Avoid 4 common remodeling mistakes

home_remodeling_picking_paint_colors.ju.top.jpg By Josh Garskof, Money magazine


(MONEY Magazine) -- The road to bad remodeling is paved with good intentions. Anyone tackling a major project wants his home to look and work better -- and to get a reasonable return on investment. But renos are packed with so much stress and emotion that it's easy to go wrong.

"I see homebuyers discount brand-new kitchens and bathrooms all the time -- especially in this market," says Curt Schultz, a realtor-architect-builder in Pasadena.

Read on to learn how to keep from falling into these four common traps.

1. Being a slave to fashion

The more up-to-the-minute your project is today, the more out-of-date it will seem in five or 10 years.

Skip trends such as glass tiles, wire-hung track lighting, and vessel sinks (the kind that sit on the countertop like a salad bowl), says Schultz.

Instead, go with classic choices that match the house's original style.

For a bathroom in a 1920s colonial, for example, that might mean a white pedestal sink and subway-tile wainscoting, but those choices wouldn't look so timeless in a 1980s contemporary.

You can find retailers specializing in period products at traditional-building.com.

2. Skimping on the design

The payoff you'll get on a redo will diminish if the project isn't well thought out, says Omaha appraiser John Bredemeyer, spokesman for the Appraisal Institute, a standards-setting organization.

If you're building an addition or moving interior walls, it's worth spending $1,000 to $3,000 to hire an architect (to draw a plan, not project-manage).

True, many contractors and showroom salespeople/designers can provide plans, but they don't have an architect's specialized training.

3. Over investing in the kitchen

Yes, great kitchens sell houses.

But there's a limit to what you can recoup for granite countertops and commercial-grade appliances. Because the kitchen generally represents 5% to 15% of a home's value, limit your kitchen renovation budget to that range -- and do the work only if your kitchen is in really bad shape, says Bredemeyer. (Estimate your home's value at zillow.com.)

4. Counting on a big pay-back for going green

Greater energy efficiency alone rarely justifies a pricey project.

Take windows. Window companies may tell you that replacing old ones ($300 to $1,200 each) will knock 50% off your energy bills. But windows really account for only about 15% of a house's heat loss, says Jerry Thatcher of Energy Diagnostics, a green-building certifier in Valparaiso, Ind., so you'd save just $50 to $175 a year.

That's not to say you shouldn't go ahead with new windows. As long as they match your home's style, new windows will add value. They'll open and shut easier, tilt in for cleaning, and reduce draftiness -- they just won't pay for themselves too.  To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.95%4.01%
15 yr fixed3.10%3.12%
5/1 ARM3.09%3.11%
30 yr refi3.97%4.04%
15 yr refi3.14%3.15%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 18,081.81 57.64 0.32%
Nasdaq 4,786.71 21.29 0.45%
S&P 500 2,087.05 4.88 0.23%
Treasuries 2.29 0.03 1.51%
Data as of Dec 24
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 18.04 0.12 0.64%
Gilead Sciences Inc 92.34 2.89 3.23%
General Electric Co 25.71 -0.17 -0.66%
Cisco Systems Inc 28.57 0.32 1.13%
Apple Inc 112.22 -0.32 -0.28%
Data as of Dec 24

Sections

The city's sanitation commissioner is expected to decide whether recycling foam containers is "environmentally effective" and "economically feasible," by January 1, 2015. More

Cheap gas spreads with a half dozen states poised to join Missouri offering drivers gas for less than $2 a gallon. More

To save a rocket, SpaceX will attempt rocket archery: nailing a bullseye by landing a lower rocket booster on a relatively tiny ocean barge. More

According to data from Google Trends and GrubHub, Chinese food remains the most popular type of food order on Christmas. More

After losing their daughter to liver failure and getting hit with $200,000 in student loans, the Mason family is finally getting financial relief. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.