10 Renovation Mistakes
Mismeasuring for Cabinets
This is one of the costliest mistakes the Brothers see. "People buy kitchen cabinets, have them installed, then realize their fridge doesn't fit," says Jonathan. The fail-safe: Measure and remeasure. "We always say, ‘Measure 10 times and cut once.' Print out specs for the appliances you're using and compare them to the plans for the cabinets with the cabinet installer."
Choosing the Cheapest Contractor
"The lowest bid never equals the best job," says Jonathan, who recommends bringing in at least three contractors and getting written estimates from each. "Some give cheap quotes just to get the job, then tack things on or cut corners and install low-quality products." The written estimate should include details (e.g., exact cabinets, hardware, flooring, and install costs, not just "new room"), a waste removal plan, permit costs, insurance, general contractor fee, an explanation of how design changes are handled, and the warranty on the work. If your estimate doesn't include these, the contractor is either not very thorough or he's underestimating the project.
Lowballing Your Budget
Surprises inevitably pop up and then snowball during a renovation. "Say you're installing a backsplash: You might damage the wall and have to replace some of the drywall. Then you see inside the drywall and find electrical issues, and before you know it, you're dealing with more than just a new backsplash," says Drew. "I always tell people to set aside 15% of the total project cost-even more for older homes-for unexpected expenses."
Insisting on Granite Countertops
True, it's a popular pick, but granite isn't the only option for the kitchen, says Jonathan. "Choosing a different material for the countertops can save you more money than anything else in the kitchen." The Brothers' nongranite picks: butcher block, plate steel, or a nice laminate. "Laminate is less durable than a solid-surface counter, but some choices look a lot like real granite."
Being Afraid to Change the Layout of a Bathroom
"Moving a toilet, shower, or sink isn't really that difficult. Don't live with an awkward bathroom just because you think it's cost-prohibitive to reconfigure it," says Jonathan.
Assuming You Want Hardwood Floors
They're not practical for everyone. "Pets' nails can damage hardwood very quickly, and kids mean more wear and tear too," says Drew. For busy houses, the Brothers suggest single-board laminate. It has a similar high-end look but is a lot more durable.
Making your Kitchen Too Trendy
"The bolder your kitchen, the quicker it will go out of style, bringing down your home's resale value," says Drew. Other kitchen choices you may later regret: overdoing it on appliances (wine chiller, double oven, rice cooker) at the expense of storage and counter space, and shoving an island in when there's not enough room. "If your space doesn't allow for at least 36 inches of clearance between the island and the other cabinets, skip it."
Skimping on Things You Can't See
"For example, we always recommend a bathroom membrane system, which goes under tiles to prevent them from popping and cracking, and keeps water from getting into the substructure," Jonathan says. "I tell clients, ‘If you're spending $15,000 on a bathroom, spend an extra $1,000 to guarantee you'll never have a mold problem.'" Also worth it: energy-efficient windows.
Ignoring a Floor Drain in the Laundry Room
It's required by code in most areas, but some people still omit it. "If the washing machine hose ever breaks, you'd flood your house. A floor drain directs the water into your home's main drain system," says Drew. And don't try a DIY installation-you need a plumber. "If you install it incorrectly, you'll have soap suds coming up in the kitchen sink or bathtub drain."
Not Ordering Extra Flooring
"We typically buy 20% extra since flooring is prone to cuts and breakage during installation, and there's no guarantee you'll be able to find an exact match if you need to order more," says Jonathan. "Major retailers often let you return unopened boxes for a refund, so you shouldn't get stuck with too much material." It's also nice to have extra in case of damage down the road.