The Slowest (and Quickest) Home Improvements

By HomeAdvisor

Updated May 17, 2016

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The “slowest” home improvements may not necessarily be the longest, as many people enter a home improvement project with preconceptions of how long a project should take. When a project does take longer than expected, frustration and impatience can set in, distracting the homeowner from the end result and overall quality of the job. Understanding which projects are most likely to fall into this category and how these projects can become delayed will help you cope with the process of completing a home improvement and communicating with your contractor.

Basement Remodeling: Already the longest remodeling project with a 8.5 week average, basement remodels take nearly as long as building a new garage (9.5 weeks) and more than half the time for an entire home addition (16 weeks). But basement remodels can feel even longer than this timeline indicates. Often, homeowners must first clean out their basement. Once done, it may not seem like the contractor has that much left to do. In fact, before the floors, insulation or drywall go in, extensive waterproofing and plumbing work is usually needed. The installation of a waste line for water removal is a project in and of itself. Meanwhile, if masonry water sealant won’t cut it and your basement needs exterior work done to the foundation, gutters and lawn drainage, your project is likely to take longer than two months. Indeed, the top 20 percent of basement remodeling projects take an average of 16 weeks to complete.

In contrast, kitchen and bathroom remodels seem to have many more dimensions to the remodeling process—including countertops, cabinets, plumbing fixtures, appliances—that require decisions and precise design at every turn. Yet, a kitchen remodel averages only 6 weeks to complete, a bathroom remodel only 4. Of course, these remodels do put indispensable areas of the home out of commission, adding to homeowners’ frustrations, but they still can’t compare to basement remodels. While your remodeler will take care of the big things, often the best thing you can do to move the project along is to ensure your room is clean and the professional has easy access to any area that requires work including roofing and gutters.

Deck Installation: On average, professional deck building takes 2.5 weeks to complete. Often, projects take longer than expected because homeowners decide to change the original design of their deck. Many homeowners know they want a deck for their yard without appreciating the number of options, opportunities, and obstacles various deck designs present. Add an extra variable like an uncertain budget, a sloped lawn or a spat of rainy days, and what was supposed to take only a few days to construct can balloon into several weeks of false starts and construction delays. Fortunately, except for the noise of constructing the deck, you may not feel the intrusion inherent to interior projects, although access to a bathroom and water is often appreciated. Just because the work isn’t intrusive, however, doesn’t mean you can fall asleep at the wheel. Lack of communication about what you want from the deck and expect during the building process is the most common source of preventable delays.

Not necessarily a quick project, roofing installation is often done sooner than homeowners might imagine. The average time for asphalt shingle roofing installation is only 1 week, although this average includes projects where the roofers were able to simply lay down a new layer on top of old asphalt shingling. Still, other common roofing materials include composite shingles, wood shake and rubber roofs average only two weeks, shorter than the time to build a deck.

Cabinet Installation: In general, homeowners underestimate the complexity of cabinet projects. Freestanding cabinets are one thing, but the sleek look of the built-in cabinets that define kitchens and bathrooms require some doing. From working with uneven flooring to the intricate workings of cabinet hardware, even basic stock cabinets will take many days to get just right. The average time for all cabinetry work is 3 weeks with consistently long project times for various projects:

Custom-Built Cabinets: 5 weeks
Cabinet Refacing/Refinishing: 2.5 weeks
Cabinet Installation: 2 weeks

The biggest mistake homeowners make that can exponentially increase project timelines is an inexperienced homeowner acting his or her own general contractor. You might have thought your stock cabinets could be installed in one week, but instead you end up with a cabinet maker, countertop fabricator and plumber at your home on the same day fighting each other for workspace.

In contrast to many homeowners’ expectations, cabinet installation generally takes longer than tile installation. Though tedious, laying tile can often be a straightforward project. It may take quite a few man hours for the tile contractor, but as long as you’ve got your ducks in a row with the manufacturer, tile installation should only take a day or two. The average tiling project takes about 1 week with a slightly longer average for stone tile than ceramic or porcelain tile. Stone tile generally has a tighter grout setting and, as a naturally porous material, has a greater need for sealant application.

Perceptual Timelines

Just as the slowest home improvement has as much to do with frustration as actual time, these timelines probably sound longer than they will feel during the project, assuming everything is running smoothly. Watching your home change every day is an experience in itself and can help bolster the satisfaction you feel with the final result. Keep your eyes on the prize and the plan on how to get there, and the clock will take care of itself.

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