Never one to restrict her culinary expertise, I promptly agreed. After discussing all possibilities with a builder and architect, one thing led to another. Soon we had plans for a renovated house twice the size of the existing home and ten times the cost of our idea for a new kitchen. Gulp.
When mentioning the decision to undertake a major remodel of my house, friends said, Get ready for a real ordeal. Or, Forget about your life being the same for at least a year.
How difficult would it be, I thought? The crews could work around me and visa versa. It will be fun. Well, because of my fun-filled building project, 2005 was easily the most stressful year of my life. Here are the rules for residential building and renovation I have learned the hard way:
(1.) Do not live in your house if major remodeling is taking place. Also, move your possessions to a storage area well before the work begins. I tried to reside in one bedroom with my stuff for a while, but hundreds of workers parading through my house made me realize I am not that sociable. Also, drywall and sawdust permeating every pour of my body and saturating my possessions convinced me to abruptly haul everything to a storage building. Okay, I was virtually homeless for most of 2005 with only a flashlight, muddy boots, and a few clothes on my back. This dismal existence was still preferable to living in an open-aired, construction zone punctuated by the ear-splitting noise of machinery and boom-boxes.
(2.) Any work you hire should start with a written agreement between the parties. One new thing I learned was that each contractor should also sign a waiver of lien upon completion and final payment.
A contractor placed a lien on our house because he didnt think we were happy with the workmanship (we werent) and thought we might not pay the final payment. My wife and I had not violated the agreement. The work by that contractor was incomplete, so the final payment was not due.
It didnt matter. Michigan law is weighted heavily in favor of the builder when a lien is put on your home. The house cant be sold or a conventional mortgage secured until the lien is removed. A builder can put a lien on a house with just the stroke of a pen and there is little you can do to contest it. The issue was resolved but not without legal advise and much consternation.
(3.) Hire a professional to help with the building plans. That was our smartest move by far. We have been happy with the plans from the beginning it was worth every penny we paid.
(4.) Do NOT become your own general contractor- especially if building trades are not your specialty. Our general contractor was in charge of the framing, trim, windows, roofing, and siding. My wife and I contracted directly with the painters, flooring, heating and plumbing, drywall, and others. At the time, bypassing the general contractor whenever possible seemed to be an easy way to cut costs.
If we did save a little money with that strategy, it was easily eclipsed by the stress and aggravation it caused us. Problems arose when some workers, outside of the supervision of the general contractor, screwed up or just didnt bother to come to the work site as scheduled. Workmanship issues sometimes took weeks (in one instance months) to resolve since my wife and I couldnt be at the site enough to see the problems. Our general contractor did point out many of the issues with the outside workers, but did not wield the same leverage as if he had
(5.) Allow at least three more months for the project completion than you anticipate. We had to reschedule our wedding a couple of times to allow me the privilege of carrying the Mrs. across the threshold on that blessed day. It wasnt a huge problem since our wedding was small, but we originally thought the house would be available months before the wedding. Snow still covered my property when the ceremonial groundbreaking took place in March 2005 I finally moved back in the house two weeks before our wedding in late October.
(6.) Have a trusted confidant. Though you hear of couples fighting or breaking up over home projects, my wife and I found that we work pretty well together. We made mistakes, but sharing ideas and raising questions with each other probably saved us from creating the ultimate money pit in our house. I suppose that means we are meant to be together in order to handle the stress of it all. AGGHHHHH.
Hurray, it is over. We do love our house, but I have much more respect for those homeowners who do somehow survive their own remodeling projects. I would still recommend you take a stab at it if you dare.