Don’t get burned by these home remodeling mistakes

Planning to tackle some home remodeling projects? Before you get out your tool belt, you may want to do some prep work.

Why? Because doing your pre-project homework will help you avoid any slip-ups down the line, says Aaron Gordon, a licensed contractor in San Francisco, Calif., and owner of Aaron Gordon Construction, Inc.

“Rushing a remodeling project before you have thought through all the details is one of the biggest renovation mistakes you can make as a homeowner,” Gordon says. What kind of mistakes are we talking about? Anything from higher costs to project delays, notes Gordon.

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Worried you could be a little underprepared for your big remodeling project? Keep reading to learn how to avoid these six remodeling mistakes, so your home improvement project can run smoothly.

Mistake #1: Not Getting a Permit

Sure, “going rogue” and building without a permit may save you money up front, but most likely it will end up turning into a big mistake down the line.

“If you don’t build to code, you’ll end up stuck with fees and fines (numbers vary, depending on the city, but could be hundreds more than the cost of the permit), and you’ll most likely have to redo it if you’re found out by a city home inspector,” says Gordon.

Not only that, but if you add on another room to your house and don’t get a permit, it can’t be factored-in as part of your home’s square footage, adds Gordon. For example, if the additional bedroom is 1000 feet, that’s 1000 feet that the appraiser may not include in the total square footage, which means you’ll be losing money on your home’s total value when you try to sell.

The bottom line is you should absolutely talk to your city’s Buildings Office or your contractor about any permits you may need before starting a project.

Mistake #2: Buying Cheap Cabinets

We’ve all heard the phrase “It’s too good to be true.” Well, it couldn’t be more applicable to getting a great “deal” on kitchen cabinets.

“Customers have a tendency to buy cheaper cabinets, which can make it harder for the contractor to install,” says Gordon. Cheap cabinets can be flimsy and difficult to secure in place.

And poor quality cabinets can also be a time-drain, says Gordon says. Buying lower-end products means you’ll be spending more time at the hardware store returning them, trying different ones, taking them back again – you get the idea.

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Want to avoid the headache? Talk to your contractor about cabinet selection before you go on a “deal hunt” – or just let your contractor do the shopping for you.

Mistake #3: Not Hiring a Contractor for Big Jobs

Re-doing your kitchen? Overhauling your bathroom? Exciting times! But if you don’t hire a general contractor for big projects like these, your life could become a coordination nightmare.

“Unless you have a background managing subcontractors, a lot could go wrong,” says Gordon. Subcontractors are the people hired by the general contractor to perform a certain job, be it plumbing, cabinet instillation, or tile work. The general contractor is the one that runs the show – and for good reason.

Why is it so important to have a general contractor? First, the subcontractors often don’t talk with each other, so without a general contractor, there’s going to be a major lack of communication, and the project won’t run smoothly, says Gordon. For example, the kitchen plumbing needs to be fixed before the new backsplash is put in. But if they don’t know that (and neither do you), the tile worker may show up to do the job before the plumber.

Additionally, there’s no way of determining a fair price for a subcontractor, unless you have a contractor that has your back. Without one, you could end up paying way too much for the job.

Mistake #4: Measuring Inaccurately

Measuring a square room? Not too difficult. But if you’re measuring a whole kitchen, from the cabinets to the backsplash, there’s a lot of room for error.

If you’re an inch off measuring your refrigerator space, and then you buy the wrong refrigerator size, you’ll delay the entire kitchen project waiting for returns and deliveries. But a contractor knows better, says Gordon: “As a contractor, you try to be there before a customer makes those measuring mistakes.”

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Even measuring something as seemingly simple as a window frame can be quite difficult due to the ridges and edges. But if you want to give it a shot anyway, many websites offer thorough how-to-measuring instructions. Another option to help avoid this mistake? Consult the pros.

Mistake #5: Hiring the Wrong Contractor

In 2011, the Better Business Bureau (BBB), an organization that works to create an ethical marketplace, received over 6,000 complaints against general contractors, an 11 percent increase from the previous year, according to the article “Hiring a Home Contractor – Do you Know the Red Flags?” To make sure you don’t become another statistic, it’s important to do a little research first.

It’s also important to make sure the contractor is licensed, says Gordon. The BBB advises homeowners to not only get the name of the insurance carrier but also confirm with the carrier that the contractor has coverage.

But your research certainly should not stop there. Gordon advises reading reviews about potential contractors online and then asking contractors for references. When you speak with references, ask if you can see the finished project or have the contractor take you there, so you can decide if you like the work.

And if you like what you see? Well, it’s time to relax because you’ve likely found a contractor who can take all of the guesswork out of your home remodel.

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