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What mistakes should I look out for when planning a remodel?

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Whether it's a new addition, a kitchen remodel or major work elsewhere in your home, the path to that perfect remodel is littered with potential pitfalls. Keep a sharp eye out for these issues during your planning process, and look for a contracting professional to guide you through the process.

1. Underestimating your budget

Contractors say they see this time and again: Homeowners tend to get flustered and feel in over their heads when costs escalate and tough decisions need to be made. Sad but true, remodeling tends to cost more than you expect – whether it's to remedy an unforeseen plumbing problem or cover a last-minute appliance upgrade. So be ready for unexpected boosts in the budget. Build yourself a 15% cushion into the budget to prepare for the unexpected.

2. Going for the lowest bid

You get what you pay for. So, if a proposal seems too good to be true, it probably is. And if you hire the cheapest contractor with the cheapest bid, odds are good that the work will reflect it. Be sure to get multiple bids from different contractors, and go over each of them in detail to understand what you're getting. Also, make sure you have everything in writing.

Be wary of any contractor who says they can do a remodel in the shortest amount of time for the least amount of money. Odds are it will go over budget or be of poor quality.

Occasionally you will encounter a contractor who will claim they can cut costs by skipping the permitting and inspection process. Never, ever do this.

3. Not knowing what you're looking for

Identifying what's important to you before diving into your remodel is essential. When you begin the design and planning process and the project exists only as sketches on paper, making changes costs nothing. But once contractors get to work and start cutting into walls and installing pipes or utility lines, changes get harder. Indecision midway through the process can lead to a final project that falls short of expectations.

4. Neglecting the infrastructure

Remodeling includes more than the fun stuff like new countertops and flooring. You need the pulse of your house to keep up with what you're doing. It's no fun to install shiny, powerful appliances only to discover too late that you've exceeded the power load your kitchen can handle. Work with experts like plumbers and electricians to be sure that your project can support the water, gas and electricity needs of your new kitchen. If you need to upgrade the infrastructure, it's best do it during the remodel.

5. Not having a plan for living with the remodel

Remodels require an investment of time as well as money. You'll be hosting a crew of workers for several days, weeks or even months. Dust and debris will become a regular part of your life and your house may feel crowded. Consider this detail before the work starts and make plans for how you'll live. For instance, during a kitchen remodel, think ahead about how you'll live and eat while your kitchen is out of commission – whether it means putting a fridge and table in the guest room or putting extra money in the budget for several days' takeout.

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