Top 25 Biggest Renovating Mistakes
From ignoring prep work and safety to setting unrealistic budgets, find out how to avoid these mistakes and more when renovating.
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Buying Cheap Materials
Don't Sweat It host Steve Watson says, "One of the biggest mistakes that people make when it comes to home renovation (is that) they try to be cheap when they buy materials. The bottom line is, you're going to get what you pay for."
Carpenter Jimmy Little adds his two cents: "If you're going to do it, do it. If you can't afford to do it, wait."
Nancy Soriano, former editor in chief of Country Living magazine says, "I can't emphasize enough how an inch or even sometimes a half an inch can make a difference. And if your dimensions are off and it's not equal and symmetrical, you're not going to get the full impact and effect that you want. If you're not sure about how to measure or you can't follow the directions, don't hesitate at all to call somebody. Ask them to come over and take the measurement for you."
Skipping the Prep Work
"Do it the right way, right away," says Carey. "You shouldn't avoid your prep work. You want to take the time to do it right and right from the beginning."
Contractor Jim Collins says, "It's a horrible, tedious process, and nobody likes it, but it saves so much time later on down the way. And that's what you're trying to do: save yourself money and time."
"Make sure you have a well-set plan before you start your renovations, because you don't want to go in there and just clear everything out, when you might be able to work around some areas," warns Carey Evans of Don't Sweat It.
"I see this time and time again where people just start, and they think they're going to pull a piece of wallpaper off, and by the time the process is over, they've completely gotten themselves into a deep, dark hole that's very difficult to get out of," adds Eric Stromer of Over Your Head.
Excessive Use of Duct Tape
Save the duct tape for decorative purposes only. "My esteemed colleagues, duct tape is not a permanent solution. It is merely a temporary fix," says Eric.
"People use duct tape because it's cheap and it's quick and it's easy, but it's definitely a temporary solution. Don't leave it up for more than a couple hours, ever," Jimmy adds.
Using the Wrong Tools
"There are really three problems with using the wrong tool: You can wreck the tool, you can wreck the project you're working on and you can wreck yourself," notes Spike Carelsen, former executive editor of Family Handyman.
Building a Small Bathroom
"If you need a small bathroom, pick the right fixtures," says Jimmy. "You can buy low-profile toilets and narrower sinks. Don't try to put full-size fixtures in a tiny, tiny bathroom. It's just going to be crowded."
"I'm a real believer in using bold colors and bold prints, because boldness in small spaces actually makes it feel better," Nancy adds.
Hammer Heads carpenter Carmen De La Paz says, "Another mistake that homeowners will often make is not taking into consideration the lighting in their home. The lighting in your home can completely change the colors, the feeling, the ambiance."
Designed to Sell's Lisa LaPorta adds, "There are really three main types of lighting: general lighting, task lighting and drama or accent lighting. You need a combination to have a really good end design."
Going Too Trendy
"People often make the mistake of wanting to be too hip and trendy in their new home by picking the latest, hottest, coolest things," says Carmen. "What they don't take into consideration is that trendy means that it's short term."
"You want something that's going to stand the test of time, and you want something that's going to last for years and years," says Jim.
Building Small Doorways
"Make sure you're looking at the entire floor plan of your home when you're planning your doorways. Look for, and make sure that every room has multiple exits. Or, if those doorways are in high-traffic areas, make sure they're wide enough to let multiple people pass through," Carey says.
Failure to Anticipate Chaos
"I think it's really important to anticipate the time and the pacing of your renovation," notes Nancy. "You probably want to do that up front, get it over with and then you can slowly start to piece your life and your home back together."
Incorrect Storage of Materials
Marc Bartolomeo of Save My Bath says, "You should always store materials in a cool, dry place."
Steve adds, "A roll of plastic will save you a lot of time and a lot of money, when it comes to wood and concrete. When it comes to tools and stuff like that, keep them inside."
Not Using Green Materials
"People will often make the mistake of not going green with their home project for two reasons: 1. They don't know how to, and 2. They think that it costs more money," Carmen says.
"If you're doing your renovation green, you're really ahead of the market right now. So going green is a very smart investment," Carey emphasizes.
Using the Wrong Paint Type
"People often make the mistake of picking the wrong paint for whatever particular project they may be working on," says Carmen. "You don't realize that there is paint for just about every surface."
"Flat is for your ceilings and sometimes for your walls," adds carpenter Jeff Devlin of Spice Up My Kitchen. "Whereas your semigloss would be for trim in a bathroom or in a dining room. The glossy will give it a more upscale look."
Building Narrow Hallways and Staircases
"When you're renovating, bigger is always better when it comes to hallways and stairs," Jim says.
Choosing the Wrong Windows
"Windows are really expensive, and a lot of people try to (save) money on them, but that's not where you want to save your money," Jimmy says.
"You can always put more emphasis on the windows in the front of the house that face the street. That's one way to save on money, but do not skimp on quality," Nancy says.
Forgetting About Safety
The most important things you can have on a job site for your own personal safety are goggles to protect your eyes, ear protection to protect your hearing and gloves to protect your hands from splinters, nails and such," says Jim. "(Also) a good set of boots because there are nails and sharp objects everywhere. The last thing is, you must have a first-aid kit."
Not Doing Your Homework
"You have to know what you're getting into," Jim says. "Even if you're not doing the work yourself, know what to look for, what your contractor is doing. That way you can keep a close eye on the project and know when something's getting out of hand."
"I think it's really important to do at least some preliminary work. You want to be able to have enough information to know what questions to ask," Nancy says.
Forgetting to Update the Electrical System
"I think people sometimes forget about electric when they've been renovating because it's costly and it's hidden," Nancy says. "You want to walk through the house with the electrician before you start to talk about outlets, where they are, where you want new outlets, three-prong outlets. You want to make sure everything's up to code."
Ingoring Your Home's Style
"You bought that Spanish home or that Craftsman home for a reason, because you liked that style. So keep your new design, your new build projects within that style," Steve insists.
The bottom line is "if you do perform work without a permit and something serious happens, your homeowner's insurance will not cover it," says Marc.
Hiring the Wrong Contractor
"You need to make sure that the contractor is right for you, because he's going to be in your home, and you want to make sure it's the right contractor," Jeff says.
Stephen Drucker, former editor in chief of House Beautiful adds, "When you interview contractors and you check references, the thing you want to find out is, how fast do they return phone calls? A contractor who returns phone calls fast has nothing to hide, and it's going to reduce your anxiety level."
Taking On More Than You Can Handle
"When people make the mistake of not knowing their limitations, they often take shortcuts," Carmen says.
Eric explains, "You really do have to know up front where you're going, and you can't jump into things without having a plan."
Overbuilding for Your Neighborhood
"The biggest mistake people make when they're trying to figure what the payback is going to be is they overbuild for their neighborhood," says Jimmy. "They have a $100,000 house and they put a $100,000 addition on it, so now they have a $200,000 house in a $100,000 neighborhood."
Setting an Unrealistic Budget
"I think that people often underestimate what it's going to cost to do a big renovation, and part of that is because they don't realize the biggest cost in a renovation usually is the labor," Nancy says.
"You never know what's going to happen once you start the demolition process. As soon as you open up a wall, you never know what you're going to find behind that wall, so you need to pad your budget, and you need to be realistic," Jeff said.