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8 Major Mistakes People Make During Construction

Avoiding these eight major mistakes can help a home owner or business owner better navigate construction.

1. Not having a Construction Plan. The construction plan shows via a floor plan, elevations, and detail drawings the construction work you intend to undertake. It also includes specifications for the quality of the work and the type of materials. When getting quotes from contractors, a Construction Plan enables them to bid on the same set of specifications and allows you to evaluate prospective costs fairly.

2. Not finalizing "cosmetic" decisions. Every decision made before hiring a contractor makes construction costs more transparent. Specify all your materials, appliances, plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures, finishes (floor, wall and counter, yes... even paint colors) before you ask for contractor quotes. It's important for two reasons: you have a better chance of sticking to your budget; and you won't waste valuable time making last minute decisions. Also, it give you the opportunity to "sit" with your decisions and the chance to make any changes before you purchase materials and fixtures.

3. Not purchasing all of your appliances, plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures, finishes (floor, wall and counter) and have them on hand (or in storage) before you start construction. In construction, time is money. You can easily waste time waiting for products/materials that are back ordered. When you create a delay in a contractor's schedule, she needs to reschedule the crew and possibly put them on another project. That, of course, will only add to the length of your project.

4. Changing your mind. Of course, there are good reasons to make changes during construction. Especially in renovations, we don't know exactly what is behind existing walls or under floors. But second guessing design decisions is a huge time waster. Rely on people with experience to guide you and then stick with your vision.

5. Selecting the contractor with the least expensive quote. Usually you get what you pay for. Enough said.

6. Not having a budget. Unless you truly have no spending limit, engaging in a renovation project without a budget is like being a kid in the candy store. You know you have an opportunity to select delicious candies, so why not just one more...Not having a budget keeps no one -- you, the designer, or the contractor -- responsible for managing costs. Ironically, some of our most interesting work is done when there are budgetary limitations.

7. Not communicating. It's hard to read minds. Sometimes we would all rather not be involved. But even if you have a team of creative and project leaders, regular communication is crucial.

8. Inflexibility. While all of the above points advocate sticking to a decision, construction does require creative and flexible decision making. When unknown conditions or unplanned situations arise, be patient, consider the advice of the experts -- your contractor and designer, and understand that nothing goes exactly as planned.

Los Angeles, CA, USA


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