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The Best Home Remodeling Tips Revealed

How the Most Successful General Contractors and Handymen Make Money and Please Customers

© 2010 by All rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission.

A bathroom remodeling project in progress

A bathroom remodeling project in progress

This article was updated on 12/23/20.

As always, be sure to update your homeowners insurance to reflect the new updated replacement cost of the home.

The most successful residential remodeling contractors satisfy their customers and make money because they focus on a comprehensive set of details. The same steps apply to bathroom remodeling, kitchen renovation, or re-roofing.

The steps to follow aren’t some kind of esoteric secrets that only general contractors, handymen, or subcontractors know, but they're not exactly spelled out often either. The process is learned by experience during various building contracts or handed down through an apprenticeship. The general process is spelled out below.

Step 1: Planning Your Remodeling Project

A couple of decades ago a small revolution happened in the software development industry. The new process was named object oriented programming. The basic idea was that project planning should be given key focus. home improvement is no different. It helps to minimize if not eliminate "requirement creep." That is one reason architects are so meticulous and it's called for on jobs that require permits Here’s how:

  • Think about exactly which areas will be affected during the renovations. There is no reason to completely gut the room in many cases.
  • Prepare your work area completely; taking shortcuts might sound great at first but they will just bite you in the long run.
  • Bathroom renovations have an important consideration. Expansion should be considered because it allows for extended functionality like a jetted tub or whirlpool. Keep in mind how expensive new or relocated piping is. Consider flexible PEX plumbing tubing as a less invasive alternative.
  • Estimate all your building costs as close as you can. Work within a realistic construction and exterior or interior decorating budget, but leave a fudge factor for unexpected costs. Don’t forget to include things like dumpster pulls and building permit and inspection fees.
  • Do as much as of the work yourself to save money, but subcontract work that requires licenses that you might not have, like an electrical one for rewiring your circuit breaker box or an HVAC license for charging a central air conditioner or recovering refrigerant.
  • Be sure to select a contractor carefully. If a new roof is part of your plan, these roofing contractor selection tips will ensure success. The world of roofing contractors can be shady so buyer beware!
  • Research the equity value of other houses in your subdivision if you are considering selling in the near future. You won’t get your investment back if you overbuild. Of course if you are going to stay put, spend all the money you want. Within reason.

Quality Construction Material is Key

  • Always go with green eco-friendly building materials when you can. It’s better for your health, environmentally friendly, and increasingly, a good investment. Consider re-purposed wood products, soy-based insulation, and the newer low to no VOC paint.
  • Purchase high quality ceramic tile, Energy Star kitchen appliances, and name-brand bathroom fixtures (or you’ll never find replacement parts).
  • Resist getting locked into the latest trendy decorating concepts in most cases. Respect timeless styles where possible.
  • Lighting fixtures deserve a lot of consideration. They have to not only look good but be highly functional and carefully placed. Think out of the box for functionality; wall sconces are great for hallways, monorail pendant lights are stylish in the living room, and skylights reduce utility bills during the daytime.
  • Upgrade to energy efficient windows and get an energy tax credit. But do your independent research. Tax credit eligibility relies on many factors such as styles, location, and materials.
  • Store building material correctly at your work site. Schedule deliveries logically and carefully. For instance, laminate flooring planks and hardwood should be on a flat surface in the home a minimum of 3 days prior to installation so they can adapt to the interior humidity.
  • Use the correct type of paint; oil over oil, water-based over water-based. In most cases, water-based is the way to go. Clean-up is much easier and modern latex paint is nearly indistinguishable from oil-based. If you will be chipping any lead-based paint know that the EPA has established a lead-safe certification for renovation.

Successful Contractors Focus on Detail

  • Be a realist. Expect a degree of chaos and confusion during your renovation process. Keep a flexible attitude and don’t freak out and don't get roped into upgrades that you might not want! Remember, contractors are salesmen as well as tradesmen.
  • If you’re rewiring a room, do overdo it. Homeowners always find themselves wanting more electrical outlets than the building code calls for.
  • The cardinal rule: measure twice, cut once.
  • Try not to construct narrow staircases or halls. They make furniture moving difficult and are claustrophobic. This may have been the trend 100 years ago, but we've moved on.
  • Likewise, when installing doors, go for a larger one; it will visually open up the space and permits freer movement. Sometimes it makes more sense to remove a door and change to a case opening.
  • Put safety first; yes, it will make the job longer but insist on it. Mechanics liens and lawyer fees can kill you.
  • Don’t mix architectural styles unless your homeowner’s association allows you to be eccentric. This is critical on exteriors but it is not unheard of for HOA agents to sneak up on windows and take pictures.
  • A professional air conditioning and heating contractor will use worksheets designed by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) to ensure that he installs a correctly-sized HVAC system. One that's too big or too small and it will be inefficient and prone to have maintenance issues.

Random Home Remodeling Tips

  • Always use the proper tool for the task at hand. Own it, rent it, buy it, or borrow it. Screwdrivers are not prybars.
  • Obey the applicable local building code. I’ve seen inspectors demand ripping out substantial work that's already in place, just to be spiteful. That’s a real budget-buster.
  • So, pull permits and schedule your electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and structural inspections, whichever you need.
  • In some areas you can register a DBA (Doing Business As) small business name and apply for contractor discounts at paint stores and home improvement or hardware stores. Your savings might add up!

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About the author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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