Does the warmer weather have you thinking about potential home improvements? Here are some tips, and common mistakes to avoid!
Spend Money to Save Money
The improvements you make can not only increase the value of your home if you wish to sell in the future, they can also save you money while you are living there! Investing in newer appliances that are energy efficient can save you money on your water, electric, and/or heating bills each month. Water saving fixtures, such as faucets, showerheads, and dual-flush toilets, can help decrease your water usage. Insulating your attic, or weatherproofing your exterior doors and windows can be ways to lower your heating bill during the colder months.
Hire a Professional When Necessary
Even if you consider yourself quite handy, be sure to recognize your limits, and know when to hire a professional. DIY is great, but know the limits of your time and your skill levels. You don’t want to get halfway thru a project and realize you bit off more than you can chew -- you may end up spending more on a professional to fix half done or poorly done work than if you had hired someone in the first place.
- Make sure to properly research potential contractors and get reputable references. If a contractor is reluctant to share information about references, or doesn’t want to wait for you to do your research, it may be a sign they are a scammer. Interview multiple contractors, and compare quotes and references. Always check a few different options, so you can get an idea of whether the prices you are quoted make sense for your project.
-Take the time to decide what you want and why you’re remodeling before you start! Don’t begin to renovate without knowing what you want the end result to look like – your project will end up taking longer, costing more, and you may reach the end and realize what you have is not what you were hoping for. If you want to increase the value of your property, make sure to research ‘bang for buck’ projects. If you want to add comfort, design and features that will increase your enjoyment of your space, make sure you know what that means to you – trends can be fun to think about and get your ideas flowing, but knowing what YOU like is more important than what an influencer might like.
Avoid These Common Mistakes
-Remodeling before fixing more important maintenance issues. While it’s tempting to just look at cosmetic changes to your space, you don’t want to have to undo changes to work on deeper issues that should have been taken care of first. Focus on any structural or safety issues before appearance.
-Setting an unrealistic budget. Be prepared for any surprises, and build an extra 10-20% into your budget. In times of supply shortages, you may want to add even more to your budget, to account for increased costs midway thru the project, as well as any last-minute changes you may need to make.
- Underestimating the time things will take. Don’t plan an event for the day after your original estimated end date. Unexpected delays, supply shortages, staffing constraints and weather are all hard to estimate around. Just like your budget, build a ‘time buffer’ around your project. If you are using a contractor for work, ask them for an honest idea of how long the project will take, and then add at least a few weeks onto the end.
-Avoid cheap materials. Higher quality materials will last longer, and you won’t have to replace them as often. Think about the reasons for your remodel/renovation, and how long you want the new space to work for you – if you are creating something you want to last for a while, make sure you are choosing materials, fixtures and design that will stand the test of time.
Avoid Contractor Scams
-Be careful using vague social media or craigslist ads as a resource to hire a contractor for your project. Always do research on a contractor before hiring them. Ask for references, ask if they’re insured, and ask them for a rundown of their experience. Sites like Home Advisor often pre-research contractors and provide reviews, and can be handy to check before starting a project. Remember – you are hiring someone to work on your home, and you have the right to ask them for their qualifications. Someone refusing to give that info, or not giving details on previous experience, can be a red flag.
-Never hire someone ‘on the spot’ – a common scam is for ‘contractors’ to go around after storms, disasters, etc, offer a good deal to do work on your home, and then ask for money up front to get supplies – money that you will likely never see again.
-Check online with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) before making any arrangements with potential contractors. Beware of the following red flags- cash only deals, high pressure sales tactics, handshake deals without a written contract, or high upfront payments before any work is completed. Before starting any work, have a detailed written contract, and a breakdown of expected material and labor costs. Most contractors will get any building permits you may need, but be sure to double check with your county or town’s Building and Permitting Division. If work is done without a necessary permit, you run a risk of paying a fine or needing to tear down the work you’ve done.