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10 Home Renovation Tips – Learn From Our Experience

January 24, 2011 · 125 comments

in Home & Garden, Personal Finance

It all started with a big thunderstorm.

We lost power for a week. Because of the power outage, we had to manually empty our sump in the basement so the basement would not flood.   It was pouring rain one night, and my husband left the doorwall open because he had to keep going in and out, dumping buckets of water.

An Unlikely Reason To Renovate Our Home

A couple of days later, my daughter was throwing something away in the garbage when she noticed little ‘somethings’ by the garbage can.  Well those little somethings were mouse droppings.  We think a mouse (or family of mice, led by the pied piper) got in the house when the doorwall was open that night, and decided to make themselves comfortable.

I freaked out.  I tore everything out of our cabinets, cleaning maniacally.  Most things went in the garbage, including some pots and pans.  Irrational?  Maybe.  But I couldn’t stand the thought of cooking in pots/pans that were used as a mouse restroom.  I then proclaimed “that is it!  It is time to renovate the kitchen”.

Of course, when my husband and I decided to remodel the kitchen, we decided to remodel everything attached to the kitchen.  We ended gutting the kitchen, removing the brick fireplace, tearing out all the ceilings and putting in recessed lighting, putting hardwood floor throughout the entire first floor (including foyer, dining room, family room, kitchen, and hallways), and we remodeled the bathroom.  The renovation went very smoothly and actually quicker than I expected.  I think part of the reason was we were in the heart of the recession, and I think there were plenty of contractors available to work.  We gutted the house in November and it was done the first week in January.

Tips For Home Renovation:

  1. Get as many recommendations as you can on the contractor you plan to use.  Don’t be shy about calling references that are provided.  You absolutely must trust this person as he/she will be in and out of your home for days.
  2. Know what home renovations you want ahead of time.  Otherwise, you might find yourself being steered toward spending a lot more money than you ever intended.
  3. Make it known up front that you do not want people smoking in your home.  A few years ago we had an upstairs bathroom remodeled and the people doing the deconstruction lit right up while in my house.  I put an end to that immediately because I was home.  However, had I not been home, my house would have smelled like a bar by the time I returned.
  4. Get every little detail of the home renovation in writing from the contractor up front, before you sign on the dotted line.  This will save you time, save your credit card, and ultimately make the renovation go a lot more smoothly.  There were assumptions I made in my head of what the final product would look like and the contractor actually had a different, ‘cheaper’ plan.  I was paying for one thing and the contractor planned on installing something else (the price paid was fixed).  Examples of this are:
    • I thought that since the old fireplace was being torn down and a new one was being rebuilt, new fireplace doors would be included in the quote I was given.  Unfortunately, they were not.
    • I thought the ‘sidesplash’ would be included in the cost of the new bathroom sink.  I was told it was not, although the contractor ended up throwing one in anyway, and installing it.
    • I was having new kitchen cabinets installed with a peninsula.  I assumed the front of the peninsula would be wood, but the general contractor envisioned it being painted drywall. (Drywall would be much cheaper.)   Fortunately this was not a huge extra expense for the project.
    • The painting in the quote assumed all four walls and the ceiling would be the same color, but I missed that.  So painting the ceilings white was an added cost, but that was my fault.
  5. If you don’t like one of the workers on the job, talk to the head contractor about it.  I regret not kicking out the painter on our home remodel.  He was expensive, and he really didn’t do a very good job.  Had I been more experienced, I would have booted him on day one.
  6. Make sure you have enough paint leftover for touch-ups and document the type of paint used in each room.  You may remember the paint color 5 years down the road, but you may not remember if you used eggshell, flat, semi-gloss, etc.
  7. Make sure the contractor cleans up the mess every single day.  You don’t want all that dust circulating through your heating and cooling system, which leads me to my next tip…
  8. Change your air filters during and after your home renovation if you are having any drywall work done.  You wouldn’t believe the amount of drywall dust you will find in your filters during a renovation.  You can do real damage to the HVAC system if you do not keep the air moving well with nice, clean filters.
  9. Be prepared to make a lot of decisions, right down to cabinet handles and knobs.  I admit that by the end, I was so sick of the whole process that I chose any old bathtub because I was just ‘done’.  I just went with the standard size because it was cheaper, and I figured standard would be fine.  I still kick myself over that decision.  Had that question come up at the beginning of our remodel, I probably would have chosen a different tub.
  10. DO NOT MAKE THE FINAL PAYMENT UNTIL EVERY LAST THING IS COMPLETE.  This suggestion goes way back to my smoky-bathroom renovation.  There was one small tile that needed to be still be installed, along with a couple other small things.  I was never able to get the contractor to come back, and why would he?  He had all his money, and that was all that mattered to him.

Bonus tip:

In addition, if you are replacing/installing new windows or doors and have a security system, remember to contact your security system provider to have  any security components adjusted that may have been affected by the renovation.

Have you ever renovated your home?  Do you have any additional home renovation tips to share?  I am thrilled with how our home renovation turned out, and I am really glad we did it.  However, I hope that people can learn from some of the bumps we encountered along the way.

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