Remodeling and Home Improvement Tips

Follow these six tips to get the most out of your home improvement project.

You tear up your kitchen, bathroom, or garage with a dream: to make your home more stylish or more functional. But you don’t want to invest in home improvements that won’t pay off in the long run.

Here are six tips that may help ensure your remodeling projects increase your home’s resale value.

1. Focus on the Remodeling Details

The architect you use should create a detailed, to-scale floor plan, down to where the electrical outlets will be. You can even use a virtual planning tool from the National Kitchen and Bath Association to outline exactly what you’re looking for.

Set goals and rank priorities for space, style, storage, functions, and features so that you can stick to your budget and avoid splurging. A good rule of thumb may be to keep spending to less than 15 percent of your home’s market value.

2. Avoid Prioritizing Cost to The Detriment of Quality When Remodeling

You may regret scrimping on bargain paint, vinyl flooring, or plastic plumbing, as cheaper materials deteriorate faster and decrease your home’s resale value. It can end up costing more for professionals to fix a disastrous do-it-yourself effort than if you had used a good contractor from the get-go.

It’s also helpful to consult interior and lighting designers, kitchen and bath planners, and other pros to help you make decisions that may pay off in the long term. Experts can steer you away from products that have a shorter life span or proven deficiencies, such as unpolished granite that stains, sinks that splash, or paint for the walls that you can’t wipe clean. Plus, designers and contractors get insiders’ discounts, so let them buy your materials.

Learn whether a home equity loan might help you manage some of these costs.

3. Get Several Remodeling Estimates

Once you’ve set your goals and specifications, get multiple bids. To get accurate remodeling bids, you’ll need to specify the exact types of flooring, countertops, lights, and hardware you prefer. Explore showrooms, lumber yards, and catalogs — and talk to friends and neighbors — to make your wish list. Then make your expectations clear by listing product and material selections (including models, sizes, and colors) in your contract, which should separate materials and labor.

When choosing a contractor or designer, rely not only on word-of-mouth recommendations but also your local Better Business Bureau. Contact several individuals and organizations and see how quickly each one returns calls, e-mails, and texts. This may be an indicator of how responsive the contractor will be once they start work on your project. Ask to talk to previous clients to learn more about the quality of their work, as well. You will want to learn whether the specified materials were used, timelines were met, and conflicts were resolved in an acceptable and timely manner. Potential contractors should have business liability insurance and offer workers’ compensation for any subcontractors.

4. Get Required City Remodeling Permits

Obtaining the required permits, such as electrical, plumbing, or building permits, can help avoid conflicts with neighbors and roadblocks when it comes time to sell your home or update your homeowners insurance coverage. You might need a building permit if you plan to demolish a load-bearing wall, change the footprint of your home, park a dumpster on a public street, impact a sewer line, build an addition, or make other substantial changes. If you are in doubt as to whether a permit is required, it is better to ask appropriate local government authorities beforehand as opposed to receiving a citation after work has already been paid for and performed.

5. Expect the Unexpected When it Comes to Remodeling

It’s a good idea to budget an additional 20 percent of your estimated renovation costs to cover unexpected emergencies. This can prevent running out of money before the project is finished if an unforeseen issue is uncovered, such as dry rot or faulty wiring. Buying equipment and materials locally is one tactic that can help reduce the risk of project delays.

6. Monitor Remodeling Progress

You want to solve problems before they fester, so make time to check in on the team while they are working. Pay attention to craftsmanship as the project progresses: Are floors warped, cabinet sides uneven, window seals gapping, or walls lumpy? If you see something that seems awry, don’t be afraid to speak up, and know that it is better to speak up sooner rather than later.

The contract with your contractor should address materials and labor, but you will still want to read agreements between the contractor and other specialists or subcontractors, such as plumbers, so you’re not hit with surprise expenses. Never pay more than 30 percent of the total cost up-front (to cover materials), and reserve at least a third of payment until the remodeling is completed.

With all your bases covered, get ready to sit back and enjoy the rewards of your remodel.

For more information, including 8 remodeling tips, check out our Remodeling Tips and Home Improvement Checklist.