Keep Calm and Avoid Contingencies



What Seems Simple at First...

Ideas can seem great, and plans are always optimistic. But looks can be deceiving and reality can be harsh. And the reality is that remodeling is a complicated story, even for a professional. How do you keep your remodel from running away with itself? What can you do to prepare for those unforeseen obstacles? Is there any way to avoid painful twists in your perfect plans? These questions are on every homeowner’s mind before jumping into a renovation.

If you think you've got a simple remodel on your hands, you should ask yourself some basic questions that could help you avoid surprises.

How old is the area of the house that you're remodeling?

This is very important and can mean the difference between simple and complicated. The older the home, the more chances you have of complications. Construction standards have changed over time. What was once an acceptable way to build a home is no longer up to code. When you remodel an older home, you face the fact that certain areas will have to be brought up to date - and I'm not talking about the pretty, "fun" areas. I'm talking about the electrical, the structure, the plumbing, the foundation, and the thousands of other areas that could be subpar by today's standards. Also, with age comes wear and tear. A wall you intend to keep could be rotten, for example. Cha-ching. In walks the cost of replacing a wall you never planned on touching.

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How much work do you plan on having done?

The more work you want to do, the more work will need to be done. That statement seems obvious, but I'm talking about work that's in addition to your original plans. Let's say you want to replace the vanity in your bathroom. Should be simple? Wrong. The plumbing and drain are in the wrong place. The area for the vanity is molded from a previous leak. The flooring won't support your new granite countertop. The mirror hangs too low. The little details that creep into the picture are many. Multiply this by a dozen when you're talking about remodeling a whole room.

How much have you budgeted?

The bigger the remodel, the bigger amount you should set aside for contingencies. You should always plan on the remodel costing more than you expect. No matter how detailed and comprehensive you believe your plan is, there will be a surprise. There will be something overlooked. Even the most experienced professional is not going to foresee everything. This is why you get bids - so a professional will tell you how much he is going to charge. But don't count on that bottom dollar always being the bottom. When the unpredictable happens, you will have to pay more. A 10-15% contingency allotment is a good place to start.

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How fancy do you plan to get?

With the fancy and the high-dollar remodels come the complications. High-end finishes can quickly get out of hand. So, you want a granite countertop. Of course! Who doesn't? Just keep in mind that beautiful new countertop will need a pretty sink to match. And a nicely tiled backsplash is pretty standard when you go with granite. And, let's hope the cabinets are strong enough to support granite! So, what started as just a countertop quickly spills over. By all means, I am not discouraging you from selecting the finishes of your dreams! Just know that if you go high-end in one area, you'll probably go high-end in others. It will add up.

Avoiding the Pain

What's the best way to plan and prepare and avoid surprises? Hire the right professional! Your contractor should be both thorough and detailed in their bidding process. Quick and dirty estimates don’t cut it. Ask your contractor what type of surprises are possible in your remodeling scenario. Electrical and plumbing complications are just two examples of the unexpected. Planning for contingencies and knowing the possibilities of specific "surprises" takes experience. The experience and knowledge to keep your remodel from running away from you.

Picking the right contractor does not mean going with the cheapest. If you select your contractor based on the lowest price alone, then it could cost you more in the end. Their inability to prepare you for costly contingencies could result in the unexpected expenses that you are trying to avoid.

Don't delay your dreams and postpone your plans because you're afraid of what might happen. A little leg work will ensure you are getting the right professional for your job. They will work with you to find solutions, and your completed project will be everything you could have hoped for.

Wendy Harris

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