Beware the 4 most expensive words in a home remodel

Even though I know better, those four little words — “as long as we’re” — got me.  You say it and next thing you know, it’s no longer just a kitchen remodel. The upstairs bath is involved too, and the whole house is torn apart.

My husband and I were in the process of remodeling our kitchen and had picked new stone for the counters, which involves buying slabs of rock the size of freeway ramps. To avoid unseemly seams, you often need to buy more slab than you technically need, which means you’ll have pieces left that will go to waste unless … Well, as long as we’re doing the kitchen, we might as well do the guest bath, too. And here we are.

When we bought the house five years ago, I knew I wanted to remodel this Jack-and-Jill bathroom. Designed with children in mind, the double-sink vanity was only 31-inches high. Standard counter height is 36 inches. Even I, at a towering 5’ 3” with shoes on, feel like a basketball player in that room. Because most of our guests are over four-feet tall, I wanted a standard height vanity with new counters.

However, the thought of tearing out the old (barely used) vanity, finding a new one, buying new sinks and faucets and all sounded daunting and expensive. So we did nothing.

Until, ding!

When the gal from the stone installation company came to measure for the kitchen counters, she mentioned the stone remnants. And before reason intervened, the words were out: “Just curious, would we have enough stone left to do a bathroom upstairs?”

“You have more than enough stone,” she said. “Builders don’t do these child-high sinks anymore. Kids grow up.”

Then, as if reading my mind, she removed one project obstacle after another. The same contractor who would be doing the carpentry work in the kitchen could remove the existing counter and raise the vanity to standard height. Her company could provide new porcelain basins. We could re-use the barely-used chrome faucets. To make and install the quartzite counters and backsplash would be $850, including sinks. For the carpenter to remove the old counter and mirror, raise the existing double vanity five inches, put in a new toe kick and reconnect the faucets was $875.

My heart was skipping. I mean, when was the last time a home design project cost less than you thought? What’s more, I wouldn’t be destroying a perfectly good vanity or throwing away good stone. Plus, I had both the workers and the materials in hand. In this day of supply chain delays and labor shortages, you have to seize the moment.

I had only one hurdle left. “Honey?” I approached my husband. “As long as we’re …”

Taking on an additional home improvement when you are in the middle of another one can be a big, expensive mistake. But not always. Here’s what to consider next time those four little words cross your mind:

You’ve thought it through. Be careful of making impulsive remodeling moves. If the project is one you’ve been thinking about and wanting to do, but the timing or price haven’t been right until now, consider going for it.

You know your costs and project scope. Be sure you have a good handle on the labor and material costs for your existing project as well as the new one before you start in. So costs don’t spiral, know before you commit what you will need to buy, what you can reuse and who will do the work for how much.

You have workers and materials in hand. A big upside to doing two projects at once is efficiency. Workers can do all the work at one time. If you have trusted contractors ready to go, and the materials are available, you could come out ahead in time, money and hassle.

You can keep disruption to a minimum. Think twice before tearing up too much of your home at once. The inconvenience may not be worth it, especially if you have to move out.