A few kitchen remodel pitfalls to avoid!

Skipping the Background Check

In our survey, almost 20 percent of general contractors lacked a state license or insurance, and 9 percent lacked both. You’ll give up certain protections from your state license board if you hire a contractor who lacks proper credentials. Plus our survey found that accredited contractors are better at holding down costs on remodeling projects when unexpected problems arise.

In addition to reviewing their paperwork, you should check the references of contractors on your shortlist. Ask past clients about their overall experience working with the contractor and also how their work has held up over time. Ideally, you can speak with a recent client as well as one from a few years back.

Changing Your Mind

This is the biggest mistake homeowners make on a kitchen remodel, according to our survey. So-called change orders, or work that is requested after the project is underway, inflates the budget by an average of 10 percent. Given that the average kitchen remodel in this country costs around $28,000, that’s a few thousand bucks worth of indecision per project. So spend however long you need on the design, then stick to the plan no matter what.

Having an Open-Ended Contract

Actually, even worse than this is having no contract at all on a kitchen remodel. But assuming you do enter into a written agreement with your contractor, it’s critical that you document every possible aspect of the project. That includes the start date and end date, including a clause on what the penalty will be if the project goes long because of the contractor (say he or she became overly distracted by another project). Ideally, the contract will also include every product and material that’s going to be installed, right down to the thickness of the drywall and the finish on the kitchen faucet.

Forgetting Functionality

Style usually drives a kitchen design. Paint colors and backsplash tiles are definitely more fun than ventilation, lighting, and storage. But the latter elements are going to influence your longterm satisfaction in a major way.

If there’s room in the budget and plan, a range hood will do a far better job of removing smoke and odor than the built-in ventilation in an over-the-range microwave. Undercabinet lighting is essential to efficient food prep. And look for ways to improve the cabinet storage, for example by putting drawers in the base units, instead of pullout shelves.

Getting Hung Up on One Element

Successful kitchen remodeling requires a balanced budget. Spend too much on appliances and your cabinets will suffer. Go for the pricey countertop and you might have to cut back on lighting fixtures. But there are ways to have it all, without having it all.

When it comes to appliances, you might go big on the refrigerator, choosing an impressive built-in model with integrated paneling, and then save on the range by opting for a freestanding slide-in model, which costs thousands less than a true pro-style range from the likes of Wolf or Viking. As for the countertop, you might mix and match materials, choosing inexpensive laminate for the perimeter of the kitchen and luxurious wood for the island countertop.

Relying on Rough Sketches

Don’t settle for two-dimensional drawings, especially on a major project where the layout is being completely reconfigured. Three-dimensional drawings will help you visualize the space so much better than flat elevations. Pay particular attention to traffic flow. For example, is circulation completely blocked when the refrigerator door is ajar? If you’re a two-cook household, is there room for you both to move about the space freely? Virtual reality software goes a step further than 3D drawings by allowing you to immerse yourself in the remodeled space before the actual work begins. If you’re hiring a professional architect or designer, ask if they’re using virtual reality yet.

Overpaying for High-End Materials

Some natural materials, like marble countertops and hardwood floors, deliver a luxurious look. But besides their steep cost, these materials are often susceptible to wear and tear. Instead of marble, consider low-maintenance quartz, which is our top-rated countertop material. Though some versions are as expensive as natural stone, many manufacturers offer entry-level lines that combine looks, durability, and a competitive price tag. On the floor, consider a porcelain tile, like Lumber Liquidators’ Avella Brazilian Cherry. It resembles the real thing, earned near perfect scores in our tests, and costs less than $4 per square foot, which is half what you’ll pay for some solid hardwood floors.

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Home Titles can have issues! Here’s a few!

Mechanic liens: These are liens placed against a property that a general contractor or someone who worked to improve the home filed before beginning the work. This is to ensure the contractor gets paid, and the lien is to be released when the job is complete. The procedure for how mechanic liens are filed and processed vary widely from state to state. But problems can surface with these liens when the contractor doesn’t file a “satisfaction” of the lien and, thereby, the lien remains on the property title. Some mechanic liens will expire after a certain amount of time. Regardless, if a mechanic lien is still present when trying to go to settlement, the process can be time-consuming and could prompt a delay in closing.

Bankruptcies: This can be cause a problem, for example, when a seller buys a home while single but then marries someone with a recent bankruptcy. The title company must ensure the new spouse has signed off on the deed and also that the bankruptcy case has been discharged. If not, the title company would need to petition the court to release the property from the bankruptcy process.

Divorces: This often causes problems when a divorced spouse doesn’t remember to remove a lien for child support, even though the debt may have been resolved long ago.  Also, lien issues may arise from past-due spousal support or delinquent taxes.

A room with a view!

On a lazy afternoon, you curl up in the sofa in front of the window, with your Kindle and a cup of steaming Earl Grey. Can life get any better? Yes! Add a breathtaking view in front of you. Perfect!

It’s no surprise that a view makes a home more attractive to buyers. But a view of what, exactly? Ocean waves, snowy mountains, or just the trees in your own backyard?

It turns out that homes with a view of the urban jungle sell the fastest—at just 83 days on the market. If you guessed that homes with ocean views would be most in demand, well, they sit on the market for 98 days on average. But let’s get real; the median price of $749,000 for an oceanfront home is clearly not for everyone.

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Five practical pointers for building an outdoor space!

1. Evaluate the backyard. Do an assessment to see what the space has to offer, taking into account the topography, sun exposure, drainage, and even the pros and cons assessing the view into the neighbor’s yard,  says lead designer and partner at Rainbow Valley Design and Construction, and landscape designer Lytton Reid in Eugene, Ore. Try to work with the existing elements, such as an old cedar fence might be dressed up with new planter boxes or an old concrete patio may be salvaged into stepping stones for a path.

2. Create public and private spaces. “There are three basic types of spaces: the private, the semi-private, and the public,” says Reid. “I think all three should be represented in a good outdoor room design.” A public space may include the main entertaining area where people can gather comfortably. A semi-private and private space would provide more shelter from the neighbors and offer plenty of privacy. Use of outdoor structures can help define these spaces, such as an open pergola to define a group dining space. A roof overhang and privacy screen can produce a nook against the house for privacy.

3. Consider drainage and utilities. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t create a problem by having water seeping toward your house and its foundation. “Big mistakes are made when people don’t consider drainage,” says Reid. The designers also take note of the location of utilities, such as plumbing for outdoor sinks, gas for a fireplace, and electricity for lighting.

4. Design for the senses. “What are the views and the sounds and possibly even the smells that come into the space from neighboring spaces?” Reid says. “Sometimes there are smells that you really want to enjoy. And sometimes you can mitigate the bad smells with good smells.” For example, fragrant shrubs or perennials may help alleviate bad odors from, say, the neighbor’s nearby trash cans. Or, the use of a water feature may help mitigate the sound from a nearby roadway.

5. Compliment the home’s style. Take into account the home’s existing architecture when planning the outdoor spaces style. For example, don’t take on ornate colonial-style if the home is a low-slung, mid-century modern home. “I think most people think of the backyard as something separate,” says Dakers. “But I think good design requires that you consider it as an extension of the house.”

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