Home Improvement – The Top 10 Home Improvement Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

Although a major home improvement can prove to be a rewarding project, it can also turn your life upside down if you are not prepared. I’ve heard of some worst case scenarios involving people who have lost their homes because they got in over their heads and others who ended up with incomplete project nightmares that cost them thousands of dollars to correct.

Following is a list of the top ten mistakes homeowners make when undertaking home improvement projects and tips on how to avoid them:

1. References. Do enough research and background checking to satisfy you. Walk away if the contractor is not willing to provide references from former clients. Do an online search of the contractor’s business and personal name. Check with local courts for judgments filed against them and with the Better Business Bureau for any consumer complaints. Look at previous work completed (in person). Check with material suppliers since a good contractor will have a long-standing relationship with suppliers. Contact other contractors who have worked with them before. Check their credit standing – contractors with bad credit are often disorganized and don’t manage their business well. Inquire about insurance, workers compensation and licensing.

2. Project management. You need one person to help you manage your project. Most issues occur when inexperienced homeowners try to manage their own project. A project manager is a single point of contact between the homeowner and other contractors and is responsible for scheduling and workflow.

3. Contracts. Make sure your contract is solid. As obvious as this may sound, failure to get a contract or signing an incomplete contract is one of the most common mistakes. Put all the details in writing – never take someone’s word for it. Following are items that should be included in the contract: (1) the full name of the company and the person you are doing business with and their contact information, (2) an addendum consisting of the complete set of plans, (3) an addendum consisting of the materials to be used, (4) the price of the goods or services, (5) the manner and terms of payment, (6) a description of the work to be performed, (7) a start date and an estimated completion date, (8) a default clause in the event either party defaults that specifies how damages will be calculated, (9) warranties and (10) signatures.

4. Warranties. Make sure you receive a warranty with detailed terms and conditions. Don’t accept a contract that simply states that all work is guaranteed. There is often confusion as to who is responsible for the warranty. Get the following in writing: (1) Who is backing the warranty? (2) What is covered and what is not covered? (3) How long is the warranty valid for? (4) What can void the warranty? (5) What is the process for placing a warranty claim?

5. Changes. During the project, you may change your mind on certain design aspects which may require more or less work from contractors. It is critical to document every change order and note the exact cost or savings. Changes should be signed and dated by all parties.

6. Plans. Get a clear description on what will be done, how it will be done and the materials to be used. For smaller projects, contractors can draw up plans. For larger and more complicated projects, find a qualified designer or architect. And, for example, if load-bearing walls will be altered, find an engineer to review the structural side of the plans.

7. Costs. Estimating costs tends to be a big problem because people do not make realistic comparisons. Homeowners may hire the contractor with the lowest price but that price may turn out to be much higher in the end. “Allowance items” tend to be the main culprit in estimating costs. For example, contractors may give you allowances for flooring, lighting or hardware that are artificially low. The bid looks enticing until you examine it closely. Request a line item for straight costs on materials and labor since some contractors mark up materials and labor so they can make a profit on it. Ask the contractor to pass along costs to you and to add a line item for their fee. This creates a more clear and honest assessment of the job.

8. Financing and payments. Before signing the contract, figure out how you are going to pay for your home improvement project. Make sure you maintain control of the money – don’t let your project manager or contractor control the money. This sounds obvious but many homeowners allow contractors to make draws on construction accounts only to realize that the draws were not used for the intended purpose. What does this mean? It means your contractor scored a new truck, you’re out of money and the project is incomplete. Tips: (1) don’t pay a lot of money up front, (2) pay when materials are delivered, (3) pay when work begins and (4) pay as work progresses. Pay only after work and materials are inspected and approved.

9. Inspections. Don’t wait until your home improvement project is almost complete to do the inspection. Plan phased inspections along the way so work doesn’t need to be re-done. Don’t rely on city and county building inspectors to protect you since the codes they enforce don’t guarantee quality (and they often miss things too!). Before paying for work, hire an independent inspector to do periodic phase inspections.

