With the popularity of home improvement TV shows, many home owners are taking matters of their house into their own hands. With the use of these TV shows, Youtube, and the internet as a whole, it has become more practical to make your own renovations and additions to your house than ever before.
One of the main attractions of going the DIY route is it can help you save lots of money. This money can be used in turn to fund better quality materials for your home. However, if you overlook the necessity of a building permit all those savings can go down the drain.
Most people aren’t aware that their city requires a building permit even for many DIY home improvement projects.
Even minor fixes can require a permit. Replacing appliances? Yup a permit is required. Building a fence? Don’t forget your permit. Building a patio? You’ll need a permit for that too.
Depending on the work needed to be done, a permit can range from $50 upwards to $7,500 (information based on data collected by HomeAdvisor from its members actual project costs). The average lies around $1,200. However, the cost fluctuates depending on the type of project and the state you’re in. Before proceeding with any DIY projects, check with your municipal building department for all necessary forms and to get an estimate of the permit(s) needed and its cost(s).
Any additions your home are for your long term benefit. Don’t think short-sighted when making renovations; it’ll only hurt you in the long-run.
For example, at a parking meter, it’s better to pay the meter $1.50 for an hour instead of getting a ticket for $50. When tackling projects in your home it’s better to pay $200 for a permit instead of paying three times that to pay a contractor to redo your work to bring it up to proper standards.
Before going out and buying all of the necessary equipment to tackle a DIY home improvement project, become aware of the necessary permits. Ignoring permits, knowingly or unknowingly, can cause major roadblocks when you decide to sell your home in the future.
Builder confidence points to strong construction in 2016
Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes remained unchanged in May at a level of 58 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI).
Ed Brady, the NAHB’s chairman, explained in the association’s report that the index’s current level bodes well for housing, although challenges remain.
“Builder confidence has held steady at 58 for four straight months, which indicates that the single-family housing sector remains in positive territory,” Brady said. “However, builders are facing an increasing number of regulations and lot supply constraints.”
Sales Expectations High, Buyer Traffic Low
As with past months, there was a bit of a contradiction at the heart of builder confidence – while the HMI components measuring sales expectations in the next six months increased three points to 65, the component gauging buyer traffic remained low at 44 (any measure lower than 50 indicates that more builders see the market as bad than good); meanwhile, the component charting current sales conditions was unchanged at 63.
NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said that economic trends are behind the rise in sales expectations.
“The fact that future sales expectations rose slightly this month shows that builders are confident that the market will continue to strengthen,” Dietz said. “Job creation, low mortgage interest rates and pent-up demand will also spur growth in the single-family housing sector moving forward.”
Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the South and Midwest both registered one-point gains to 59 and 58, respectively. The West remained unchanged at 67, and the Northeast fell three points to 41.
nfidence among U.S. homebuilders held steady in May, signaling limited progress in residential real estate during the busy spring selling season, National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo data showed Monday.
--Builder sentiment gauge unchanged at 58, where it's been for four straight months. Readings greater than 50 indicate more respondents reported good market conditions. Median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists projected 59.
--Gauge of prospective buyer traffic held at 44 in May, while index of current sales was also steady at 63.
--Measure of the six-month sales outlook rose to 65, highest this year, from 62.
The figures suggest homebuilding won't add much more to U.S. growth in coming months even with mortgage rates at the lowest levels in three years. Economists had been looking for gains in residential construction to give the economy a much-needed leg up as manufacturing was weighed down by weak growth abroad and the still relatively strong dollar. Housing, which was at the center of the last recession, wasn't able to fulfill its role as a spark to the early phase of the expansion.
--"The fact that future sales expectations rose slightly this month shows that builders are confident that the market will continue to strengthen," NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said in a statement. "Job creation, low mortgage interest rates and pent-up demand will also spur growth in the single-family housing sector."
--"There remains a big disconnect between what homebuilders are saying and what they are actually doing," Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at MFR Inc. in New York, said in research note. "We expect housing starts to largely tread water" in coming months.
--"The failure of the index to recover at all after it fell three points in February is puzzling and disappointing," Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics Ltd. in Newcastle, U.K., said in a research note. "We remain of the view that home sales are likely to rise over the next few months, but housing is not going to be a major driver of the whole economy."
--Sentiment among builders in Northeast dropped to the lowest level since June 2014.
--Confidence climbed in South and Midwest and was unchanged in West.
Construction on new houses rebounded in April after a sharp dip in the prior month, but a slowdown in building permits suggest work on new properties could taper off from last year’s double-digit pace.
Housing starts climbed 6.6% last month to an annual pace of 1.17 million, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. In March, starts were revised to a 1.1 million rate.
