The Mushroom Effect is an interesting phenomenon in home improvement that is particularly prominent in old houses. This is not an actual problem with fungus growing in the walls of an old home. No! It is much more serious than that. It happens when a small, and rather innocuous home improvement project, quickly mushrooms into something much bigger and more expensive than originally planned. The Mushroom Effect strikes old home owners disproportionately more than others. So, before you loose your mind (and empty your bank account) here are 5 tips to prevent The Mushroom Effect from happening to you!
1. Do Your Due Diligence
If you’re planning to renovate an old house, there is a lot of studying to do. Knowing your home’s age is the starting point. And after that learn as much as you can about the areas and elements you are planning to renovate. Here are some questions you should ask prior to starting any old home renovation.
- Does your house contain lead paint or asbestos? If so, what are your plans to deal with them?
- Are your walls plaster, drywall, or masonry?
- Does your home have a subfloor (many old homes don’t)?
- Is there electrical or plumbing that needs to be addressed?
- If you’re messing with a wall, is it structural?
- Will you need a permit?
- Will you need approval from the historic district?
2. Have a Plan
The father of motivational speaking, Zig Ziglar says, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Having a plan is crucial to your renovation’s success. And, your plan should be in place before you touch the first tool. Don’t make it up as you go along. Working without a plan ensures your project will take twice as long and cost three times as much! And, make sure you are as specific as possible in your plan. Include dates and as much detail as you can think of.
3. Make a Budget
A budget is you telling your money what to do. If you don’t tell it what to do, it will boss you around big time. In every renovation there are places to splurge and places to save. As a part of your plan, decide ahead of time how you will spend your money. Once you’ve decided on the final number, stick to it no matter what! It helps me to create an incentive yourself. For example, if you come in under budget promise to spend the remaining money on a vacation. If you go over, maybe no more eating out for a month or two. Whatever it is make sure it is realistic.
4. Ask a Pro
DIY is fantastic and I truly encourage it wherever I can, but some things can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you are truly unsure of how to do something ask a pro. Having to tear something out and redo it usually takes more time and costs more than having a pro handle it from the start. Not to mention hospital charges for the truly dangerous and stupid things we do. An emergency room visit will eat through your budget quickly. Better safe than sorry.
5. Add 30%
Lastly, you are working on an old house. Unexpected problems will show up. Not might, WILL. You should add at least 30% on top of your budget for these surprises. Not 10%, and not 20%. You need the full 30% when working on an old house because the surprises are usually more involved and numerous. If you can’t afford this buffer, then you really can’t afford the renovation.
I can’t promise you’ll completely avoid the mushroom effect. But if you follow these 5 steps you’ll be better prepared to stop this angry fungus from making a mess of your project.
Share your best (or worst) mushroom stories with us in the comments below.
Image credit: luiscar / 123RF Stock Photo
Founder & Editor-in-Chief
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.
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The 4 most dangerous words in home improvement…
“While we’re at it”
Ask me how I know this.