Budget, Timeline and Inconvenience Realities of Renovation

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It’s all fun and games until you’re eating breakfast on a tarp. Homeowners are often seduced by home makeover TV shows that take kitchens from drab to fab. But the road between drab and fab is decidedly unglamorous.

Sure, the end result is completely worth it. Keeping your eyes on the shiny, new, renovated prize is one way to keep your renovation stress to minimum. Knowing what to expect will help, too. Here are some renovation realities...

Money, Money, Money
Homeowners are often shocked by how many checks they have to write over the course of a renovation. If you are think you’ll pay all at once at the end, you are sadly mistaken. 

So make sure you have enough cash at the ready to cover down payments as well as “draws” along the way.  Checks will soon be flying away from your checkbook like expensive little butterflies.

According to Brad Cruickshank of Cruickshank, Inc., “On smaller projects, the percentage of total job cost paid upfront may be significantly higher than on larger projects. For example, 50 percent.  Many of these projects are on a short schedule and the contractor must arrive with all of the materials on day one.  Many smaller projects also require large amounts of labor for which the contractor may need to pay weekly.”

Designer Robin Lamonte has her own budget-related homeowner story to share. “You must do enough homework on how much a kitchen or bathroom renovation costs. The ‘wants’ list MUST equal the budget. You can’t spend $20,000 on high-end appliances for a renovation with a $50,000 budget! I once had a homeowner first purchase all her high-end appliances and then come to me for the rest of the renovation.” That homeowner had burned through so much of her total budget already. That’s why you’ll continue to see advice like this throughout this issue: do your research, and lots of it.

An Inconvenient Truth
Generally speaking, renovations ain’t pretty. Or quiet. Or clean. Or quick!

Even simple renovations can take longer than expected. “For a shower enclosure, allow one to two weeks from the time measurements are taken until the actual install,” says David Drexler of Drexler Shower Door of Atlanta.

Michelle Fee of Change Your Bathroom says, “The biggest issue we run into is that homeowners don’t realize the mess and dust involved in a renovation. The second issue is how long it realistically takes to completely renovate a bathroom from the studs up. Realistically, it’s two months from start to finish.”

That’s 60 days of unusable sinks, dusty tarps, construction noise and human beings tromping through your personal space. Before your contractor begins, ask them realistically how long the renovation is going to take…and then mentally tack on at least an extra week or more. That little buffer could save your sanity when you need it most, during those last lingering days of renovation.

Know Your Limits
One of the biggest favors you can do for yourself is to know and obey your limits during a renovation. When you spend months poring over design magazines and dreaming on Pinterest, you get accustomed to changing your mind. If you’re spending the money you are spending, you should be able to tweak it along the way and get it exactly right, right? Wrong.

“I often have to remind my homeowners that once the cabinets have been ordered, they cannot change the design layout of the kitchen,” Lamonte says. “And I have to be firm about this! I once had a client go shopping for too-large refrigerators and ranges that cost him dearly. He was warned not to do this but did it anyway.”

As important as research and planning is, it might even be more important to make yourself stick to the final plan. Lamonte’s client (who she calls one of her best) was lucky to have her there to help explain these mistakes. If you are DIY-ing it at all, you won’t have that helpful voice in your ear. So don’t do it. Stick to the plan and you could save yourself lots of money...and heartache! 

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