Black Lab Remodeling

Top 5 problems when remodeling and how to avoid them


So you’re really thinking of remodeling or renovating your home. You’ve watched some HGTV home renovation/remodeling shows, and you think sure we can do that! Or at least we can hire the right person to get it done! But what are the problems that can arise that will take your project from Fixer Upper to Money Pit? We’ll explore the top five problems that can come up during a remodel.

Number one, the cost or size of the investment you are willing to put into the project. It is always a good idea to first know how much you are willing to spend on the project. I would recommend you even decide on this before you decide on any of the materials or even colors. The problem many homeowners face is that they have these grand dreams and fall in love with a picture on Pinterest or from a magazine, and they have to have the high-end marble or the quartz countertop with shaker cabinets, and oiled bronze hardware, or whatever the on-trend look is. But they don’t have the budget based on what those materials cost. Then they are surprised when they talk with a contractor about how much it will take to bring the social media dream to reality in their space. So what goes into the cost of your project? Many things such as the labor, materials, timing, permits, length of time of the project, how much demo is required, and how much rebuilding is required. Go in with what you are willing and able to spend, and then see what can be built with that investment in mind. You might be able to find a happy medium or who knows, you might be able to get everything you wanted and more. Remember, any good contractor can make what you want to happen, it only takes two things, money and time. Here is another article that covers more on the costs of remodeling projects in the Sacramento Metro Area.

Number two on the list is permitting. This can actually be an issue long after the project is done if a permit was needed and never applied for or issued. In some localities, not having permits for your projects can cause delays in the resale of your home. If your home is damaged in a fire or flood, and it can be traced back to or related to work that was never permitted you could lose out on an insurance claim to help pay for the restoration/renovation of correcting that. Permitting can also be a point of contention at the start of the project. Some local building departments have strict rules about how permits are applied for and what is required to be submitted along with the application. Depending on what type of project you are doing and if there is any structural components to the project more detailed plans are needed, which will also add to the cost of the overall project. To find out more about permitting, check out this article.

Number three is hidden surprises. As much as contractors like to act tough, we aren’t Superman. We don’t have X-ray vision. Things that are covered up by finished walls can’t always be planned for. Sometimes there are signs, of moldy or soft drywall, which can be a good indicator that there is or at least was water or moister behind the wall. Maybe there are signs of termites on the outside of the exterior wall, or an outlet looks to be in the wrong location. But the reality is until demolition is done, there really isn’t any way to see what is actually going on behind the walls. Sometimes there ends up being nothing there and everyone sighs a sigh of relief. Other times, well other times the messenger comes up to you with a blindfold in the hand and asks for your mercy.

Number four, finding the wrong contractor. How are you supposed to know that you found the wrong contractor until they actually do the job? You hope that they are somewhat of a decent human being and don’t run off with your money to never be heard of again as they get into witness protection. What signs would there be that they are a less than a desirable contractor? Some quick ways to spot a contractor who may not be a good one are, do they have their business name, information, and especially their license number somewhere on their truck/vehicle? Do they have any sort of online presence? What kind of reviews do they have on Facebook, Nextdoor, or Google? Do they have a webpage? Is it kept up to date? Do they have a YouTube channel where they show previous projects or answer questions? Besides the star reviews, what do their past clients actually say about them? Did you get a referral from a friend or family member who has used the contractor in the past? Can you verify their license number? Okay, that should give you a decent idea. How do they make you feel when they talk with you on the phone? Or in-person?

Number five, going over budget. This inevitably happens because the contractor you hire doesn’t know how to manage money or time, or both. It also happens when homeowners change their minds about selections they made two months prior to the installation of the selections. Or when homeowners continue to dream about their space after the design has been finalized. These Changes have costs and time (remember anything can be done, it just takes time and money) associated with them. Going over budget also happens when the contractor doesn’t do their job and communicates with the client about what effects the changes have on the budget and the deadline of the project.

So now you know the top 5 problems during a remodeling project. If you would like to know how to avoid them, keep reading.

Avoiding cost. Okay, this one you can’t really avoid. As much as I would love to say you can have that luxury spa-like bathroom and avoid all the cost that is associated with it, that isn’t based in reality. So the best way to address cost so that it doesn’t become a problem is to formulate a budget ahead of time, work with a contractor who can help you decide where to allocate portions of the budget, and make the selections that fit that budget. Go into the project with realistic expectations, and a good contractor can help you define what those expectations are.

Avoid permitting problems. Having two plans, a plan for the money and a plan for the project. Find out what level of planning your project needs, and along with that what parts of the project need to be permitted. A good, licensed, and knowledgeable contractor will know what the local building department will require for permits, how to apply for them and what needs to be included with the application for the permit to be issued.

Avoid hidden surprises. Often times this step is overlooked because it usually comes with an added cost. However, during the planning phase of the project, a contractor while not having x-ray vision can do some exploration work to narrow down possible trouble spots and get a better sense of what they will run into, so they can plan accordingly and come prepared to address any issues as they arise.

Avoid hiring the wrong contractor. This one is fairly simple, and quite honestly it’s not because I’m going to say what you think I am going to say.
Trust your gut, do a little homework, and then trust your gut. Does the contractor make you feel like they’ll take good care of you? Okay, do a little homework; what do the reviews of their company say? Do you still feel like they’ll take good care of you? Does the contractor tell you what the prices might be without you ever talking to them? Meaning, is the contractor transparent with their information on their website, social media pages, and videos? How well do they know their process and can they give you a ballpark estimate without coming out to the job site? Are they active in the community? Would you feel safe leaving your neighbor’s child with them? How about your own child? Thinking about hiring a handyman or unlicensed contractor, check out this article before you do.

Avoid going over budget. Plan. Stick to the plan unless the plan absolutely needs to change, then change it. 75% of the budget is determined by the homeowner. The material selections and type of installation methods will drive up or down the investment of the project. But ultimately the plan you and the contractor put together along with project selections will determine if a project goes over budget.

All of the most common problems that arise in a remodel/renovation project can be eliminated or at the very least minimized by good Pre-project planning, and hiring the right contractor for the job. A pre-project plan will include the design, the budget, permitting plan, detailed scope of work, and some exploratory work to minimize surprises. Have you ever had an experience with a remodel? What was one of the biggest problems you faced? Leave us a comment below. Or if you are ready to talk to a contractor about your Renovation/Remodeling project, click here.

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