Editor’s note: This is the third in a series about avoiding common remodeling mistakes. The first is “Avoiding common home remodeling mistakes” and the second is “5 tips to avoiding costly remodeling mistakes.” Both are on deseretnews.com in the Family section. Portions of this column were previously published.
This month, we are discussing common home remodeling mistakes. We find it a healthy exercise to talk about mistakes as a way to inform homeowners and to help them dodge a bullet or two. Here are a few more potential areas for problems during a renovation project and some advice on how to avoid them.
Consider the landscaping.
One of the most common oversights when remodeling is not having a budget for repairing or replacing landscaping once the project is complete.
It is fairly obvious that projects involving additions will impact your yard, but even interior-only projects can affect the exterior of a home. The driveway and possibly part of the yard will be used to stage supplies and equipment, and the main access to the project will probably not be the front door, so workers and equipment may traipse around the house and through the yard.
Homeowners usually don’t think about replacing or repairing the landscaping until they see how torn up the yard may be by the end of the project.
The second reason to focus on landscaping is that it goes out of style just as other design elements do. You don’t do yourself any favors by leaving the giant 30-year-old, spider-infested pfitzers in front of your newly updated home, even if they do survive the contractors.
Landscaping always pulls the short stick because by the time the homeowners have spent their last dime on remodeling the home, they don’t have the capital to create a new and beautiful yard to match the new and improved structure. They may not even have the funds to get the yard back to where it was before the remodel. The best time to refurbish the landscaping is right after a remodeling project, when the yard is at least partially demolished. It is smart to put aside some money for landscaping as part of the project, so you don’t have to pay to tear up the yard again next year.
Avoid inferior materials.
Last week we mentioned that remodeling is something you usually do only once or twice in a lifetime. This next piece of advice goes specifically to the brave do-it-yourself remodeler, but it also applies to anyone trying to save money on their remodel. We understand sticking to a budget. Honestly, we are all about stretching the dollar and getting the most bang for your buck. However, there comes a point when penny-pinching goes too far.
Don’t sacrifice quality on basic, long-term materials and fixtures. The bottom line is you get what you pay for. If you can’t afford to do it right, you should probably wait until you can. A better way to lower the cost of the whole project without sacrificing quality is by shaving off square footage with smart design. Remember, a project is priced out by a cost per square foot. With the right design, you can actually save money on gross square footage, which can then be put toward quality materials.
Think about everyday design.
Remodeling is not cheap, so it doesn’t make sense to undertake a remodel that doesn’t benefit your everyday life. For example: the bonus room.
We feel bad when we see someone spend money on a bonus room that simply adds square footage to the house. Most days, it just sits there unused with no purpose other than being available if the family should need it occasionally. When a client comes to us and says they are thinking of adding a bonus room, we say, “Why do you want a bonus room? What activities or function will it serve?” Often it is a question that they cannot answer. Even with an extra room, families will have the same problems with the rest of their house that they have always had. This kind of remodel won’t solve anything.
A good remodel that reconfigures a home’s existing space or possibly adds a small addition can do wonders for a family’s everyday life if it addresses a critical need or situation. When you are thinking about a remodel or an addition, think about how the space you are adding will impact your life every day. Realtors and bankers love square footage above all else; architects don’t. If you don’t have a good reason for creating additional space, it is our opinion that you are wasting your money.
Choose to go green.
When you are cutting into the walls, floors or roof of your home, this is the time to beef up the insulation to make your home as energy-efficient as possible. Not choosing to go with green appliances, windows, equipment and materials is a mistake on several different levels. You will have to consider pay-back schedules and returns on investment as you make vital decisions. This is the same idea as not updating the electrical or plumbing when the wires or pipes are exposed.
If you open up the wall and see a problem, fix it. (See below.) Sustainable designs and green options are a new classic worth investing in. Consider tankless water heaters and ductless HVAC systems. The more-efficient systems will cost more money up front, but it will be worth it in the long run. It is smart to invest in the efficiency of your home.
Have a contingency fund.
You will have issues with your project if you design to use every last penny of your budget. It is not really that difficult to understand that every remodeling project has its own surprises. Because this is residential construction, the issues are not usually huge, but they almost always require extra money to solve. While a few hundred or even thousand dollars is not a lot in the big picture of things, it can seem insurmountable when thrown at you during the stress of a remodeling project. On the other hand, if you know you have that contingency fund, the mountain becomes a much more manageable molehill. We recommend that you set aside 5 to 10 percent of the total budget for your contingency fund.
We hope this discussion is helpful and not discouraging. Overall, we can’t stress enough the importance of planning ahead! Plan, plan, plan. The more details you figure out before construction begins, the better off you will be and the fewer mistakes you will make.
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