Housing has been one of the economy’s strongest sectors of growth over the past few years, but sales and construction are not growing as fast in early 2016 as they did in 2015. Starts surged by more than 10% last year.
Permits for new construction, a sign of future demand, might offer another clue. They rose slightly to an annual rate of 1.12 million in April, but they are running 5.3% below year-ago levels.
Rising prices may be scaring buyers off and construction companies complain about a shortage of skilled workers, a growing problem that could limit supply and keep prices at elevated levels.
Most economists expect activity to pick up as the prime buying season gets underway, but there are still lingering questions of just how fast. Steve Blitz, chief economist of ITG Investment Research, said there’s little evidence “to suggest a great surge in construction is upon us.”
In April, new construction sped up in the Midwest and South and declined in the Northeast and West, the government said.
Construction on apartments, condos and other buildings with at least five units surged 10.7%. Single-family home starts advanced a smaller 3.3%, though the South posted the biggest increase since the end of 2007.
Consumer spending is projected to reach $155 billion this year. Consumer Reports has some ideas on how to avoid the biggest renovation mistakes.
Consumer Reports says planning is essential.
Sally Loizeaux started planning a year before work began.
"There is no such thing as over planning. It's key to helping homeowners stay on budget," said Daniel Diclerico, Home Editor for Consumer Reports.
But general contractors say homeowners make common mistakes, adding cost and aggravation.
Fifty-nine percent surveyed by Consumer Reports said homeowner indecisiveness was at the top of their list of biggest mistakes.
Changing your mind once the work begins can really bust your budget.
Just ask Loizeaux, who opted to re-do her kitchen midway through her renovation.
"I think adding the kitchen probably added another 15 to 20 percent to the budget," she said.
Before her kitchen was finished, she faced a second common cause of cost overruns: uncovering damage.
"When I found out about the gas leak, I wanted to cry. We were a week away from moving in," she explained.
"Getting a pre-inspection can really help avoid unwanted surprises. It's useful knowing problems beforehand so you can adjust your budget accordingly," said Diclerico.
And don't forget, it's a mistake not to bargain. Thirty percent of the contractors surveyed say they are very willing to negotiate.
And no matter what you think the renovation will cost, be sure to build in some padding.
"Homeowners should assume their project will cost 20 percent more than you expect and take 20 percent longer than planned," he said.
And that happened to Loizeaux.
"We had to move in before the house was finished. It's a stressful process. But we're really happy with it," she said.
So, how long should a renovation take? On average, bathrooms task two weeks and a kitchen can up to three weeks.
Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.
When considering a big renovation project, homeowners can easily feel overwhelmed with how many directions they can go in and how pricey the renovation can ultimately be. Some will choose to do the work themselves and use off the shelf materials, but others may decide to hire an architect to help with a renovation. However, working with an architect may be unfamiliar territory for many just getting started with their first big renovation. And even then, architects generally have different strengths or specialties. To help answer some of the basics, we've reached out to Matt Nardella of moss design, a firm that specializes in sustainable design.
When working on a big renovation project for a residential client, where do you start?
After understanding the desired goals for a project, based on our client’s input, we start by uncovering the problems we need to solve and studying all the free elements our project site has to offer. Such as what desirable environmental qualities can we harness through good design that does not cost us anything. For example, how does the sun and wind influence the project site and how, with smart design moves, can we utilize these resources at no cost to the overall project. Only after we understand that, can we start on our favorite part of a project; drawing.
Sustainable design and materials are important elements in your work. Why do these things matter?
Sustainability matters to me because there is no such thing as infinite resources on a finite planet. And for what can seem to be an insurmountable problem, as an architect I feel as if I can help to shape the built environment and be part of a solution. It’s only a small piece of environmental stewardship, but something that motivates me and the entire moss team to do good work.
What's your response to the people who think that sustainability and environmentally conscious design is just a fad?
That environmental unconscious design was just a fad. Relatively easy access to materials and energy has shaped our buildings over the last century, but I think we are now realizing that it shouldn’t have. The recent bonanza of thoughtless design is just a small blip in our long history as humans building sustainably. Employing passive design techniques and healthy materials is not only better for the environment but can help make people that interact with our buildings feel better and be more productive. Sustainable design is about thinking holistically and is more important than buying so-called "green" gadgets.
When doing a major renovation, what are some of the things that can go wrong?
A whole host of things can go wrong, which is why it’s important to have an architect on your side given the unpredictability of construction. Since we primarily work on projects inside of existing -- sometimes 150 year old -- Chicago infrastructure, we have a pretty solid understanding of how to deal with and take advantage of archaic materials while we are still in the design phase. However, it’s impossible to predict what is under all the layers of previous construction, so problems arise as we uncover during the demolition phase. Working with our builders we can problem solve on the spot when the unexpected happens, while still having the design goals in mind while we do.
