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10 Things to Remember During a Home Remodel

I embarked on a home remodel four months ago. The entire upstairs of my circa 1947, story-and-a-half home in South Minneapolis was to be gutted, along with the main floor bathroom. A wall in the dining room would be opened up and some plumbing work was to be done in the basement. It's now mid-summer and work is finishing up. While the project has gone smoothly, for the most part, I'd like to share what I now know. In no particular order, here are some things to avoid during a home remodel.

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Don’t Start Without a Clear Vision

When I first met with my designer/contractor, I knew I wanted a master suite and office space upstairs. I also wanted my main floor bathroom to be updated, but that was all I really knew for sure. While it is OK to not know exactly how you want things to look in the planning stages, by the time of the first sledgehammer swing, everyone should be on the same page when it comes to the project’s vision. Don’t start demolition until you have a plan in place.

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This Isn’t a Television Show

You’re not on an HGTV home improvement show, so don’t expect your home remodel to be like one. No, it probably won’t take just eight weeks, and no you won’t be surprised by the result at the end (at least you shouldn’t be). Good contractors keep you updated on at least a weekly basis, so there are no giant reveals at the end of your project. These 12 remodeling ideas will pay off big time.

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Prepare for the Unexpected

There’s a very good chance that something will go wrong or unexpected expenses will arise during your home remodel. When workers started tearing up my upstairs floor, they found asbestos tiles that needed to be removed. That not only added an additional cost, but time, as well, since work had to be delayed while we waited for professionals to remove the tiles.

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Be Open to Changes

Sometimes, even the best-laid plans need to be altered, so be open to some changes. Perhaps the tile you originally chose isn’t available, the exposed beams don’t look as good as you hoped or the wood used for your bathroom shelving is different than you expected. Know that when you get started, you may have to make some small alterations to your plan.

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Don’t Go Overboard

Set a budget and stick to it. This means being prepared for unexpected costs (like those asbestos tiles) and willing to cut back on other things. Originally, I had planned for a gas fireplace to be installed in my master bedroom, but took it out of the plans once I realized it would put me at the very top of my budget with no wiggle room for unexpected surprises. Go ahead and start big, but know what things you’ll be willing to cut. Ask yourself questions like: Do I really need that gas fireplace?

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Don’t Underestimate the Stress

A home remodel is stressful. Not only is it expensive and time-consuming, but it is messy and if you live in your home during it, it can be incredibly uncomfortable. For me, it made the most sense for my family to move out while work was being done. Not only would we have had to live with a porta-potty in the back alley, but we would have to bathe with a hose attached to the basement laundry tub for about four months. Not to mention, I would have had no kitchen and the only sitting area would be a bedroom. Think about how much your life would be uprooted and for how long during your home remodel—it may make sense to just rent a place nearby, move in with friends or family for a short time or go on a trip during the worst weeks.

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Don’t Rush Good Work

I was told my home remodel would be done by mid-July, but I knew it would be more like August. Be flexible and know that things happen, and that may cause your project to take a bit longer than expected. After all, you don’t want workers to rush and do a poor job, right?

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Don’t Risk It

While some home remodel projects may be DIY friendly, be honest about your handy-person skills or you may end up in the emergency room. If you are unfamiliar with electrical or plumbing jobs, not sure how to run certain power tools or don’t feel comfortable on ladders or scaffolding, hire a professional for your home remodel. Add instant value to your home with these 20 home renovations.

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Don’t Make Lots of Changes

Once work begins, try not to make too many changes unless they are absolutely necessary. While changes may seem simple to you, they may require a lot of work on the back end and thus cost you added money and time (and frustrations all around).

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Don’t Start Without a Timeline

Make sure you have a timeline before the actual work on your home remodel gets started. Your contractor should have a list of items that need to be purchased and deadlines for when those things need to be ordered. A timeline also ensures trade workers—everyone from plumbers and electricians to painters, tile and floor installers— know what is going on each week and how long they have to complete their specific job.

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Rachel Brougham
Writer and editor with a background in news writing, editorial and column writing and content marketing.