Constance has learned many renovation lessons. She’s renovated three houses and is just starting on her fourth. Here she shares her experiences so that you might avoid her mistakes.
“I am a perfectionist, and that's what draws me to remodels. I keep wanting to improve the function and the quality of the spaces I see, to the best of my ability. I keep learning a bit more each time.” All of her projects have been in California and she’s lived in all the homes she renovated.
Mistakes Lead to Renovation Lessons
Constance’s first renovation lessons came from a poorly built tract home. Some of the issues she encountered were
- no casings on windows, no baseboards and no crown molding
- windows without adequate weather stripping
- an add-on porch that was poorly constructed and didn’t match the rest of the exterior architecture
On her second renovation, lessons came from so-called professionals who took advantage of her lack of knowledge . Constance hired a general contractor based on the recommendation of a friend, but she didn’t thoroughly vet his work history and references. He made last minute staffing changes and undertook unnecessary work to increase costs and extend the life of the project. A cabinet company used her lack of understanding of the terminology to complicate and inflate the expense of her order.
For her third project, Constance hired a contractor who had worked on the best homes in the semi-custom community. It didn’t hurt that he was a former model who was charming and attractive. His sub-contractors were arrogant and condescending. For example, the painter completed work for other customers on her job site, severely understaffed the job which greatly extended the time, and when she complained, he told her she was being selfish.
13 Renovation Lessons Learned
Constance offers this advice based on the renovation lessons she’s learned:
- Take your time and do your homework.
- Have a thorough understanding of how you will use a space and make a detailed wish list for the renovations.
- Be realistic about the cost. Constance recommends tripling any estimate a contractor gives you.
- Determine if “time-is-of-the-essence” clauses are legal in your state. If they are, make sure such a clause is included in every contract you sign. In this clause the contractor states how long it will take to complete the work and agrees to a penalty for each day beyond the deadline the project isn’t finished.
- If possible, have a full-time job supervisor. A supervisor will be able the quickly answer questions that trade workers might have and promptly address any problems that arise. Having someone there all the time will also increase security of your site.
- Learn about elevation drawings and how essential they are to insuring everyone is on the same page about how you want your finished project to look.
- Keep good records (and samples where possible) of all materials ordered.
- Choose finishes like flooring based on the needs of the space and how it will be used, not solely based on what’s trendy at the time.
- Know what you are getting for your money. Constance had a finish contractor charge her as much for MDF (fiberboard) as she would have paid for solid maple.
- Friends don’t always make the best sub-contractors.
- Learn the difference between hardscape and softscape.
- Understand your limits and hire a professional to assist you when necessary. It will save you time, money and aggravation in the long run.
- After all the renovation is done, you MUST be consistent with maintenance. Homes are like cars – if you want them to last, they have to have regular attention.
Constance has just begun her fourth renovation. Lessons learned from previous projects have been applied to this one. Her renovation team includes
- a well known architect who has helped for the last year with all of the plans and the working drawings/construction documents
- a general contractor who does impeccable work and has a reputation as being one of the three best in the county
- an interior designer whose work she’s seen and loved in several homes
- a conservative structural engineer to make sure the house can withstand a big earthquake
- an excellent landscape architect to completely redesign the pool/spa and all the landscaping
- a noise mitigation/sound consultant to make sure the bedrooms are quiet at night
- and an Electromagnetic Field (EMF) consultant.
The job is expected to take 18-24 months from start to completion and she’s promised to share her story and any new renovation lessons here on Home Tips for Women.
What renovation lessons have you learned from your projects?
Constance is a middle-aged SWF with a passion for transforming tract houses from builders basic standards to adding ‘hotel comfort-like' touches! Want an open concept, LEED “green” items like R-60 ceiling insulation, triple glazed windows, artificial turf for water conservation and a pool cover to keep heat from escaping when the pool isn't in use, custom built-ins, heated floor, heated towel bars, and reclaimed wood floors? Follow the roller-coaster of my planned 2 year planned latest renovation journey from start to finish at http://www.constanceathome.