Top Home-Repair Blunders to Avoid

Home improvement projects seem to drum up images of shyster contractors or bumbling do-it-yourselfers. However, home repairs don't have to turn into an unorganized mess. By avoiding some common mistakes and taking common-sense precautions, you can end up with renovations that wow.

1. Accepting the lowest bid. Smart homeowners shop around for everything -- including work done on their home. But accepting the lowest bid right off the bat to save money may cost you more in the long run. A low bid certainly may be a great deal. But generally it could be a sign of an inexperienced contractor, or one who plans to use subpar materials or skimp on the job. Contractors will have similar prices. Shop based on experience and recommendations, not price alone.

2. Choosing friends and family. There certainly are skilled professionals that also may be a close friend or family member. But mixing business and pleasure could be a recipe for trouble, especially when workmanship and an exchange of money are involved.

"We had a friend replace our home's furnace," says Beth in Pennsylvania. "While we got a great price, we found out later on when there was a glitch in the system that certain things weren't done up to code. We had to spend more money to have it repaired, and the friendship has since suffered."

Some relatives are adamant about doing repairs -- but they may not be skilled or know the correct laws governing remodeling. Stick with a third party contractor with whom you'll feel comfortable talking if you feel repairs need to be done a certain way.

3. Thinking you can handle it. Many do-it-yourselfers (generally in an attempt to save money) believe they can learn every DIY task from a book or magazine. There are some jobs, however, that should be left to the professionals, including major plumbing work or electrical repairs. There's no need to risk a fire, injury or death by doing inexperienced electrical modifications.

4. Letting maintenance slide. Many homeowners think once the repair is made that they're all set -- failing to keep up with routine maintenance. But complications can arise by not maintaining a new appliance or keeping up with an improvement.

"Our homeowner's association required proof that the dryer venting for our clothes dryer was replaced on an annual basis," offers Bill in California. "I'd simply go out and buy a new box of the venting material and submit the receipt as 'proof' so I could save the money on a professional installation. But one day the lint trapped in the venting, which I hadn't bothered to change, caught on fire. It not only damaged the venting, it damaged the entire dryer -- resulting in the purchase of a new dryer. Luckily no one was hurt. I've since learned my lesson."

5. Following every trend. Anyone who has a harvest gold or avocado green appliance collecting dust in the garage or basement knows how interior style choices come and go. Instead of jumping on every trend (granite countertops and stainless steel refrigerator, for example), think about what will work for your home and be timeless. Otherwise you may end up having to update every few years.

6. Asking questions later. Make a list of every question you can think of and ask it before the work gets started. This way you're left with few surprises and can do changes without costing yourself time and money. Don't wait for the finished product before you start to question the hows and whys.

7. Expecting things to be perfect. If you go into a project with the idea that there will be no mishaps, even minor ones, you may end up stressed out when one arises. Everyone makes mistakes -- even professionals. If you think something is not being done correctly, speak up or get a second opinion.

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