Is it possible to over personalize when doing a renovation?
As long as your personal taste is rooted in good design, no. I think natural light is the most beautiful, useful and timeless building material there is. Ancient architecture that feels good to walk through and be in today was designed with access to natural light in mind. We approach our projects from a volumetric perspective, so we assess how light and air travel through the space. If we get that part right then I think you can apply almost any personal touch you want. The underlying design is what makes the space feel right and timeless. It’s also why architects think everything should be painted white.
What was one of the most memorable renovations your team worked on?
Working with old buildings, the things I remember most are the old things we uncover. Sometimes I feel like we are architectural archaeologists trying to piece together a forgotten history. I remember all the old signs that revealed themselves after demolition, antiquated fixtures, and long-ago-covered structures. It’s why I love working in Chicago.
Are renovations always going to be expensive? What would you say to those who are on the fence about approaching an architect for a job?
Renovations, relative to building something new, is likely to be less expensive. Utilizing existing infrastructure, whether it is the exterior wall or finish materials will reduce costs, and more importantly, keep perfectly good materials out of the waste stream.
If there are numerous project goals that may not be realistic for the project, my advice is to let us develop a master plan for what could be done if the budget was unlimited. This exercise helps to inform the small decisions we are going to make about a project, but also may uncover something that our client didn’t even intend to do in the first place, but becomes an integral part of the project. In a construction project the design fees are only going to be a small percentage (5-20% typically depending on the size) so I think, however biased, that good architecture is a small investment for something that you will live in for years to come. If you’re going through the trouble of doing it, at least allow us to do it well for you.
What's the best end result when working on a big renovation project?
A space that people love to be in, within the budget and projected timeframe. Ultimately, if our client is pleased then we have accomplished our goal.
Reality television isn't just the provenance of singles looking for a mate, singers trying to best each other, and would-be or quasi-celebrities seeking attention. A good number of programs in this genre deal with another kind of elusive state: The experience of a perfect home renovation.
Like relationships and fame, renovations are seemingly made-for-television. We fantasize about them, dreaming of a beautiful home whose transformation is easy, fast, and affordable. According to the pros, the reality can be a lot grittier. We went to contractors around the country (all members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, or NARI) to help pull the veil off the process and reveal truths.
Myth #1: Remodeling is Easy
Tom Miller of Tom Miller Remodeling in Portland, Oregon sums it up this way: "If remodels were easy, everyone would do their own." At the beginning of every project, he tells his clients that their kids and dogs will be the only occupants who miss the crews when they depart (children like the excitement, dogs enjoy the extra attention and treats workers sometimes provide).
"Reality television makes it look so simple. Major remodels are done in the space of 30 or 60 minutes while the homeowner is out. What the viewers don't see are the hundreds of people working on those projects 24/7 to make it happen," he says.
"The truth is that it takes longer than that, and that it requires time and emotional energy from the clients. What the clients don't always realize is that the process is going to be unavoidably messy and will intrude into their lives, although a good contractor will minimize that as much as possible. The kids and dogs get excited about it, but the owners will be glad when it's over."
Myth #2: Remodeling is Inexpensive
David Pekel of Pekel Construction & Remodeling in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin notes that reality television and articles on budget remodeling have conditioned homeowners to believe that renovations can be done inexpensively as well as quickly.
"If you want to buy cookware, you can go to the store and check out the price on a set you like. You can then look at an unlimited number of retailers online to see if you can find the same thing for less," he says. "You can't think of remodeling in those terms, as it's harder to put a price point on it. The materials and products you are putting in are only a portion of the cost, the skill of the labor behind the installation is a very significant part of it."
A remodel usually costs twice what the client thinks it might.
He notes that on TV, the labor cost is not always factored in, so when homeowners are quoted a price that includes labor, they feel like they are being mislead. "It's not just the labor either," he says. "A good quote should factor in project management and all the associated things that go along with it. In my experience, the remodel usually costs twice what the client thinks it might."
Myth #3: You Can Do It Yourself
Pekel says people who wouldn't think of trying their hand at surgery or dental work might be persuaded to take up the hammer, and that it's not usually advisable. "Doing things like demolition or electric work can be deleterious to your health," he says. "Professionals should have a lot of experience and training on how to do things safely."
Pekel, along with the other contractors interviewed for this story, all mentioned occasions when they've been called in to correct a DIY project. "I'm not saying there aren't things you can do yourself," he says. "But it's unrealistic to think your regular citizen will be able to spent the weekend safely gutting the kitchen."
