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Ways to Keep Remodeling Costs (and Frustration) Down

From stories of home improvement projects gone horribly wrong to undertakings that we pin on our dream boards, tips for successful home remodeling projects.

It’ll soon be that time of year when the holidays are over, and homeowners taking shelter inside their abodes will look around and decide it’s time to plan a remodeling project.

We’ve all heard the stories of projects that have gone horribly wrong, as well as seen the results of to-die-for undertakings that we’d like to make our own. Contractors have, too, and there’s a lot of agreement in their top tips for successful home remodeling projects:

    • Hire the right contractor. Spend as much time selecting a professional to do the job as you do combing through product websites to find the right toilet or kitchen sink, and that doesn’t mean going with the company that has the most online ads. Almost all contractors have a few stories of being called in to fix a job started by someone else.
    • Go ahead and ask friends and family members for recommendations, but make sure contractors are licensed and insured, and check out references for specific types of projects.
    •  If a company seems to focus on kitchens, it may not be the best choice to add a basement bathroom.

“A number of manufacturers have websites that show certifications for contractors on their products so that the consumer knows that these contractors and their staff have completed training in accordance with the manufacturer’s requirements,” said Doug Sutton of Sutton Siding & Remodeling Inc., in Springfield. “This also ensures that the manufacturer’s warranties will be valid and in force.”

Take time to plan. Tom Graham, president and CEO of Lincolnwood-based Airoom LLC, recently heard from a homeowner who hired a plumber to tear out a bathroom. After it was gutted, the plumber asked what the homeowner wanted to do next.

“People tear things out all excited that they’re going to redo it, and they have no clue what’s involved in a kitchen or a bathroom remodel, and there are literally hundreds of pieces that can go into a kitchen remodel,” said Graham.

That also means don’t jump the gun and buy appliances and fixtures first, unless you’re willing to compromise on a room’s design to make them fit into the space.Be realistic about project time. Reality TV is entertainment, not reality. There’s a lot that can delay a project, including weather, municipal permitting and inspections, and waiting for specialty products to be delivered.

“Some of the television shows present the time line that the work is something that can be done overnight or within a day or two,” Sutton said. Expect the unexpected. It’s not new construction; it’s remodeling what you already have and dealing with what’s already there, and that can add to a project’s cost and time, contractors warn.

“You’re taking something apart that other people put together, and sometimes you find things that you might not expect to find,” said Mike Dew of Oak Tree Construction, in Schaumburg. “Especially in an old house, when you open the walls up you find things that are not code compliant.” At least listen to a contractor’s suggestions. It’s your home and your personal style, but contractors have experience on their side. Some of their comments and questions may be code for “you really don’t want to do that.” The various pieces of a project have to work together, both aesthetically and mechanically, as well as fit in with the rest of the house.

Dew said that if it’s a questionable project, he will ask: “Are you really sure about that? Do you want to consider some alternatives? Are you sure you want to do something that’s different from everything else in your house?”He said, “It gives them a chance to think about what they just told me.”

This story was originally published   by the Chicago Tribune on December 16,  2011. This article from Tribune Company news outlets has been republished for additional  education purposes.  Please note that this editorial content was produced by Tribune news staff who are not employed by or  by Tribune Digital Marketplaces.  This article is not affiliated with any links or products that appear on the on the same pages.  Read more about our editorial policy.