What I Wish I Knew Before Renovating My Home

First and foremost, you will always question if you made the right decision

Photo by Nolan Issac on Unsplash

Unless you’re a trained carpenter, plumber, roofer, electrician, etc. then when you’re doing home renovations, you’ll have to hire at least a few contractors.

I am in the process of refinancing my home to get new windows, a new roof, and a new HVAC unit. I’ve spoken to 17 different contractors in the last month. I wrote an article recently about how I negotiated prices down with these contractors, and ultimately made my decision on who to use for each project.

But, I wanted to share more of the nitty gritty of what renovating is like, and some of the more practical lessons I’ve learned that aren’t necessarily related to finances.

I’ve learned a lot through the process, and I’m sure I still have much to learn and share as the jobs are completed in the next few months. My hope is that I can minimize some of the stress others may be experiencing while going through this experience, by sharing my own.

You Will Always Question if You Made the Right Decision

First and foremost, you will always question if you made the right decision. But you ultimately have to decide, and live with it.

I’m on a tight timeline trying to schedule an HVAC company and roofing company (they must work simultaneously to access my ductwork) to install these items prior to when my new windows are installed. (Images of falling roofing tiles onto new windows scared me). After the window installation, I need painters to come in pretty quickly to protect the new stucco and drywall.

I was spending weeks evaluating pros and cons of companies and trying t negotiate. There came a point where I needed to let go, and choose.

If I didn’t, every project would be stalled.

One of my biggest hesitations was what HVAC unit to get. I still dont know if I made the right choice. My decision was between the basic model (on and off) or the highest end model (variable speed and Energy Star rated). I didn’t have a middle ground option (high/low speed) for the brand I wanted and size unit I needed.

The variable speed unit cost 4k more. Would I recoup the cost due to its increased efficiency?

I ended up deciding on the most basic unit. Both units had the same lifespan and I was able to negotiate a longer warranty for the basic unit as well.

Was it the right choice? Will I regret it? I’m still not sure.

But if you never choose, the project will simply never get done. Do your due diligence, but then choose and move on.

You Will Have to Worry Less About People’s Feelings

If you’re getting multiple bids- which you should- you have to stop worrying about the feelings of companies who you have to say no to.

You’re going to have to say no to some. That’s the nature of the process.

If you’re like me, and saying no is difficult for you, you’re going to have to learn quickly.

Remember this-

Companies do this every day. They offer thousands of bids and are only hired by a handful of individuals. They are used to rejection. They won’t take it personally. Say no politely, and move on. They will too.

You Will Need to Stand Up for Yourself

The goal of a salesperson is to sell stuff. It’s not to get you the best deal. In fact, their goal is to spend the least amount of money on you as possible and make a profit off of the work.

If you are offered a deal that isn’t fair (which you should know because you’ve gotten multiple bids), turn it down.

Similarly, if you were promised something that wasn’t delivered, bring it up. (Pro Tip- anything that is promised to you should be written in the contract. If you don’t have it in writing, you aren’t protected. Anyone can play a game of he said, she said, but the company will always win.)

You Won’t Regret Doing Things the Right Way Even if it Costed More

Typically the middle ground option is the best option. One HVAC company quoted me 21k for a new unit. Ridiculous. One quoted me 8k, and another quoted me 12k.

You have to consider why a company is ABLE to offer things more cheaply. Is it worse quality? Do they simply do more jobs? The cheapest option may be a fine option, but it may not.

The HVAC units all supposedly last the same amount of time. Therefore, the choice between them matters less. But, if one lasted 5 years and the other lasted 15, it would likely be worth it to spend more now to protect yourself from replacement costs in the future.

Similarly, I chose a more expensive window quote in order for them to be installed in the style of new construction. That means the company is cutting out 4 inches of stucco and nailing the window directly to the two by fours in my home. I made this decision because the reason I started this whole project was due to a window leak. This is the best installation process to ensure protection against leaks, and ensure the longevity of the home. It as worth the extra money for me to have it done right, and to not have to worry about the same issue again in a few years.

Warranties Matter Less Than the Product

Most warranties just aren’t that great. They vary, so definitely read yours. But in general, companies want to sell you something that sounds phenomenal that doesn’t actually cost them that much money. It’s business.

Additionally, the warranty seems to always end a month before the product dies right?

What I’ve found is that paying attention to the product is much more important. Now, companies will typically put longer warranties on products they are more confident in.

However, the big caveat is that the warranty itself won’t give you much.

For example, on the warranty for my HVAC, there is a service fee if something goes wrong. Then, there will be no additional cost for labor or parts. However, the warranty will be void if the customer cannot provide recorded evidence that they have had their unit maintenanced each year. This means, someone coming by and checking off that your unit is still working well. Typically, HVACs don’t need much yearly “maintenance.” Of course, this is anther service they offer that you can pay them for. Additionally, there are other exclusions. For instance, they cover nothing regarding weather. What qualifies as a weather issue? That’s up to the companies discretion of course.

I found the same thing with roofing companies. One roofing company was much cheaper than another but had a much shorter warranty. I inquired.

I was told that they base their warranties off of the general lifetime of the materials they use (which are pretty much the same across the board in regard to the companies I’d looked at). Other companies promise a longer warranty but have numerous caveats that exclude service. Is the more expensive product than worth it because of the longer warranty?

All this to say- don’t let the warranty be the dealbreaker for you between two options. Pick the better product.

The Takeaway

Negotiating is hard. Decisions are hard. But eventually you have to make the best informed decision you can and move forward.

To do this you-

  1. Can’t worry about the feelings of companies.
  2. Need to stand up to make sure what you were promised is delivered.
  3. Should make the choice that will give you longevity, even if it costs more up front.
  4. Pay more attention to the product you’re buying than the extra “promises” from the company.

If I can navigate this process as someone who hates negotiating and hates saying no, I’m sure you can too. It’s all about taking it one step at a time and realizing that you are the boss in this project.

Writer. PhD Student. Frugal Traveler. Passionate about health, personal growth, and saving money.

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