Home Improvement – The Top 10 Home Improvement Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

Although a major home improvement can prove to be a rewarding project, it can also turn your life upside down if you are not prepared. I’ve heard of some worst case scenarios involving people who have lost their homes because they got in over their heads and others who ended up with incomplete project nightmares that cost them thousands of dollars to correct.

Following is a list of the top ten mistakes homeowners make when undertaking home improvement projects and tips on how to avoid them:

1. References. Do enough research and background checking to satisfy you. Walk away if the contractor is not willing to provide references from former clients. Do an online search of the contractor’s business and personal name. Check with local courts for judgments filed against them and with the Better Business Bureau for any consumer complaints. Look at previous work completed (in person). Check with material suppliers since a good contractor will have a long-standing relationship with suppliers. Contact other contractors who have worked with them before. Check their credit standing – contractors with bad credit are often disorganized and don’t manage their business well. Inquire about insurance, workers compensation and licensing.

2. Project management. You need one person to help you manage your project. Most issues occur when inexperienced homeowners try to manage their own project. A project manager is a single point of contact between the homeowner and other contractors and is responsible for scheduling and workflow.

3. Contracts. Make sure your contract is solid. As obvious as this may sound, failure to get a contract or signing an incomplete contract is one of the most common mistakes. Put all the details in writing – never take someone’s word for it. Following are items that should be included in the contract: (1) the full name of the company and the person you are doing business with and their contact information, (2) an addendum consisting of the complete set of plans, (3) an addendum consisting of the materials to be used, (4) the price of the goods or services, (5) the manner and terms of payment, (6) a description of the work to be performed, (7) a start date and an estimated completion date, (8) a default clause in the event either party defaults that specifies how damages will be calculated, (9) warranties and (10) signatures.

4. Warranties. Make sure you receive a warranty with detailed terms and conditions. Don’t accept a contract that simply states that all work is guaranteed. There is often confusion as to who is responsible for the warranty. Get the following in writing: (1) Who is backing the warranty? (2) What is covered and what is not covered? (3) How long is the warranty valid for? (4) What can void the warranty? (5) What is the process for placing a warranty claim?

5. Changes. During the project, you may change your mind on certain design aspects which may require more or less work from contractors. It is critical to document every change order and note the exact cost or savings. Changes should be signed and dated by all parties.

6. Plans. Get a clear description on what will be done, how it will be done and the materials to be used. For smaller projects, contractors can draw up plans. For larger and more complicated projects, find a qualified designer or architect. And, for example, if load-bearing walls will be altered, find an engineer to review the structural side of the plans.

7. Costs. Estimating costs tends to be a big problem because people do not make realistic comparisons. Homeowners may hire the contractor with the lowest price but that price may turn out to be much higher in the end. “Allowance items” tend to be the main culprit in estimating costs. For example, contractors may give you allowances for flooring, lighting or hardware that are artificially low. The bid looks enticing until you examine it closely. Request a line item for straight costs on materials and labor since some contractors mark up materials and labor so they can make a profit on it. Ask the contractor to pass along costs to you and to add a line item for their fee. This creates a more clear and honest assessment of the job.

8. Financing and payments. Before signing the contract, figure out how you are going to pay for your home improvement project. Make sure you maintain control of the money – don’t let your project manager or contractor control the money. This sounds obvious but many homeowners allow contractors to make draws on construction accounts only to realize that the draws were not used for the intended purpose. What does this mean? It means your contractor scored a new truck, you’re out of money and the project is incomplete. Tips: (1) don’t pay a lot of money up front, (2) pay when materials are delivered, (3) pay when work begins and (4) pay as work progresses. Pay only after work and materials are inspected and approved.

9. Inspections. Don’t wait until your home improvement project is almost complete to do the inspection. Plan phased inspections along the way so work doesn’t need to be re-done. Don’t rely on city and county building inspectors to protect you since the codes they enforce don’t guarantee quality (and they often miss things too!). Before paying for work, hire an independent inspector to do periodic phase inspections.

10. Materials. Stick with products that are tried and true. This rule especially holds true when it comes to windows, doors, framing materials, roofing products, concrete coverings, epoxy floors, plumbing, light fixtures and electronics. You don’t want to be the guinea pig that test runs the supposed latest and greatest new products or materials only to find out that these items don’t last or turn out to be fire hazards!

House Cleaning Services – Do It Yourself or Use Professional Cleaners?

Everyone loves a clean house, well almost everyone. However it is quite a challenge to maintain a clean house all year round to a standard where every crook and cranny in the house is cleaned spotlessly. There is no doubt a clean house ensures a germ free environment and one way to achieve this is, to either do it yourself or contract in professional house cleaning services to do it for you.

