There's no end to the things that can go wrong on a remodeling
project. And we're not even talking about big no-nos, like
getting taken in by a shady contractor or not having enough money
in the bank. We're talking about the stuff only somebody who's
been through the process can know. Like wanting to have under
cabinet lighting after the kitchen is complete, and it was not
pre-wired with a switch to conceal any wires hanging down to an
Hands down, it's the first Commandment of Remodeling, repeated like a
mantra by GCI, readers, and viewers, and affirmed by the This Old House crew.
*Don't assume your budget will cover what you've planned.
It rarely does; whatever you've budgeted. set aside at least 10 to 20 percent more.
* Don't assume workers won't scratch the parquet floor.
Someone will; protect the floors with corrugated kraft or plywood in advance.
At all times GCI will cover the floors
* Don't assume the box on the delivery truck contains that indigo glass tile you ordered,
no matter what it says. Open and examine it before signing.
* Most important, don't assume anybody you've hired is a mind reader. Speak up, be
clear, talk about what you want-constantly-and don't let problems fester.
Just because you can't see it doesn't mean you can ignore it
Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva to name the biggest remodeling
mistake, and he doesn't hesitate, "framing short cuts". A new addition that is poorly framed will
will eventually flex and crack, leading to cracked walls, creaky floors, water invasion, and rot. Yet it's
common, because contractors know that homeowners on a limited budget would rather invest in
the stuff they can see. At GCI we like to use the "Code Plus" framing guidelines lines established
by the American Plywood Association.
Match, Don't mix
Make changes that respect the architectural and integrity of your house. The remodel should
always match the period and character of the house," says Tom. "I tell my clients" If you want
contemporary flavor in an old house, modernize with things that aren't permanent, like light
fixtures and furnishings, not the house itself. You'll be glad when it's time to sell, because the next
buyer might not want to sliding glass doors on a 19th century farmhouse.
Live in the house first
Houses reveal their character slowly. And owners with patience are rewarded says This
Old House executive producer Bruce Irving. Until you know how the sun moves across the yard
which way the rain slants, what door you really use, How much time you spend in which rooms.
Live in the house before you force it into a shape you may regret later.
Be willing to wait
Good contractors are busy says This Old House host Kevin O'Connor, who's called his
share. If they're not you have to wonder why. So expect to wait and recognize it will be
worth it in the long run. The same holds true for bids. The guy who gives you the lowball
figure may also deliver subpar quality.
Listen to your Architect
Hiring an architect for big projects is the best way to get the big picture up front. An
architect will ask you questions about your lifestyle and needs, so there's less chance of finding
out later that instead of a master suite all we really wanted was a bigger bathroom. Plans in
detail construction drawings, which contractors bid on, will also help you establish a realistic
budget for construction and materials. The people often think they can go alone,
I've seen many examples of folks who called in an architect, didn't like what they were
hearing, and consequently decided to do without the architect, says Bruce. Not only were the
final projects flawed, the jobs to longer and cost more than the clients thought they would,
just as the architects had predicted. Since most architects charge by the hour, hold down
cost by using their time more efficient. Visit show rooms, clips photos from magazines, and
bring along anything else that will help you give a detailed description of what you want.
Blueprints sometimes aren't enough
home renovation is an act of blind faith. That's because it's hard for homeowners toand
visualize to read the space from a flat blueprint, and architectural models are too expensive and
for most residential jobs. People say. I get the idea, But they rarely do. GCI advice? and
For heavily used rooms like kitchens make a full scale layout on the garage floor or and
driveway to get a sense of the proposed change before you build it. And talk over the and
blueprints carefully with your architect and builder. If you don't get it, what's the point ?
Make the big decisions early
If you think you might want to remodel the atic make that decision while construction
demolition is an affect. Most times you can save money and time is deciding early.
Insulation does more then keep your house warm in a winter and cool in the summer.
It cuts down on noise. Saves, hot water bills, and keeps out moisture.
For HVAC, bigger isn't better
A lot of money gets wasted because many HVAC contractors install systems that are too
large. If you're putting it in a new heating system or replacing an old one, think the efficiency first.
Only a fool has himself as a client
To serve as your own general contractor you need time, contacts, and expert knowledge
of the building process. You simply can't command the loyalty and attention of the best
subs and suppliers like a pro contractor who gives them much of their business. And when
you figure your work per hour are at your regular job, it probably won't be worth what it will
cost you in your time.
Hire a Legitimate Contractor
Remember always be sure to hire only a contractor like GCI that has license, workers
comp insurance, bonding, and liability insurance. This is something that is stressed time
and time again by state and local law makers for your protection.