Top 10 Home Remodeling Mistakes to Avoid

Dale Lavine July 20, 2023 | 9 min read
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So you’re thinking about remodeling your home? Before you start busting through walls like the Kool-Aid Man, take note of these 10 home remodeling mistakes you need to avoid.

When it comes to home remodeling, the line between what you can do and what you shouldn’t do becomes a little blurry. If you’re thinking about maximizing your home’s square footage or tweaking a few things to optimize usage, you’re going to want to pay attention to the following home renovation tips. They’ll help you stay (mostly) sane during some of the more hectic periods of your upcoming project. 

1. Rushing into remodeling

First things first: Take it easy. Unless you’re a house flipper who just closed on an “as-is” home, and you need to start renovations ASAP, take some time to truly live in your home and get a better understanding of the flow. What you want and what the home needs may not line up exactly, and the last thing you want to do is start a remodeling project before realizing that maybe the original floor plans worked better before you blew out that wall. 

Beyond that, planning is key to project success. Unless you’re flush with cash, you’re probably not going to hire a contractor and start demolition in a short time span. Measurements need to be made, contractors need to be interviewed, plans need to be created, and things like paint, tile, and fixtures need to be picked out. Even a single room can take weeks or months of preparation.

2. Skipping research

Speaking of preparation, research is vital to your home improvement project. On one hand, that means measuring twice (or thrice), sketching out ideas, and perusing color palettes. There’s fun research—like looking at different fixture styles, and not-so-fun research—like crawling under cabinets to see if your pipes are PVC or cast iron. All of this will inform your remodeling project.

On the other hand, it means meeting with more than one contractor, gathering multiple bids, and setting your priorities straight. Here are some tips in that regard:

  • Look for local builders who have been in business for several years, have in-house designers, and have plenty of reviews.
  • Before scheduling contractor consultations, take some time to read their reviews (including the bad ones, because bad reviews don’t always mean bad contractors).
  • Take note of everything, including how the contractor speaks to you during your consultation, whether or not they pay attention to your plans and ideas, and whether or not they show up on time.

3. Not documenting things

Have you ever refreshed TikTok accidentally, or heard a catchy song without remembering to write down the lyrics so you can look it up later? It’s a gut punch of a feeling, right? Knowing that something you liked is now lost to the void, and all you can do is hope that it turns up again someday.

Imagine that feeling with an expensive remodeling project. Don’t be afraid to keep a spreadsheet of products, prices, and contacts. If you come across tile you love, screenshot it. If a contractor scratches your floors, snap a photo.

Documentation can keep you organized, and organization can save your behind and your budget.

4. Choosing the lowest quote

A common rule of thumb is to collect three quotes from different contractors for any kind of project. New windows? Three quotes. New concrete slab? Three quotes. New floors? Three quotes. 

A common rule of thumb is to collect three quotes from different contractors for any kind of project.

Three should be your minimum, and you’ll likely have a high bid, a low bid, and a bid that falls somewhere in the middle. Don’t just choose the cheapest contractor—compare those quotes and consider what they may or may not include. Does the high bid include better quality fixtures? Does the low bid leave out something important? Does one contractor offer a multi-project discount?

While choosing the lowest bid might save you a few thousand dollars now, it could end up costing even more money down the line. Know this: According to the National Association of Home Builders, “more than 30% of all jobs home remodelers perform come from failed DIY projects”

5. Forgetting to budget

Remodeling is expensive. Even simple DIY projects can add up to hundreds of dollars, and more complex work can quickly balloon out of your control.

One of the best things you can do is to know your budget inside and out, and work with a contractor who will work with your budget. That isn’t to say you can’t interview contractors to get “ballpark” estimates, but they’ll be able to give you a better estimate if you come prepared with a number beforehand. 

