Avoiding Remodeling Headaches

Consumer Reports Readers Reveal Top 5 Remodeling Headaches

Consumer Reports asked 6,000 readers to reveal what went wrong when they remodeled their kitchens and baths and how much those mistakes added to the overall cost of their projects. Here’s how to avoid their mistakes and save:

1.Don’t rush in – Changing plans is the most common, but costliest remodeling gaffe, adding $1,500 to kitchen projects and $650 to bath remodels. Be sure to leave time for research and create a comprehensive plan, listing every product.

2.Prepare for the unexpected – There’s a lot going on behind the walls. Unexpected water damage was an issue with 17 percent of bathroom remodels, while structural problems caused headaches for 10 percent of kitchen projects. A good contractor will be able to anticipate, allowing the homeowner to budget accordingly.

3.Don’t chase the low balls – Contractors are lowering their profit margins due to the tight market, but they often make up their costs in labor or other areas. Readers who went for the lowball ended up spending a median of $1,500 extra for labor on their kitchens and $1,000 extra on their bathrooms. Don’t sign a contract with a lot of open-ended amounts for products and materials – these are called “allowances,” in contractor speak.

4.Get the paperwork in order – Have the contractor attach copies of his up-to-date license, insurance, and workers’ compensation policies to the written contract. He should also get permits and provide a lien waiver when the job is done; this will keep suppliers from contacting the homeowner for unpaid bills.

5.Focus on the boring bits – Specifying lighting and trash cans are not much fun, but are critical to the process. For example, the proper exhaust fan will prevent mildew in baths and vent odors in kitchens.