Three Common Horrors of Remodeling and How to Deal With (Or Avoid) Them

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By: Janis Manacsa

So you have been thinking about remodeling your kitchen for years, and you are just about ready to jump right in and do it, but you (and just about everyone you know), have heard at least one horror story about someone’s remodel. “The cabinets came in damaged, the budget was way off, or it took way longer than we thought it would” are some of the typical comments you may have heard about someone’s remodeling experience.

The truth of the matter is, no matter how much you prepare for your remodel or how many great reviews your contractor has, there will always be unknown surprises in remodeling that may catch you off guard. Here are three of the most common “nightmare” situations in a remodel and how to handle them like a pro.

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Horror #1: The Contractor From Hell/The Case of the Missing Contractor
There is always the story about the contractor from hell who just never arrived on time, left a mess in your uncle’s home or did a sloppy job installing your neighbor’s cabinets. In some cases, you may have even heard of the contractor who mysteriously disappeared mid-project, never to be heard of again.

In order to avoid this terrifying scenario, you need to do your homework and interview at least three contractors. Have a list of questions and then compare answers given by each contractor.

Look for signs that the contractor is established and has a reliable business. Is the contractor on reliable sources like Angie’s List, Houzz.com and Yelp? Is the contractor able to provide you with a referral list that is current? Is the contractor able to show you projects in progress? If the answer is yes to all of these questions, then you are off to a good start!

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Horror #2: The Monster in the Closet (or in this case, The Monster Inside the Wall)
“But you said you could knock down this wall and place a doorway right here (pointing at the wall in a
panicked frenzy)… what do you mean I can’t do that anymore?”, said your usually calm, cool and collected neighbor to his contractor.

As much as all contractors and designers would love to be able to magically know what is behind your walls, it’s just not always possible. No matter how much experience your contractor may have, walls may hold secrets that only come to surface during the demolition phase in a remodel.

The best way to handle this is through acceptance and willingness to move on. I know this is easier said than done, but do you remember when you were a kid and you were absolutely convinced there was a monster in your closet? Do you remember how your parents told you over and over again that there simply wasn’t one in there, and that you just had to face that monster by using your flashlight or turning on the lights?

Well, this scenario is kind of like that monster. The sooner you face the fact that there is plumbing in that wall or major structural work that needs to be done in order to remove that wall, the sooner your designer can come up with an alternate plan, and the better you will feel. Don’t worry, most times, the final outcome of the design is even better than what was originally intended!

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Horror #3: The… Empty… Wallet.
The scariest of them all. The budget that just kept on growing. What started off as a reasonable budget that your mother-in-law had saved for and carefully went over with her contractor grew into a hungry dragon that just wanted more and more! For the most part, this story is one that you can actually prepare for (unless it is structural) and maneuver through easily with the right mindset and some preparation.

A common reason price tends to go up after a contract has already been signed is Change Orders. What might seem to be a simple request from you (oh let’s say, moving a light fixture just 6” more inches to the left), might actually be a lot more time consuming and labor intensive to the contractor. The more change orders that are made to a job, the more likely price changes are to take place. Discuss changes and options with your contractor thoroughly before signing off on any change. Never underestimate how much small changes may cost. Remember, things add up!

Good contractors typically give their clients a budget allocation sheet for all materials needed throughout the project, such as tile, countertops, flooring, etc. The more expensive taste you have, the higher your budget will be. If you find yourself close to going over the final amount you want to spend, ask your contractor to offer you product solutions in a lower price range.

The Climactic Ending:
Every story has it’s happy ending and it’s set of characters. Remember that no matter how many hurdles you encounter during your remodel, you and your team (your contractor, designers and crew) are the heroes and that you just simply cannot predict the outcome of certain setbacks. You can definitely prepare for them though, and at the end of the day, you have a beautiful brand new space!