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Home remodeling horror stories
Without good planning, additions can become awkward and look like it landed on top of the house. - photo by Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson
Happy Halloween! In honor of the scary holiday, we want to discuss some of the most common remodeling nightmares: total budget annihilation, the great disappearing contractor, and the never-ending project house. The good news is these remodeling nightmares can be avoided with careful planning and a strong project team.

Total budget annihilation

Remodeling usually represents a substantial investment of time, energy and money. The client who stays within a budget is the client who plans ahead. The more detailed the project plans are, the more accurate the bids and the more realistic the budget. Making all the selections of finishes and equipment prior to commencing construction will allow you to get the big picture and consider the complete cost of the project. In addition, we recommend reserving 5 percent to 10 percent of the proposed budget as a contingency for the unexpected challenges of a remodeling project. Architects and engineers do the best we can to anticipate potential issues, but it is only when you cut into the walls, floors and ceilings that you know the whole story.

There is nothing more costly than doing the same task twice due to poor planning and improper project sequencing. For instance, dont redo your landscaping if you are planning an addition to your home next year. Many people prefer to do projects as they can afford them maybe windows this year and new deck next year. There is nothing wrong with this idea as long as you have a master plan you are logically working toward.

Here are some examples of scheduling/sequencing issues:

1. If you remodel your kitchen in its existing space, it will be difficult and expensive later to open that space up to the dining or living room.

2. You may think it safe to replace your furnace prior to a remodel, but only certain efficient models can be moved and vented to the exterior without using a chimney. If your new furnace must stay tethered to the existing chimney, this affects design decisions both in the basement and on upper floors through which the chimney must extend.

3. Reconfiguring or enlarging your upstairs master bath will require moving plumbing fixtures, pipes and traps. This may well impact the ceiling of the room below. Thus, completing all the work on the main level without considering what will eventually happen on the upper level can either compromise what you want to do in your master bath or require the reinstallation of a main level ceiling that was recently redone.

Moving ahead without proper planning will affect not only the construction phase, but the design phase as well. It is unfortunate when clients come to us wanting a curb appeal update, only to find out they have just replaced all their windows. Windows have a huge impact on the architectural design of a house, so working around existing new windows is going to limit design opportunities. Some clients end up having to pay to remove and re-install some of the windows, while others end up having to buy new windows again to match the style of their dream home. With the proper planning, you will avoid total budget annihilation.

The great disappearing contractor

Our next tale is of the great disappearing contractor. This is one of the scariest stories for any homeowner in the midst of a major home remodel. Being abandoned in the middle of a project is a scary predicament. The way to avoid this is choose a professional, well-recommended contractor with experience in home remodeling. A contractor who is used to building new construction or commercial projects may need a job to fill in their schedule, but remodeling is a whole different animal that he or she may eventually realize is beyond his skills and patience. Make sure your contractor has plenty of experience in residential remodeling.

Additionally, take the time to check a contractors references and make sure he or she is licensed and insured. These precautions will definitely lower your chances of a disappearing act.

The never-ending project house

We cringe when we see someone decide they want to remodel and start tearing down walls without a plan. You are just asking for a never-ending project house because the end is nowhere in sight. Planning the project from beginning to end not only involves issues of design and budgeting but also a realistic timeline. This gives you a map and a game plan for the final outcome. Clients are always shocked when we review the typical project schedule. In these days of design TV shows, they all expect instant gratification. We had a client come in the last week in October who thought they could remodel the house they had just purchased and be settled in time for Christmas.

In reality, the planning stage takes months, and it should, considering that this project is likely one of the largest investments you will ever make. It may be three to six months from initial project inception before permits are secured and construction can begin. If you are overly excited about beginning the project, you may end up living in a construction zone far longer than you need to or be faced with rebuilding walls you could have saved when you took a sledgehammer to your house without a plan.

We hope after reading this column you never end up in your own home remodeling nightmare. Remember, planning and involving an architect early in the process is the trick to a sweet home remodel.
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