10 stupid things homeowners do . . .

10stupid_copy. . . to mess up their own remodels.

This is a list I've compiled after observing people and their remodels for nearly two decades. It's true that contractors and subcontractors and vendors all have their faults. The remodeling industry is wacky, no doubt about it. But it is your own actions that will make or break your own project.

How do homeowners screw up? Let me count the ways:

1. Being vague about what you want. A primary reason remodels go over time and over budget is from homeowner indecision and homeowners making changes midway through the job. The solution: Massive research on your part before you call in the professionals.

2. Remaining unclear about your budget. When you do call in professionals to help you, they are stymied by not knowing how much you want to spend. Do you want a Kia-quality kitchen, or a Lexus-quality kitchen? Refer to No. 1 above to discover your desires.

3. Not seeking professional design advice. Why would you not want experts helping you? For a few hundred or thousand dollars you can avoid most of the clumsy pitfalls novices tend to make.

4. Not checking out the companies you're considering. This is critical. Do an Internet search. Check for licenses, insurance and bonding. Call references. Go visit references. You skip these steps only if you're a diehard gambler.

5. Taking the lowest bid and expecting highest quality. You shouldn't be getting bids, anyway. You should find the contractor you want and the designer you want and have them work together to create your project.

6. Changing your mind over and over during construction. Again, this relates to No. 1 above, as well as No. 3. A remodeling project is a massive ballet where every move must be timed and choreographed. When you decide partway through that you’d prefer a different tile or a door or window here or there, it screws up the flow and more mistakes are made. It’s costly.

7. Overestimating your ability to handle stress. Unless you’re super gregarious and love tackling problems, you will be stressed out during your remodel. You need a plan: trips, massages, dinners out, long baths, meditation, prayer. Or, move out until it’s done. That’s stressful, too, but at least you have a quiet place to rejuvenate.

8. Underestimating how long a remodel takes. It will take longer than you think. Most remodels do. We don’t live inside a half-hour cable show where a whole room is redone in 22 minutes. So to avoid unnecessary stress, just plan on a long haul.

9. Lashing out harshly at the crew. Oh, my, this is so stupid. This is uber stupid. You don’t want people cringing when they come to your house. They don’t do their best work in a tense environment. Remain civil. Try compassion. Be firm but loving. Just do the Golden Rule (and not the version that says the one who has the gold makes the rules).

10. Lack of appreciation for what scores of workers have gone through to make your dream remodel come true. The homeowners I talk to who are happiest go on and on about the amazing work that was done at their homes. They revel in the generosity of sprit from the workers. Try this.

5 Comments on 10 stupid things homeowners do . . .

  1. Spalding

    Add another thought on “communication” – whenever possible, communicate in writing. Especially for changes or the small details of design that don’t necessarily find their way into a blueprint, always put your thoughts down in writing. A note, or picture of what you want, can save you endless headaches and lengthy or expensive do-overs. No matter how clear you think you are during a conversation, details can be easily misconstrued or forgotten. Even the best contrator can have trouble remembering the details of a conversation when there are 1000s of other details to keep straight.

  2. tthgcontractor

    I consider myself a professional and in a business where my college education means nothing. i resent being called “whacky”

  3. John Brick

    You missed one Golden Rule – always keep a emergency fund containing the equivalent of AT LEAST 20% of your projected budget. Projects ALWAYS run over budget – be prepared…

  4. Susan

    Oy vey, you’re not pulling any punches, are you sure this isn’t a New York paper? You’ve said what I’d probably take 3 pages to say.
    You’ve said it in several points, but here’s another way I’d like to say it: crystal clear communication, actually making an extra effort to communicate clearly throughout the project, to make one’s desires, concerns, and needs, heard is critical. Communication is everything.
    INeffective communication can be a huge source of frustration to both the homeowner and to the contractor, regardless of who isn’t communicating well. Errors can be made, misunderstandings will occur, and the thing is, there is enough frustration inherently present in remodeling, that, to add to it via bad communication skills makes a tough situation way worse.
    I could go on and on. These points are very well said. Yes, homeowners absolutely have responsibilities to keep their project going smoothly. If they don’t make this effort, I can guarantee that the “culture” of the project will not be the best that it could be. And, “best” means people on the job who care MORE about the end result. And, more is better.

  5. John Beaty

    Yes, yes, yes!! You got it exactly right.