Renovating your home is exciting, in theory. After all, who doesn't want to spruce up their digs? Ah, if only it were that simple.
The reality is that upgrades, even the easy ones, have a way of becoming crazily unwieldy—and unsuspecting homeowners often find themselves wondering if it might have been less stressful to just pick up and move rather than trying to survive their "improvements."
As proof, check out these home renovation cautionary tales and the hard-fought lessons you can take from them.
They were floored
"Do not plan on everything going smoothly," cautions Liz Evans. The homeowner in American Fork, UT, undertook what she assumed would be a simple renovation in 2016.
"If you do, you will just get disappointed or frustrated," Evans says. "We removed linoleum only to find all the subflooring rotted out. Then we had our fridge flood all over our newly installed wooden flooring, which then needed to be torn up and reinstalled. We encountered so many obstacles, I'm amazed we got through it."
Lesson learned: Though not all problems can be anticipated, homeowners can prepare for the worst.
Ellie Mroz, interior designer and part of the team at Michael Robert Construction, suggests that when it comes time to purchase items such as tile, flooring, or wallpaper, clients exceed the necessary amount by 10%.
"If there's damage and you need to redo an area or make a repair, you'll have extra from the same dye lot," she says.
The hurricane was bad enough
When Long Branch, NJ, resident Vincent Edward's home sustained extensive damage during Hurricane Sandy, he wanted it repaired and made livable as quickly as possible. And that led him to cut some corners, mainly by hiring pals to get the job done fast and economically.
"When we had our upstairs bathroom put in, we got one of those cheap shower stall units from Home Depot and the guys didn't caulk it properly," he says. "So there was some leakage, which resulted in a water stain on the ceiling downstairs."
His troubles didn't end there. "Mold started growing though the caulk, so then I had to have the guy come back and rip out all the old caulk and reseal the thing properly," he adds.
Lesson learned: Mroz says she also invokes this adage: "Good, fast, and cheap: You can pick any two, but you can't have all three!"
"Make sure the job gets done right the first time, otherwise it's just going to give you another headache and cost even more money down the road."
I'd rather starve than eat takeout again
When Charles Garrett of West Hollywood, CA, gutted his outdated kitchen, he relied on his trusty microwave to see him through. Initially, it worked out fine. He'd grab a frozen meal on his way home from work, nuke, and enjoy. But as days turned into weeks, he quickly exhausted all the packaged dinners he could tolerate.
"That's when I turned to takeout," he says. "And, as you can imagine, that got pricey pretty fast. Plus, by the time the two-month project was completed, I was totally sick of takeout and I'd put on close to 10 pounds that took me the next year to get back off again."
To this day, Garrett says the sound of the microwave's gentle whirring makes him feel bloated. And nauseated.
Lesson learned: Make plans for necessary lifestyle adjustments well before your project is underway.
"Thoughtful planning means spending extra time considering all of the specific inconveniences that come with renovation," saysJulie Palmer, president of Charlie Allen Renovations, an award-winning remodeling firm in Cambridge, MA. "If it's a bathroom, do you have a second bath? If not, can work be scheduled in a way that minimizes time when the room will be off-limits? If a kitchen, can a second cooking station be established elsewhere in the home? Is there a place to store perishable food?"
DIY at your own risk
When building an addition to her home, Margaret Russo of New Jersey decided to spare the additional expense of having the exterior painted professionally.
"I always enjoyed painting the interior so I figured, 'How different could it be to get a ladder and tackle the outside?'" Russo says. But what she had in can-do spirit she lacked in the balance department, she says. She fell backward off an 8-foot ladder and went to the ER.
"I didn't fracture my vertebrae, but I came darn close," she says. "Between the pain and the medical expenses, I could've had the house painted twice over."
Lesson learned: Know what you’re the expert in and what you're not, advises Mroz.
"Value your time and level of frustration," she says. "Account for those things. It's not less expensive if a client tries to DIY and then we have to redo it. Think of the cost of your time and materials."