references; most contractors are happy to provide names and numbers of happy customers. Here’s the thing: most people don’t actually follow up and make the calls! You’re making a significant investment in your home, so do the legwork and call. Ask questions about promptness, tidiness, if the job done within time and budget, and other issues you’re wondering about. If you’re using someone who’s been referred to you through friends, even better – you can check out the workmanship first-hand.


4. Get a written contract

It should include the start date, estimated completion date, details as to exactly what is going to be done (and in some cases, not done), pricing, and more. It should take into account potential weather issues (rain, snow) if exterior work is being done. It will detail the quality of materials, number of coats of paint and primer, and if work will be subcontracted to other people or companies. Also, if you make changes to the contract, be sure to get them in writing (called ‘change orders’) along with the cost. If this is unfamiliar territory, don’t be pressured into signing anything without having an attorney or trusted friend review any paperwork before you sign.


5. Take your time

If you have to pick paint colors, tile, carpet, finishes, cabinetry, faucets, or even just one of those things, don’t wait until the last minute! You’re going to be living with these decisions for the next 5-10 years or more, so this is time well spent. Now is when you pull out your file folder of dream house items (or online Pinterest board or other websites). Also, some items may need to be ordered (such as specialty tile), and that could delay the project at your expense.


6. Be prepared for the unexpected

Ask your contractor where they foresee plans might be impacted. What experience do they have? If you’ve watched practically any HGTV remodeling show, you’ve seen this happen: a wall is opened up, and unexpected issues arise (old wiring, mold, or major systems need updating) which take time and money to address. Also, don’t forget about the impact and disruption a remodeling job will have on you and your family. If you are redoing your kitchen, do you have a plan for a temporary kitchen? What about meals for the family? Are comfortable are you with sawdust and mess?


7. Not having a (realistic) budget

This is another favorite from the HGTV and DIY network programs: folks who think an entire house including a kitchen and 2 bathrooms can be totally ripped out and overhauled with high-end materials for $20,000. This might be correct if you were doing the work yourself (so it’s only the materials cost), however it’s the highly-skilled and licensed labor and experience you’re paying for. Do your research so you can properly assess estimates. Talk to friends who have had projects done, and check online sources for cost estimates based on geographic area. You know your finances best, so make a budget and stick to it, and make smart decisions in the process.


One final mistake to avoid

Don’t over improve to the extent you’ve made your home the most expensive on the block, unless this is your ‘forever’ home or one you’ll be in for more than 10 years. Otherwise, you’re highly unlikely to get your return on the investment. If you’re remodeling in order to sell your home within 2-5 years, you may want to consult a realtor to find out what updates are most important to buyers (e.g. updated bathrooms, media room, walk-in closets, etc.) in your area.

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