Most homeowners, especially if they are doing their first remodeling project, want to know, “What should I do to avoid making mistakes on my project?”

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Q: We want to make 2016 the year of our remodel. Any advice on what to avoid during the process?

A: Most homeowners, especially if they are doing their first remodeling project, want to know how much their project will cost and how long they can expect it to take. More often than not, they also ask, “What should I do to avoid making mistakes on my project?”

I work with many different homeowners. No two projects are the same — every homeowner and home is unique. There are, however, some similarities that I have observed. It is from these experiences that I have created a list of my top remodeling pitfalls.

Lack of planning. Once a homeowner decides to do a project, he or she will want to get started right away. And in this economy, people are buying houses very quickly with hopes of remodeling before moving in. This can lead to the desire to hire the first contractor who can meet an immediate timeline, and the thought of taking a couple of months to have the project designed and the right materials selected is ignored.

The problem with this is that it can lead to a much longer project timeline and the process can become very frustrating for homeowners. Typically, they end up needing to be heavily involved in making decisions because they were not planned ahead of time, and the end result often is compromised because a homeowner is inexperienced and doesn’t understand the ripple effect of their decisions.

For example, they might select a backsplash height of 6 inches, not knowing that the top of the tile will look unfinished, and that they need to select a finish tile or a trim piece to tuck behind the top row of tile to give it a finished look. This can also add cost because now the tiler has to pull off some of the tile to fit the finish piece in and may charge for the additional time.

As a result, I will not start a remodel without a plan, as I consider it to be irresponsible on the part of the contractor.

Becoming anxious. Anxiety happens when homeowners don’t have the budget to do what they really want to do. So they either cut down the project’s size and scope or hire a contractor who will tell them the price they want to hear in order to get their project done. At the end of the day, they still end up spending a lot of money and not getting exactly what they want. In this situation, I recommend that they employ patience and wait on the project until they have saved a bit more and can do the project that they really want.

Cutting out what you want. Concerned about cost projections, homeowners often decide to cut out some items to save money. I have never had clients say they wish they had done less, but I’ve frequently had clients tell me they wish they had gone ahead and done the skylight or added that second oven. At the start, it would only have added a couple of thousand dollars, but later it can become twice that much — or it may no longer be an option.

Purchasing online. I have seen many homeowners purchase materials online, and the problems that causes can be endless. It is not uncommon for items to get damaged in shipping, and there is no store or local warehouse where you can get a quick replacement part in time to keep the remodel on schedule. The same applies if the wrong part is shipped or if a part is missing from an order.

Online companies often lack the construction knowledge to be able to direct a homeowner to an alternative part that may be in stock if the original is out of stock. Remodeling is still one of the industries where buying local makes a lot of sense.

Sarah Henry is the general manager of Gaspar’s Construction and a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish County (MBA). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBA’s more than 2,800 members, write to