7 Common Home Renovation Mistakes to Avoid

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Remodeling or upgrading a home you have, rather than buying new, looks good right now because of very high home prices and interest rates and some markets so competitive that it’s difficult to buy a home at all.

But remodeling is rarely a simple proposition.

Getting the result you want requires more thought, planning and attention than you may realize. We asked two professionals—Bruce Irving, a renovation consultant and realtor and former producer of “This Old House” and related TV shows, and Mallory Micetich, home care expert at Angi—to describe common remodeling mistakes homeowners make and how to avoid them.

The following mistakes can prevent you from getting the results you want, or force you to spend much more than you planned—or both.

1. Rebuilding too soon

Working on renovating a home
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“If it’s not an absolute wreck, I recommend living in the house for a bit,” says renovation consultant Bruce Irving, who is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has helped many homeowners with their remodeling and has his own war stories.

Spend time in the home to see what works, what doesn’t, and what you hate and love about the layout, much of which isn’t obvious at first, Irving tells Money Talks News.

Irving’s tip: During your dreaming and early planning stages, keep a running list of likes and dislikes—features you love about your home and other people’s, products you admire and also “things that suck” that you’ve seen in some homes .

2. Unclear planning

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Angi (formerly Angie’s List) recently surveyed homeowners who had done major remodeling or renovations in the previous five years. A whopping 49% confessed that they regretted not planning more in advance.

Learn from them: Make as many decisions as possible before engaging professionals. This may include selecting products and materials (and backups if some are unavailable) and planning the dimensions and placement of the job’s main components.

Failure to think through exactly what you want can force you to make expensive course corrections midway through your project.

Imagine everything that could go wrong and plan for it, Angi home care expert Mallory Micetich tells Money Talks News. For example, decide how and how often you will communicate with the general contractor and plan where you can live if you have to move out while the work is in progress.

3. Ignoring the important things

kitchen remodeling
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It’s tempting (and understandable) to dream of splashy, magazine-worthy upgrades—the kind of thing that promises to instantly make life more fun.

But your priority should be any problems with your home’s structure, envelope or water management, says Irving.

“Task one is to prevent water infiltration (leaks) in your home, so you prevent expensive damage,” he says.

Look for and address leaking or weak areas in foundations, basements, roof and roof coverings, gutters and downspouts, and additions.

“American homes are mostly built of wood, and wood is mostly killed by water,” says Irving.

4. Deciding to DIY

Couple in renovation
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In Angi’s survey, more than 40% of homeowners who used contractors reported feeling at ease before and during their remodel. That’s compared to just over 20% who took the DIY route.

Ask yourself honestly, Micetich says, “Do I have the time, tools and talent to do this job right?”

Learn more in “6 Times You Shouldn’t Do a DIY Home Improvement Project.”

5. Seizure of the lowest bid

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“Never go for the low bid,” warns Irving. Also, be careful about jumping on the guy or girl who is available right away.

Ask yourself why one bid is dramatically lower than the others, or a contractor is available when others are booked way out.

Examine each bidder’s portfolio and references to understand how they rated your job.

Remodeling professionals are in high demand now. Be prepared to wait for the good ones.

Learn more in “11 Tips for Hiring a Home Improvement Contractor You Can Trust.”

6. Budgeting unrealistic

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If you think you’re going to get your work done on the cheap, you’re probably going to be forced at some point to get real.

Irving says, “You’ll spend more money than you ever thought possible, live with the results for a long time, and change the biggest investment you’ve ever made.” Convincing yourself otherwise invites disappointment, cutting corners, or facing costs you can’t afford.

Set aside 10% or more of the total project cost as a buffer, in addition to your budget, to cover any emergencies or surprises that may arise, Micetich advises.

If you don’t have the money for the job you want, consider:

  • Do you have to wait a bit?
  • Which elements of the job do you really need? Which one can be dropped to get the most important things done?

7. Acts as general contractor

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It is tempting for homeowners to cut off the general contractor. But managing your own project is “a nightmare in the making,” warns Irving.

“A general contractor, they make that money. Although sometimes people think, ‘20%? On top of everything?’ But they earn that money easily by coordinating the work and having impact [with subcontractors].”

“Subcontractors respond to contractors’ calls,” he adds. “Homeowners have nothing to do with any of them.”

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