The Number One Remodeling Mistake and How to Avoid It

The Number One Remodeling Mistake and How to Avoid It

The number one mistake I see homeowners make when remodeling is not planning and purchasing materials and fixtures in the right order. Order matters when it comes to remodeling.

Your contractor will build in a specified order; the building inspector will inspect in a specified order. For a successful remodel, you should synchronize design and purchasing with the building schedule. It's a little tricky, however. Lead times for the various items going into your new bathroom will vary.

A Real-Life Example of Why Order Matters in Bathroom Remodels

Below is my friend and colleague Mark Fawcett on the site of bathroom remodel designed by me and built by his company, Precision Building. Old walls have been removed and new ones have been framed in. Before the walls can be finished with sheetrock, rough electrical and plumbing must be installed.

The project plan has to show Mark which plumbing fixtures and light fixtures he needs to build into the walls. Mark will need shower valves onsite because they must be built into the walls. He will also need to know what kind of light fixtures we are using so that the right electrical junction boxes can be built into the walls.

If Mark doesn't have the shower valves at the job, or if he doesn't know what kind of light fixtures he will install, he will have to stop work.


Picture of Bathroom Remodel in the framing stage featuring general contractor, Mark Fawcett and design by Jackie Lopey

I've designed hundreds of rooms and coordinated materials for most of them. After every project, I think about what went well and what could have been better. And, I've developed a step-by-step procurement process. Following this process contributes to a quick and smooth remodel. Ignoring it will cost you not only time, but money.

Step 1: Finalize the Space Plan. There's no point in trying to buy materials if you don't have a concrete vision for what is going into the room, and your contractor will hate you if you try to design the room while he's building it.

Step 2: Budget for Fixtures and Finishes Based on Your Final Space Plan from Step 1. You should know what you need and how much of it you need based on your plan.

Step 3: Get Bids for Labor and Building Materials (Contractor Quotes). Again, your bids should be based on the Final Space Plan from Step 1.

Step 4: Order Materials in this Order

  • All Custom Made Items, Especially Vanity, Linen, Wardrobe and Medicine Cabinets - 5 to 12 week lead time.
  • Plumbing - 1 to 3 week lead time, and one of the first things your contractor will need.
  • Lighting - 1 to 3 week lead time. Also, one of the first things your contractor will need.
  • Tile - 1 to 3 week lead time, unless it's custom made. Your contractor won't need it until after framing, rough electrical, rough plumbing and drywall installation.
  • Decorative Items - Lead times vary but one of the last things to be installed.

Step 5: Get acknowledgements for all of the orders you have placed and check them carefully.

Step 6: Coordinate delivery to your home.

Step 7: Inspect all items on the day they are delivered. Make damage claims and request replacements as needed.

There's a lot to designing and managing the remodel. Getting the right materials ordered and delivered at the right time will make your life, and your contractor's life, much easier. I hope this step-by-step process helps.

She didn't know it, but Jackie Lopey's days as an advertising executive were numbered when she bought and renovated a 1950's bungalow. She soon went back to school and started her own design studio. Jackie is an award-winning, certified interior designer and the founder of Wide Canvas.

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