Different resources (and opinions) exist on the matter, but consider this table before committing to the following project types:

Budget Estimate Table
Project TypeSuggested Budget (% of Home Value)Suggested Budget($ per Square Foot)
Living Room10%$10-60

Note: This table uses rough estimates from various resources, including HomeGuide and OpenDoor. We are not affiliated with these resources, and homeowners should perform due diligence on their project estimates before agreeing to anything. 

6. Working without permits

Depending on the scope of your project, and depending on your city’s requirements, permits may be required for your remodel. Those permits may be pricey, and they may even be a hassle to obtain, but they are a must if you want things documented (remember that part?) and done right. 

Electrical work, plumbing, and wall removals will often require permits, largely because any of those three things could have disastrous consequences if done incorrectly. Permits are supposed to help ensure the safety and compliance of your projects, in accordance with local zoning ordinances. 

Consequences of working without a permit include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Future buyers backing out of a sale
    • Permits are recorded and tied to your home’s deed. If the projects you complete aren’t recorded, buyers may be wary of what lurks behind the walls of your unpermitted projects.
  • Having to tear out and restart the work
    • Building authorities may force you or your contractor to start from square one if they discover unpermitted electrical and plumbing work, which could set your budget back by thousands of dollars.
  • Homeowner’s insurance not covering damages
    • Picture this: You want an open floor plan, so you hire someone to remove a wall between your kitchen and your living room. Lo and behold, the ceiling caves in because the wall was load-bearing. Because the work was completed without a permit, your homeowner’s insurance may not cover the substantial damages—leaving you with a hefty mess and an even heftier repair bill. 

Just because it’s pretty, doesn’t mean it belongs in your home. Homes come in many architectural styles—including Victorian, Colonial, Mid-Century Modern, Contemporary, and more. Different styles come with their own defining characteristics, and today’s trends may not always fit your home’s established style. 

For example, a modern door may not match a Colonial home. Likewise, Art Deco design may not jive with a Tudor home. And all-black everything could diminish the charm of your newly purchased Cape Cod cottage. 

Instead of chasing trends, consider design elements that enhance the existing beauty of your home. After all, trends change frequently—the last thing you want is to lose resale value because 2023 was the year of plaster

Instead of chasing trends, consider design elements that enhance the existing beauty of your home.

8. Changing plans (too often)

Hey, we get it—sometimes that tile you really loved doesn’t quite fit the space the way you imagined. Short of minor changes to superficial things like paint and tile, it’s best to stick to the plans your designer and contractor drew up. After all, it’s what you’re paying them for, and major deviations to those plans—meaning structural changes and heavy design alterations—could increase your costs and frustrate your contractor. 

A good contractor will walk through the plans with you multiple times before work starts, giving you ample time to adjust before materials are ordered. They may even bring you in for a look before installing something, just to get a gut check. These are your opportunities to make changes, not after tile has already been grouted into place. 

9. Sidestepping safety

Permits, which we talked about earlier, are one element of creating a safe work environment. Here are some other ways you can protect yourself and others when remodeling your home:

  • Wearing PPE (gloves, safety glasses, masks/respirators, hardhats, etc.)
  • Using fans to help evacuate chemical fumes
  • Hanging or laying down plastic sheeting to capture dust and debris
  • Disabling electricity at the breaker before beginning demolition
  • Testing for asbestos and lead paint (important for older homes)
  • Keep your hands clear of sharp objects

Following these home reno tips can help everyone working in your home safe. If the contractor you hired isn’t following these safety precautions, bring it up. There’s no such thing as “too safe” when it comes to protecting yourself, your family, and your investment. 

10. Ignoring your gut

If you ever feel like the numbers aren’t adding up, don’t like the way something is being handled, or think something isn’t quite right, don’t be afraid to listen to your gut and voice your concerns. A good contractor will either listen to your concerns, or explain why alterations had to be made. Ultimately your home’s renovation is just that: your home’s renovation, not anyone else’s. Your gut instincts may protect your investment. 

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