The advantage of using professional cleaners is of course, they are professional cleaners, it is their livelihood and they have a good understanding of the type of cleaning products and chemicals to use on different surfaces and material furnishings in the house. As well they will undoubtedly clean in areas easily overlooked by the non professional house cleaner. Applying this knowledge to the job will ensure the longer life of surfaces and materials that may be subject to heavy wear and tear.

Using the wrong cleaning products

If you do decide to undertake the task of house cleaning services yourself then it may be advisable to do a little research into the type of cleaning products you should use for the different surfaces in your household. Failing to do this could end in disaster with damage to some of your prized finished surfaces and material coverings including carpets in the house.Most home owners today live fairly busy life styles with work, family, sports and other social activities so regular house work and cleaning are sometimes put down the bottom of the priorities list of things to do. Busy householders would rather spend their free time engaging in more enjoyable activities. Many I imagine will be more than happy to contract in professional house cleaning services to undertake what can be a laborious and time consuming job.

A quick flick through your local papers or going online will quickly reveal a number of cleaning businesses in your locality that are only to happy to offer a cost and obligation free quoting service. You may be surprised to find a number of very competitive quotes among cleaning businesses in your area.

The benefits of contracting professional cleaners are:

1. They will probably do a better job than yourself, professional cleaners will take the time to clean in obscure areas that home owners sometimes overlook. Eg. cupboards and wardrobe shelves that gather a lot of dust over time, ceiling fans, draws etc.

2. They will use the right cleaning chemicals for the right surfaces, stainless steel, wood, ceramic, Formica, marble etc.

3. They will complete the job within a specific time frame. Once the job is started they will work until the task is completed.

4. The time it would normally take you to do the job can be spent with your family or doing any other activity that you enjoy.

5. You may be surprised to find there are some very good and cost effective professional house cleaning services out there.

Making a good impression

Most home owners will be aware that visitors or family friends who come to your home will usually have an opinion about yourself based on how well you keep your home. Most people are that way inclined unfortunately always judging others either openly or secretly. As they say first impressions are lasting, so it is important to make a good first impression by presenting your home in a clean and tidy fashion.Unfortunately it is the reason many home owners will not have people around to their homes because they are embarrassed about the state of their homes. Contracting in professional cleaners can definitely help solve that problem.

Cleaning a house spotlessly isn’t for the faint hearted, it requires hard work and dedication. Home owners who have given the big spring clean a go in the past will be the first to agree. It’s a job that can’t be done in half measures and requires a professional approach. Personally I think that engaging professional house cleaning services on a regular basis is the way to go if you enjoy your free time and want to maintain a clean house all year round.

Deciding On A Home Improvement Project

When picking a home improvement project, it’s important to choose one that’s within your budget and abilities.

Let’s face it, just about any home could use a little work here or there. Not all of us have bottomless budgets, however, which makes prioritising our projects important. When deciding on a home improvement project, you should consider the immediate needs of your home, your budget, your ability to do the project if it’s a DIY, and the necessity of the project.

Here’s a checklist of considerations to weigh when picking a home improvement project.

Safety

While some home improvement projects are just nice tweaks that make the home prettier or save you a little in energy costs, some are vital to the safety of you and your guests. Home improvement projects related to safety, such as fixing unstable steps, reflooring a slippery floor, repairing faulty electrical work, etc should take precedence over other projects.

Some safety projects may be related to your home’s original construction. For example, homes built before the mid-90s may have used asbestos as a building product, and as insulation – a known carcinogen.

To be sure, having your home evaluated by a professional to determine if there is any risk areas may be a good idea.

Improving comfort

Making your home comfortable is important. Projects to improve the overall enjoyment of your home, such as installing new carpet, getting a climate control system that heats and cools all rooms evenly, or projects to reduce draughts or mould problems should be high on the priorities list.

Keep your mind on your money

Fixing problems in your home that are costing you money should rank highly on your to-do list. Repairing leaky taps, installing more energy efficient appliances and adding insulation can help save you money.

Be realistic

If you’re considering a DIY project, realistically evaluate your skill before embarking on a project that’s may end up costing you twice – once when you do it, and again when you have to call a professional to fix the mess you’ve created!

Should you need to call in a professional for a job that you haven’t yet mastered, ask if you can provide the labour for him or her. This could reduce the cost of the hire, and also help you to acquire these skills for the future.

There’s no magic formula for deciding which project to tackle first, but this list may go a long way to formulating a realistic home improvement project plan.