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    10 Common Pitfalls of Remodeling (Part One)

    JimIt is true in remodeling, as it is in world history, that people are likely to repeat the mistakes of those that have gone before them. To help address this issue, I have compiled a list of the 10 most common remodeling pitfalls and what you can do to minimize or avoid these mistakes in your remodeling projects. This is such a robust topic that I am covering the first five pitfalls this month and the remaining five next month.

    1. Out of Sync

    I am amazed at the number of couples who start a remodeling project without clarifying what they want to accomplish and how much money they want to invest. Don’t assume that your spouse shares your love of vaulted ceilings without asking him or her.  Work together to create a list of project objectives that you agree on and those that you don’t. You do not have to be completely aligned at the start of a project, but it helps to know where you stand.

    2. Budget Denial

    Unless you have limitless wealth, a budget is a “must have” for any remodeling project. Take firm control of the budget at the start of the project before it takes control of you and your bank account. Even if you don’t have a clue as to how much things cost, you should have a very clear idea of what you can afford to spend. In most cases, what you can afford will not cover what you want, so be ready to make compromises.

    3. Risk Aversion

    There is another group of homeowners who carefully plan their budget in advance, but leave nothing in reserve for contingencies and change orders. They want to spend every dime on the fixtures and finishes without accounting for the risk inherent in any remodeling project. You should earmark about 5–10% of your budget to address concealed conditions and to make code-required upgrades.

    4. False Impressions

    Don’t assume that because a contractor has a business card that he or she is licensed. Ask for their contractor’s license and confirm it with the Contractors Licensing Board. Likewise, don’t assume that their contractor’s liability and workers comp insurance is current just because they provide you with a policy number. If a contractor working on your home is not fully insured, you may be financially responsible for any property damage or injuries that occur during construction.

    5. Foregone Conclusion

    Although it is helpful to have a clear point of view when starting a new project, you need to remain open to the ideas that will be generated during the design process. Don’t get committed to one option and then miss out on the other design possibilities that await you.

    Next month, I will cover the remaining five remodeling pitfalls on my list:

    6.  Fantasy Life Design your new space for real life, not your fantasy life.

    7. The Lowest Bidder There is more to choosing a contractor than selecting the lowest bidder.

    8. Permit Phobia Embrace the permit process.

    9. Are we there yet? Patience is a virtue, especially in remodeling.

    10. Perfection Anxiety For the money you paid you expect perfection. Right? Wrong!

    Jim Tibbs is the creative director of HDR Remodeling. If you would like to learn more, please read his blog at or follow him on Twitter @HDRremodeling1.