A home renovation is expensive, and it’s tempting to want to do projects yourself or hire contractors on the cheap. Or you might just want to put off the whole thing.
By Ana Durrani
A survey from Consumer Affairs found that the average homeowner waits 10 months to make a critical repair. But cutting corners on certain renovation projects—or putting them off altogether—can end up creating bigger problems and cost you even more in the long run.
Whether it’s choosing cabinets that’ll add value to your kitchen or investing in quality windows, here are the top renovation projects you should never skimp on.
1. Kitchen drawers and cabinets
Photo by Fisher Gross Kitchen & Bath Studio
Well-made kitchen cabinets will stand the test of time and impress future buyers (should you decide to sell your home down the line).
“When viewing a home, buyers often touch the kitchen drawers and cabinets,” says Michele Dugan, a real estate agent with Realty ONE Group. “They are inspecting them to see the quality the seller chose, and will gauge the rest of the renovations on that choice. If there is a high quality of cabinetry selections, chances are the rest of the house will also be of a high grade.”
2. Plumbing work
Photo by Nunley Custom Homes
Shoddy plumbing work can come back to bite you in some of the worst possible ways: mold behind walls, messed up flooring, water leaks. Always hire a licensed plumber with good references, and don’t buy cheap pipes, faucets, and fixtures.
Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, says people who don’t understand the complexities of plumbing might choose a fixture that doesn’t have the proper drain P-trap or an improperly vented fixture. Both of these mistakes could lead to a sewer gas leak or a line clog.
Photo by Krownlab
There’s no getting around it: Permitting your home renovations is a pain. You have to deal with county regulations and inspections that might increase your property taxes.
“They definitely delay the building process as you have to schedule the building inspector at various stages of the project, and that means holding up the build,” says Trish Morgan Tilley of Sisters Selling Vegas with Realty ONE Group.
But do not skimp on getting permits. Doing so can cause all kinds of problems in the long run. If you decide to sell your home, you will have to spend time and money to permit the work and redo improvements that aren’t up to code.
4. Electrical work
Photo by Inplace Studio
Let’s make this as clear as we can: Electrical work is not something you should try to do yourself. Got that?
“Not only is working on electrical systems dangerous, but completing the work incorrectly can have catastrophic consequences down the road,” says Ben Kolo, owner of Mr. Electric of Central Iowa.
Cutting corners on electrical work can create problems like shorting out circuits or lights that flicker and could lead to a fire or explosion.
“In many instances, work completed near or around the sale of a home is required to include documentation proving a licensed electrician completed the work,” says Kolo. “It’s best to leave electrical work to the experts.”
5. Buying and installing windows
Photo by Lucy Interior Design
Windows are a critical component when it comes to the insulation of your home.
“Homeowners should invest in quality windows that are energy-efficient and, depending on where you’re located, storm-resistant,” says Mitch Barton, director of product marketing at Leaf Home.
Older or less expensive windows can bring problems and may require investing in extra window coverings or solutions to add insulation, adds Barton.
“Windows incorrectly installed can lead to unwanted drafts and gaps and cause issues with the windows being able to operate normally,” says Brad Roberson, president of Glass Doctor.
Roberson recommends windows be professionally installed and be double-paned or meet Energy Star standards for energy efficiency.
6. Flooring installation
Photo by Monsen Collins Builders
Flooring is one of the things that define a home, so make sure to choose one that you can enjoy for years.
“There are budget-friendly hardwood options, like luxury vinyl flooring, that are fairly easy to install,” says DeLisa Dawkins, a real estate agent with Realty ONE Group Freedom in Greenville, SC.
But, just because you’ve opted to save on the cost of your flooring material doesn’t mean you should cut corners on the labor. Be sure to hire a licensed flooring professional for installation.
And if you decide to go with real hardwood, you definitely want to put the work in the hands of an experienced contractor. “Natural wood flooring is most pricey, especially with the cost of lumber, therefore professional installation is in order,” says Dawkins.
Anayat Durrani is a freelance education reporter for U.S. News and World Report. Her work has been featured in Military Officer, California Lawyer, the American Scholar, and PracticeLink magazines.