In every house including yours, there are items or fixtures that don’t function right anymore. A tap that leaks or does not shut off all the way. Kitchen cabinet doors that sag or windows that are drafty. Maybe the dishwasher leaves too many dirty dishes or the new wood floors scratched up in no time.
The invisible problems can be much bigger. How much water-proofing is needed in a custom built shower? Did the roofers reuse the old vents or put new ones on? These are examples of little things that may not be a problem today if we had upgraded at the time.
So how do you determine what you should be spending the extra money on? Someone once said, “Never scrimp on food, shoes, and advice.” I can add a lot to that list. The good news is that often the “right” product may not cost any more, and the “wrong” product may not be poor quality but may seem like it when used in the wrong place.
Every single item in your home is available in different qualities, and what is good enough for one person is not good enough for another. There are people who will spend $2000 on a coffee maker! Why do they make barbeques that only last a year or two? Because that is what many people will buy.
The problem with the decision to upgrade is one of trust. Every manufacturer says their cheap products are really good. Many installers of these products do not do a good enough job of explaining the difference from one to the next, or they don’t know the difference. So how do you decide to spend a little extra when making a purchase?
The ability to make the right decision comes with experience. That is why people who are fortunate enough to have had more than one house built for them always opt for higher quality on later houses. The next best way is to educate yourself before making a decision. Publications like Consumer Reports and Fine Home Building cover many areas of concern by the average home owner.
We can also rely on the experts. Your contractor also has to rely on their suppliers and sub-trades for honest advice. That, combined with experience and constant education, makes them the experts. When we find a doctor, mechanic or contractor we trust, we stick with them.
Your role in all of this is to explain your situation and preferences to your contractor. You may want a quick one coat of paint without any repairs because it is a rental suite, and you repaint every second year anyway and would rather get an “average” job done at half the price of a “perfect” job.
Your contractor can build a tile shower that will last 100 years but you know that in 20 years, you or someone else will hate the tile you chose and replace it anyway, so why not build a shower that will last 30 years and save a few thousand dollars.
On the other hand, the cost difference between a 20-year roof and a 35-year roof is less than 10% and 50-year roof costs only 20% more. Upgrading the waterproofing on your new homes foundation will only add 10% to your foundation cost. Increasing your attic insulation by another R10 when you install it in the first place costs a little extra.
Some people would rather save a few bucks now and let someone else worry about it down the road. But if you’re not sure if those little extras are worth it, then educate yourself and get some good advice. That’s the only way to avoid future disappointment with your purchase.