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8 Lessons We Learned From Our Green Home Renovation
By Jessica Larson, SolopreneurJournal.com
Home renovations are filled with uncertainty: They rarely go 100% as planned. You never know what’s lurking behind a wall or underneath a floor. Chances are, you’ll find some surprises that will lead to additional contractor fees you didn’t count on. You’ll also likely encounter project delays or hiccups at your local permitting office.
These obstacles can seem even bigger when you’re looking to incorporate green living into your construction plans, because it adds a whole new dimension when you address environmental issues, remodel with sustainability in mind, and focus on adding energy-conserving features. There are several things you want to think about as you put pen to paper and start planning to make the process go as smoothly as possible.
Here are eight lessons we learned from our green home renovation.
1. Plan your budget before you start
Be sure to set a budget first thing, and plan for any overages because cost overruns are pretty much a given on home remodeling projects — something unexpected is bound to occur. Whatever your budget, be sure to add 10% to 20% on top of your initial projection.
Once you know your budget situation, check your credit score. If your credit is a little on the low side or has temporarily dipped, work to improve it before you begin your project. Building a better credit score will give you easier access to lower-interest loans, which will save you thousands of dollars in the long run.
2. Consider the return on investment
Focus on projects that will help you to meet your green goals, but also choose ones that can increase your home’s resale value. You want to be able to get a good return on the money you’re investing. As good as your green intentions may be, you don’t want to sink yourself into debt. Smart energy-saving projects that bring a solid return on investment include replacing and upgrading exterior doors, windows, water systems, heating and air conditioning systems, and solar panels, to name a few.
3. Know how to leverage tax benefits
Adding green features to your home often gives you the ability to enjoy some tax benefits. The government is always adding tax breaks, but they usually expire after a specified period of time. Research the latest tax credits for home improvements before you get started to determine your eligibility and savings. This may help you decide which jobs to tackle first if you’re not in a position to pursue all your goals at once.
4. Be sure your contractor gets your ‘green goals’
Your goal is to create a greener home and lifestyle, so you’ll want to hire a contractor who understands and shares your priorities. Ideally, your contractor’s work will highlight sustainability and energy conservation. Ask what materials the company uses, discuss its work ethic and motivating principles, and see what aspects of your home can be refreshed or deconstructed, rather than demolished.
If you hire a contractor who doesn’t understand your desire to go green, or if the company isn’t known for its green practices, you’ll want to find someone else. A good rule of thumb in any renovation plan is to interview at least three contractors and compare bids from all three before you sign a contract.
6. Plan to store your belongings
Renovations are beautiful in the end, but during the construction phase, things get messy. Plus, workers will be coming and going daily. To alleviate any concerns about the safety of your stuff, plan to put your valuables, family heirlooms, and other precious mementos in a storage facility so they don’t get lost or damaged during the construction. This way, you know your belongings will be safe and secure.
7. Have a cleanup plan
Speaking of messes, construction work means you’re going to have a lot of debris. This aspect of a large home improvement project can’t be avoided, and you don’t want to have construction mess strewn all over the place. Plus, hazardous, or at least non-environmentally friendly, materials may end up in the ground — and you definitely don’t want that! Rent a dumpster to keep debris contained and make it easy to dispose of once the renovation is complete.
8. Double-check all work
Horror stories, unfortunately, are all too common when it comes to contractors. Projects get delayed because of a contractor’s schedule, companies cut corners and do careless and/or incomplete work, or materials aren’t delivered on time. Be sure to stand your ground if anything goes wrong. For instance, if something was installed incorrectly, make sure workers redo it — without using shortcuts.
Any home renovation can take months, and you’ll need patience to live your life around the work that’s being done. Keep your chin up, because the wait will be worth it. Focus on what’s in your control: You can stay as close to your budget as possible, and you can eliminate, or at least reduce, many of the headaches associated with construction. By understanding some of the potential hurdles ahead of time, you can help the process go a lot more smoothly.