A lot of good has come from our decision to buy an as-is fixer upper and do a complete home remodel. I won’t deny that. It has turned into one of the best things for our life in so many ways. We’ve learned to live simply, we’ve learned to appreciate having a home more, and we’ve taught our children some valuable lessons along the way about hard work, determination and the value of having do-it-yourself skills.
Here is a list of some mistakes we were either fortunate enough to avoid or unfortunate enough to have to learnas we went along.
1. Supersizing – to be honest, we have had and still have had thoughts of adding on to our home. It’s about 1800 square feet and we’ve toyed with the idea of adding a 2nd story for another 600 sf. The truth is though that rarely does an addition to a home recoup it’s cost in the short term. For us to decide to add on, we’d also be deciding to stay put for the long haul in this home. We’re not doing that. And when it comes time to sell we want the home to fit with the neighborhood and original style and we want to be able to recoup our remodeling costs.
2. Trying to make a home something it isn’t – in our case, we bought a 1960 ranch. It would’ve been silly to try to make it into a massive victorian. We chose to go spanish style cottage with ours. There are a lot of choices so make sure the style your home is when you buy it lends itself to what you want it to be.
3. Changing the function of rooms – for us, one of the biggest money and time savers was keeping the kitchen the kitchen and the bathrooms the bathrooms.
4. Do It Yourself – we haven’t (knock on wood) had any major mishaps with hubby taking on our remodel himself. He’s managed each project along the way just fine but it can be a huge money and time drain if you don’t know what you’re doing and have to call someone in to tear out your tile job and do it properly.
5. Costly renovations for little return – If you’re remodeling for yourself to make home yours for the rest of your days, it is one thing. If you’re remodeling and will be looking to sell someday, it’s an absolute necessity to know what people will be looking for in a home. Know what the return on a gourmet kitchen is vs. a midrange kitchen remodel. The biggest returns in remodeling come from replacing exterior siding, new windows, and kitchen and bath upgrades.
6. Underbudgeting – This one, I don’t know many people who stay within budget on home building or remodeling but it’s important to have some idea of what you’re looking at and a back up plan better than sinking into debt. Not planning for costs properly can either result in a delayed project, bigger debt, or work that lacks quality to cut costs.
7. Assuming you can live in your remodel while work is being done – you CAN live in your remodel, but if you choose to go that route, know what you’re getting into. Doing dishes in the bathtub while the kitchen is gutted, and eating out for most meals. Be prepared.
8. Not Planning for the Unexpected – You have no idea when you tear open a wall if you’ll find pest problems or moisture issues requiring structural repair. You may discover wiring that needs to be replaced, pipes that need to be rerouted or moisture problems that have rotted away joists or sill plates. Pad your budget and allow yourself a bit of flexibility in your work schedule to accommodate these not-so-nice surprises. We planned for all of the above going into our as-is remodel and we were greeted with all of the above!
9. Going Trendy – it’s always safer to go with classic design when remodeling because it will last and you won’t feel like you have to start over with remodeling in 3 years when what you chose is out of style. Classic colors and styles will appeal to you longer and to prospective home buyers when it’s time to sell.
10. Not doing your homework on your contractor - if you’re using a contractor or contractors for all or part of your project, get recommendations. Go see some of the work they’ve done. Ask previous clients how the contractor handled problems and if the jobs were done in a timely manner. Remodeling is stressful and can be expensive. Don’t add to that stress by not knowing what you are in for with an uncooperative or slow contractor. Get a contract once you’ve chosen your contractor with cost, scope of work and start and end dates!
11. No permit – find out of your projects require a permit and get one if they do. If you have a contractor doing your job, put them in charge of getting the permits to save you time and money.
12. Check insurance – Before your start your project, check your homeowners policy limits. Since policies are often purchased based on existing house value, you may need to make changes to your policy. Also make sure anyone working on your property is carrying Workmen’s Comp Insurance.
13. Unsafe conditions – use tools properly, wear safety goggles, keep your work area relatively clean. Nothing will delay your project longer than a stint in the emergency room for not taking proper precautions while working.
14. Skimping on Materials – know where you should be paying more for quality. From drywall to flooring, to countertops and fixtures. Decide what you want that fits the budget. Put in flooring that will last, not just the cheapest one you can find. If you want high end appliances in your kitchen, you may have to adjust your countertop budget and install laminate instead of solid surface. Make those decisions ahead of time so you can expect what your end result will be.
15. Not having a plan – this was, admittedly, us. We had a vague plan at best when hubby started tearing out walls and floors. Our plan was “remove it and replace it”. That’s about it. It worked out okay in the end but it would’ve saved a bit more of our sanity and patience and time if we’d laid out a step by step plan ahead of time to have an idea of what would happen when. And it could’ve been disastrous if we’d stumbled upon bigger issues during tearouts.