Myth #4: The Low Bid is the Best Value
Dale Conant of Atlanta Design & Build has a theory: If three contractors possess similar experience and a skilled crew, their project bids should all be about the same. "You don't want to overpay for a project," he says. "But I contend that going with the low bid and then paying to fix mistakes is more expensive than the highest bid."
Myth #5: Products That Look the Same, Are the Same
Pekel uses the analogy of a diamond to illustrate this point. "You can have a large stone that looks good until you get it under a microscope and you see it's not really clear and it has a lot of inclusions. Then again, you can have a small stone that looks like a rainbow in the sun. In those cases, the small stone might be one third the size but five times the cost," he says.
"Locally, we have a store that sells a Moen faucet for $200 and, a few shelves down, offers what looks the same thing for a price of $89. The difference is one is metal and brass and the other is mirror-covered plastic. In the lifecycle of the product, the less expensive one will end up being more expensive because you will have to repair and ultimately replace it."
Myth #6: Remodels Always Take Longer Then Planned
Robi Kirsic of TimeLine Renovations in New York City notes that many clients seem to expect tardiness from their contractors. "I am punctual. Ninety percent of my clients express shock and surprise when I arrive on time for the initial meeting. They seem to be expecting me to be late because of my profession," he says.
He notes that most contractors want to finish on time so they can move on to the next gig. He says that the antidote for delays is good planning and organization. "The key is starting with a good understanding of what you want and the scope of work. That will insure that project goes smoothly and wraps up on time."
He says that change orders (when homeowners want something different from or above and beyond the original plan) are big reasons for time overruns. "Here's an example: If we have a plan for a door style, we order them right away as they can take four to six weeks to arrive. Later if the homeowner decides they want a different style of door, then we have to reorder, and that results in a delay." It also ends up costing more, which brings us to our seventh myth.
Myth #7: Remodels Always Cost More Than Bid
Kirsic feels that sticking to your plans is key to holding the monetary line. "If you can decide what you want and stick to it, you can stay in budget," he says.
"The problems happen when you allocate $10 per square foot for tile, but fall in love with tile that's $25 per square foot while shopping. Or you allow for $10,000 worth of appliances, but you decide later you want something higher end. Obviously, that will add costs to the project."
In his mind, leaving as little to chance or imagination as possible is how to end up at the figure you expected. That said, all the planning in the world can't eliminate the element of surprise.
Myth #8: Good Planning Can Outwit Surprise
The only way to combat the unexpected is to, well, expect it. "Every home, new or old, can hold a surprise. Undetected slow leaks, pests, handy person fixes—any of these can end up in hidden flaws that you don't see until you pull a floor up or take a wall down," says Miller. "The only way to deal with surprises is to try and budget for them. If no surprises come to light, then you can go shopping with the money."
Myth #9: You Can Make It Up As You Go Along
By now, it's clear that starting with a solid plan is a good idea. However, it's important not just for cost and timeliness, but for general outcome as well. Years ago, I was writing a story about a kitchen remodel. The contractor rhapsodized about the incredible "mind meld" he and the client experienced, making the design up as work unfolded.
I called the client expecting a similar feel-good story, but much of her response is unprintable. She was unhappy with the time it took, the amount it cost, and deeply regretted some last minute field decisions. Conant says it's a good idea to ask a contractor for a copy of project plans and then talk to the homeowner to see how closely they were followed. "It's important to see if the goal set was the goal met," he says.
Myth #10: Fancy Trappings Make a Good Contractor
Conant says that it's easy to be fooled by appearances. "It takes more than a fancy truck with your name on it," he says. Conant suggests that people go about hiring a contractor with the same thoroughness they use to hire someone at their place of work. "Check these people out," he says. "Are they licensed? Do they have legit credentials? Check out their references."
The renovation the process is like childbirth: The pain fades in time.
Both Conant and Kirsic says that when it comes to hiring contractors, it's better to do an Internet search than to be swayed by slick marketing materials. "A quick Google search will tell you if the owners of a contracting company have filed bankruptcy or have had liens filed against them," Kirsic says. "You will also find a lot of reviews, but what I find more helpful is to check city databases [many cities have the information on the planning department website] and see if there are any old open jobs under the company name. If there are, you can assume there's a history of walking off the job."
Myth #11: You Will Be Bitter When It's Over
Conant says that the process is like childbirth: The pain fades in time. "We've had a few projects where something unexpected was discovered that led to a long, expensive, and difficult job," he says. "Yet, these clients have come back to us again, given us multiple referrals, and allowed the project to be photographed and published. If the end result is great, they are happy."