Real Estate July 25, 2017

How to Combat the 5 Most Common Remodeling Monkey Wrenches

There’s a lot to think about, select and organize on a remodeling project, whether it’s a single room or a whole-house remodel. Small projects often have the same list of tasks as big projects, and the same potential for material selection and delivery to throw your schedule for a loop. Of course, anything can go wrong during a remodel, but some parts of your remodel will cause more difficulty than others.

Here’s what you should keep an extra-close eye on as you’re planning your remodel.


Monkey Wrenches 1: Garret Cord Werner Architects & Interior Designers, original photo on Houzz


1. Windows and exterior doors. Window decisions can be some of the most difficult in a project. Windows come in a variety of materials and colors, with hardware in different styles and colors and even an array of screen options. They also have wildly varying lead times. Vinyl windows can arrive in as little as two weeks, while some wood-clad and solid wood windows can take 10 weeks or more to arrive.

Generally, your contractor will install your windows before interior work takes place. And exterior trim and siding can’t be installed before the windows, so they can have a big schedule impact if they don’t arrive on time.

Best practice: Select your window brand early in the process, use the lead time to count backward from when the windows need to arrive and then finalize the order with your contractor at least two to three weeks ahead of that ordering deadline. Confirming things like jamb size, tempering, energy code compliance, egress, obscured glass selection and more can lengthen the process.


Monkey Wrenches 2: Ventana Construction LLC, original photo on Houzz


2. Cabinets. Similar to windows, cabinets affect a wide range of tradespeople who are lined up to work directly after their installation. Flooring, tile and countertop installations are all linked to the casework in kitchens and baths. Ordering cabinets requires multiple layers of design and selection, including decisions on the layout of the room; the function of doors, drawers and hardware; wood and paint; and crown molding. A field measure is also necessary.

Expect a floor plan and drawings showing how your cabinets will look straight on with complete measurements (also known as shop drawings). You’ll need to approve these before production can start.

Best practice: Narrow down the wood species and general style of the cabinets early on so that the biggest decisions are out of the way. Knowing the lead time from the cabinet shop is critical, and it doesn’t hurt to add an extra week to that to make sure your cabinets will arrive in time.


Related: How to Set Up Your Cabinets for the Best Storage


Monkey Wrenches 3: ART Design Build, original photo on Houzz


3. Plumbing fixtures. All of today’s retail and online plumbing fixture stores make it seem like getting plumbing fixtures in time for an installation is easy. It often is, but some fixtures and manufacturers have factory lead times and limited availability.

Shower valves and bathtubs are the two elements you usually need for a plumbing rough-in. The rough-in could happen the first week of a bathroom remodel or a couple of months into a larger project. The rest of the fixtures can come late, but selecting these two ahead of time will make it easier to get the rough plumbing in correctly. If you’re using stone or another solid-surface counter that has an undermount sink, you’ll need to have the sink and faucet onsite during the template process.

Best practice: Don’t wait until the bitter end to choose your plumbing fixtures. If you do, at least one is bound to not show up when you need it, or to come with an exorbitant cost for overnight delivery.


Monkey Wrenches 4: Contemporary Bathroom, original photo on Houzz


4. Tile. When you select tile, you have to consider more than just aesthetics. You also need to make sure that the material you select has all the pieces necessary for installation (bullnose, pencil liner etc). Consult your architect and the tile setter if you’re not sure what you need. Still, sometimes the tile that arrives isn’t quite right. On one of our recent bath projects, one of the selected tiles was switched for another material because the colors of the delivered tile were not as expected. The dimensions and colors may not exactly match the sample you saw in the showroom, particularly with natural stone and slate. But even factory-made tile can vary from one lot to another.

Best practice: Try to get a sample from your local tile supplier’s warehouse to make sure the stock that will be delivered is what you expect.


Monkey Wrenches 5: Noel Cross + Architects, original photo on Houzz


5. Flooring. The thickness of a flooring material affects many things, including the rough carpentry work that happens at the start of a project. If you want your floors to “plane out” (not have transitions up or down), making a definitive flooring decision is critical.

Many flooring materials, like wood and Marmoleum, have a lead time for arrival. Then these materials need to acclimate and adjust to the ambient temperature and humidity in the house. If flooring is installed without acclimating, it can expand or contract, causing gaps or bulging in the flooring. Usually four to five days are enough, but some products need two weeks of acclimation.

Carpeting can go in without acclimating at the very end of the project. However, interior millwork is installed in different ways, and there are different orders depending on whether you choose carpeting or some other flooring material.

Best practice: Choose your flooring before your project starts so that your contractor can make the surfaces plane out, and so that lead and acclimation times are not an issue.


By Anne Higuera CGR CAPS, Houzz