USGS Hazards mapConstance 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 the windows, no baseboard and no crown molding.
- Windows didn't have adequate weather stripping to prevent air flow between the house and outdoors.
- An add-on porch poorly constructed that didn't match the home's 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, told her she was being selfish.
13 Renovation Lessons Learned
Constance offers these tips based on the renovation lessons she’s learned:
- Take your time planning and do your homework so you know what to expect.
- Have a thorough understanding of how you plan to use a space and make a detailed wish list for the renovations you want.
- Be realistic about the cost, tripling a contractor's estimate to make sure you have enough money for the project.
- Determine if “time is of the essence” clauses are legal in your state. If they are, make sure you get that clause in every contract you sign. Have contractors state how long the work will take to complete and a penalty for each day beyond the deadline.
- If possible, have a full-time supervisor. They can quickly answer questions from trade worker, plus any other problems that arise and increase site security.
- Learn how to read elevation drawings and use them to keep everyone on the same page so your finished project meets your expectations.
- 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. Trendy finishes may not look for long and they seldom hold their value.
- Know what you're getting for your money. Constance had a finish contractor charge as much for MDF (medium density fiberboard) as she would have paid for solid maple.
- Friends don't always make the best sub-contractors, making it hard to keep personal and business relationships separate.
- Learn the difference between hardscape and softscape.
- Understand your limits and hire professionals when necessary. It will save you time, money and aggravation in the long run.
- After the renovation is completed, you MUST be consistent with maintenance. Homes are like cars – if you want them to last, they need regular attention.
Constance has just begun her fourth renovation. Lessons learned from previous projects have been applied to this one. Her renovation team includes:
- Well known architect who's helped assemble all the plans and working drawings / construction documents.
- General contractor who does impeccable work and has a reputation as being one of the three best in the county.
- Interior designer who's work she's seen and loved in several houses.
- Conservative structural engineer to make sure the house can withstand a big eathquake (check USGS Hazards map).
- 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.
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