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5 Renovating Mistakes That Make Contractors Cringe

Maybe you just bought a fixer upper (we see you, Joanna Gaines in training). Or, maybe you’re planning a full kitchen renovation. Yet, while you may have tons of ideas about paint colors and tile finishes, you probably haven’t spent quite as much time thinking about the construction logistics…like how much lumber you’ll need or where that bathroom fan is venting. Hence, why your contractor is integral to the process—and your sanity. So below, we found five renovation mistakes that make contractors seriously facepalm—all in the service of making sure you avoid them.

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1. Leaving The Soffits In

“First, a little Construction 101: a soffit is a boxy structural element used to hide wiring/pipes/HVAC ducts/etc.,” says Ron Nanberg, owner of Kitchens & Baths Unlimited. Basically, it’s that awkward space above the kitchen cabinets that gives it a free-floating (out-of-place) feel. “If you live in a home built in the 80s or earlier, odds are your kitchen has soffits because they're the easiest way for contractors to quickly install what they need to—hide it all—and be on their way. The thing is, soffits aren't always necessary and they sure eat into your kitchen space. In many cases, they can be removed, shrunk or at least hidden for a more spacious and stylish effect,” Nanberg explains. 

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2. Putting Shingles on Top of Shingles

“When it comes to a re-roof, overlaying shingles has become a method of the past,” says Chad Collins, president and co-owner of Bone Dry Roofing. And at this point, you’re probably wondering: why would anyone double-up on shingles, anyway? The short answer is that many people do this to cut costs or because they *think* it’ll help with water damage in the long run (when it’s actually the opposite). “Overlaying can be decidedly more costly than replacement. Saving a thousand dollars from a simple re-roofing may sound appealing now, but the associated costs from a later replacement due to the poor foundation certainly won’t. Having the old shingles stripped and replaced with new layers will almost always be more sustainable in the years to come.”

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3. Placing HVAC Ducts in a Vaulted Ceiling

The one place HVAC designer Allison Bailes, PhD says you should never put an HVAC system? Vaulted ceilings. “Just as a vaulted ceiling is a terrible place to put recessed can lights, it’s also perhaps the worst place you can put a duct for your HVAC system,” he says. “Not only does the duct displace insulation, it’s also right up against the roof deck. In the summer, that roof deck can get up to 150 degrees fahrenheit or higher.  Inside the duct is air that should be about 55 degrees fahrenheit.  That’s a 95 degree temperature difference…In the winter, you’ve got warm air in the duct next to a cold roof deck, and the temperature differences can be similarly large.”

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4. Improper Gutter Placement

“Just hang the gutters on the roof’s edge, right? Incorrect,” says Del Thebaud, president and owner of Harry Helmet. “The guttering should run a few inches lower than your roofline. Gutters that are too high can enable runoff water to drip down their back side, which in turn can cause deteriorating [boards] and stains on siding.” To that end, Thebaud also mentions: “You might try to slope your gutters correctly, but improperly-positioned gutter hangers can foil those plans and cause your gutters to sag in the middle. Make sure that there is no more than three feet of space between any of your gutter hangers.”

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5. Not Waterproofing The Basement

Finally, Austin Werner, owner of The Real Seal says one of the most common mistakes he sees with new home builders is forgetting to waterproof the basement. “If your home plan includes a basement area, you should take measures to ensure that water from the surrounding ground does not seep inside. Constant moisture below your home can lead to structural issues and the growth of mold,” he explains. As a result, he recommends you find a contractor who remembers to grade and waterproof your basement area before the job is done. “Grading raises the ground around your home so that water naturally moves away from it. Waterproofing seals up the structure and can also actively dispel water that might gather around the basement through the work of a sump pump.”