10. Materials. Stick with products that are tried and true. This rule especially holds true when it comes to windows, doors, framing materials, roofing products, concrete coverings, epoxy floors, plumbing, light fixtures and electronics. You don’t want to be the guinea pig that test runs the supposed latest and greatest new products or materials only to find out that these items don’t last or turn out to be fire hazards!

How to Avoid the Most Common Home Improvement Mistakes

Eventually turning your house into the dream home you have envisioned all your life can be a thrilling endeavor. With all the excitement going on, homeowners could easily and unknowingly commit home improvement mistakes that not only leaves them frustrated in the end, but even broke as well.

Though one can never guarantee a hassle-free project, you can still save your New York home from the risks by avoiding common home improvement mistakes. As they say, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. So whether you are in Long Island, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, or Staten Island; arm yourself with the right information. With this said, here are the things you can do to steer clear from pitfalls:

Set a Realistic and Flexible Budget

Probably the most common mistake when it comes to undertaking just any home improvement is busting the budget. When setting a budget, it is important that you already have an idea on what you want done and have already researched on the closest estimate you could get. Be as specific as possible when it comes to the type and quality of fixtures and materials you want to integrate into the project. Getting multiple estimates from qualified contractors would also be beneficial.

Make sure that you have a secure financial source from where the home improvement budget will be taken from. There are lots of options from withdrawing from your own savings to obtaining a loan. But however you decide to finance the project set allowances to cover unexpected expenses.

If You are Not Qualified, Leave It to the Pros

Underestimating what a home improvement project requires can be disastrous. Weigh your skills and experience carefully. Being honest to yourself would payoff big, while doing otherwise would lead to sloppy jobs that will eventually require you to hire a contractor to repair the damages that you have done.

If you really need to cutback on labor costs, there are plenty of tasks that you can have done yourself. This can be arranged with your hired contractor.

Never take Your Eyes Off of Your Goal

While the construction is ongoing, any homeowner can be taken off-track if he or she is not careful. Throughout home improvement project progress, there would always be ideas popping into your head. Changing plans while the project is at work will be costly and can lead to unsatisfactory results. Before any work begins, make sure to discuss and polish the remodeling specification plan with your contractor. If you have to change anything, this time would just be perfect. Sticking to the original plan would make the job completion faster, within budget and more efficient.

Leaving It All to Your Contractor

Even if you have availed of the services of a project manager or general contractor to foresee everything for you, this does not mean that when everything is all set you leave everything to them and get back at them by the time the project is finished. This is not how it works, especially if you decide to do the management yourself. It is crucial that you make yourself aware of the project’s progress as well as the issues arising throughout its completion. As it is your money that is being spent, ask questions and know how and why it is being spent.

The $75,000 Home Improvement Bill – I Can’t Believe it Happened to Me

You’re not going to believe what you’re about to read, but this could happen to you. It didn’t happen to me and I really don’t know for sure that it ever happened, but you’ll get a kick out of reading it. $75,000 for a home improvement, come on you got to be kidding me. What was it made out a silver and gold?

A home improvement contractor over billed one of his clients, by mistake. It’s a simple mistake and it’s happened to me before. One time I sent one of my credit card payments, to the credit card company for $8,625 and they made a mistake and only entered in $86.25. Everyone makes mistakes every once in a while and when they fix them as soon as possible without creating a lot of problems, it’s even better.

This wasn’t exactly what happened with the $75,000 home improvement bill. The contractor made a mistake entering an extra zero into his credit card billing machine. Instead of entering $7,500, he put another zero into it. I can’t even imagine the look on the homeowners face, when they received their credit card bill which had a $100,000 limit on it and seen a charge for $75,000.

Could you imagine the look on the contractor’s face, when he seen his banking statement with a $75,000 deposit in it. The contractor didn’t leave town or was never heard from again. He’s the one who contacted his client and told them what happened.

They resolved the situation, even though that wasn’t the last time that this particular home improvement contractor made a mistake like that. Maybe he needs to go in for an eye examination or have someone else bill is clients. If you’re in the construction business, stuff like this happens all the time, hopefully it’s just not happening to you.