5 ways not to waste $10,000 or more on your next exterior home improvement.

Americans spent 394 billion improving their homes last year. Every year Americans spend nearly a quarter of that redoing previous improvements due to poor labor, materials or planning. Here are 5 key ways not to waste money on home improvements.

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Plan all your projects

Even the projects you do not plan to attempt for several years can have an impact on the successful completion of projects you are considering doing soon. Many homeowners get excited about the latest and greatest and do not stop to consider the impact and cost that will be incurred having to spend more on future projects. Example: having a replacement door installed and later end up moving it to another location. Or planning a siding replacement/painting job and then adding a room addition. The examples are endless but its worth mentioning that planning with the final look in mind can save you a bundle.

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Wrong material choice

Select and use materials that will not need replacing. So many times we are called out to look at a wood pergola that is about 7 years old and already needs replacement. Its wise to use maintenance free materials whenever possible. Mother nature will turn the best-intentioned patio in to a load of wood for the landfill. For decking, consider composite. There are many good manufacturers that offer 20-year warranties on their products. For pergolas, use composite or aluminum. There are some fantastic products that not only will be there a very long time but provide a clean, splinter free and maintenance free project.

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Do your research

You will be spending between 10 and 50 thousand dollars on an improvement and for that kind of money if behooves you to have your facts and stats. Every retailer of most any product will not “sell” you their weak points or potential problems but spend all of your time talking about features and benefits you will get from their perspective. After decades in the industry, I meet with homeowners that have spoken with my competition and are totally misinformed. Mostly by inexperienced salespeople who are taught from a brochure and not from field experience.

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Can you get along?

Is the contractor someone you can work with? It ‘s important. You see the easier it is to get along with your contactor, the less stress there will be during the project especially now with delivery lead times and labor shortages. Having a comfortable open line of communication is very important. Your needs will not be known by your contactor unless you communicate and communicating with someone you can trust is paramount. Who wants to lose sleep anyway?

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Hire the best contactor you can afford

Nothing is more valuable that experience and knowledge in the remodeling industry. Chuck in the truck or Stan in the van are definitely not the way to save money. The low bidders in the market probably were installers or carpenters of a larger firm and decided to branch out on their own. Not knowing business practices or accounting principles will leave you holding the bag when things go wrong. Some of you may remember John Ruskin's quote “the sweetness of a great price is gone long before the sourness of poor quality remain”. You really can't have all three — Quality, Service, and Lowest Price. If you want to use the lowest bidder it is best to plan to spend more money to correct or replace the project. That’s why it’s best to pay a little more now and get it done right the first time.

Mark Smith is 38-year veteran of the home improvement industry. He has owned his own company for the last 15 years and has over 40 million in installed sales.