Four Remodeling Myths

By Heather Triplett
Courtesy of Remodel Seattle Magazine

Few of us tackle remodeling projects on a regular basis.  So it's no surprise that we hear things that we might think are true about turning a tired home into our castle. 

Here are some common misconceptions about remodeling to help guide you when you're ready to enhance your own home with a remodeling project.

Remodeling Myth #1:
Replacing worn-out carpets, countertops and plumbing is considered remodeling.

Procrastinate on home maintenance projects and you could end up spending big dollars replacing dilapidated items.  But installing new wiring, a new roof or new floor coverings-just because the old materials are beat up-is not considered a true remodel.

Think of it this way: Replacing green shag carpeting because it's stained and frayed is maintenance; replacing oak cabinets that are dated-but still in good shape-is remodeling.

"Research shows the average homeowner should plan to spend between $2,000 and $3,000 per year fixing old things," says remodeler Gordon Gregg, CGR, of City Builders.  But that's just an average. You might spend $8,000 replacing your roof one year, but only $500 for painting supplies the next year, "If you aren't spending it-bank it," advises Gregg. "Those high-dollar items come up when you least expect it."

Remodeling Myth #2
Do-it-yourself projects save money.

Planning to pound your own nails?  Remember that in the field of remodeling the old adage --"you get what you pay for"-holds true.  Not paying for professional help could result in some costly mistakes.

"First of all, you could be jeopardizing your marriage and your sanity by trying to do it yourself," observes remodeler Sherry Schwab, CGR, of HCS Construction Services Company.

But even if you are willing to take the risk, the typical consumer is not familiar with product availability.  "A professional remodeler knows the latest trends and products," explains Schwab. "He or she is able to help the client choose the best product for the best price."

Materials range from construction grade to high end and the choices can be overwhelming.  Making sure you get both quality and value often requires an expert eye.

Another problem do-it-yourselfers don't anticipate is what to do when needing help-perhaps installing tile or rewiring the kitchen.  Finding, scheduling and managing subcontractors can be tricky for someone without years in the industry.

"If you hire someone yourself and you aren't happy with the job they do, you many have to pay for it to be done again or just live with it," warns Schwab.  "On the other hand, professional remodelers have long-standing relationships with subcontractors and if something isn't done right, it's understood that it will be redone."

Remodeling Myth #3
Getting three bids is the only way to hire a contractor.

Meet with several contractors to see who you feel the most comfortable with, rather than just choosing the person who gives you the lowest bid.  The contractor is going to be almost a member of the family for several months so a good personal relationship is essential.  Good communication from the start is the key to success.

"The remodeler isn't the one who's going to be living in the house when it's done," says remodeler Bob Dalton of JBL Construction Inc.  "We are trying to help people achieve their dreams and desires."

Be open and honest with your contractor and don't hesitate to explain your vision in great detail. In fact, the more input you offer, the more likely the finished product will exceed your expectations.

"A proposal that isn't complete can look like less, but it may turn out to be more expensive in the end," says Schwab. Schwab also suggests comparing these items:

  • Are the talents comparable?  Remodelers range from those who place elements to those with an eye for creative design.  Subcontractors can be laborers or skilled craftsmen.  Make sure you know with whom you are working, as different jobs require different skills.
  • Are the schedules the same?  "A professional remodeler can schedule and organize the whole project before any tear out starts," says Schwab.  And if a truck breaks down in the Midwest carrying your special-order cabinetry, a quality contractor will know what to do.
  • It's not just about money--it's about trust.
  • Remodeling is the only place you'll spend a significant amount of money without seeing the final product first.

But in the end, realize that you and your contractor will partner to create a project that complements your budget.

Remodeling Myth #4
Hire a professional designer before you hire a contractor.

It's a good idea to hire your remodeler and design professional at the same time or consider working with a contractor who offers design services. If everyone works together from day one you will avoid unnecessary headaches.  "A good architect or designer has lots of creative ideas," says remodeler Shirley Blayden, CGR, of Blayden Design/Build.  "And remodelers know the nuts and bolts because we are in the field every day."  That makes for a good team.

The reason to have a good team is so that you can have both parts (design and budget) addressed in the beginning phases of the project.  As the client, you won't be as tempted to ask the architect to "just draw it in," only to find out later you can't afford it.  Having your contractor by your side will help you stay realistic.

If you aren't sure where to begin, start with the person who is going to build your project and ask for his or her recommendations.  Also consider a design/build remodeling firm, one that understands and practices both the design phase and carries through with the building. Many highly qualified remodelers today carry that designation.

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