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18 Home Renovation Mistakes Every Home Owner Should Avoid

Cristina is a Florida-licensed Realtor. She specializes in residential sales and enjoys writing articles that help buyers and sellers.

Many home owners opt to do “minor” renovations before putting their homes on the market to sell, or just to upgrade their home. While making renovations and remodeling can deliver big returns, home renovation mistakes can also lead to the opposite happening. It's important for home owners to avoid these mistakes to ensure the process starts, proceeds, and ends smoothly.

When a potential home seller tells me they are planning to make renovations before selling their home, I always make sure they receive this list of home renovation mistakes to avoid. Even before listing a home, or not listing at all, I feel it's one of my jobs to make sure home owners have the information they need to make educated decisions. After all, making any of these mistakes can cost a home owner a lot in the short term. And in the long run.

If you're considering a home remodel or some renovation projects, these 18 home renovation mistakes are ones you want to avoid no matter what.


1. Not Getting the Right Permits

Or not getting a permit at all. While it may seem like a waste of time and money to get a permit for a minor renovation, in many places it's required for a number of home improvements. A permit shows that the work has been completed to the appropriate standards and assures future buyers that the work was completed in a safe manner.

2. Hiring Unlicensed Trades

Make sure the people you hire to work on your renovation project are licensed to do the type of work you hire them for—electricians, plumbers, etc. In many places, an owner-occupant can pull permits as "owner-contractor"; however, you still want to hire licensed tradespeople as they will know the local building codes and standards.

3. Choosing the Cheapest Contractor

The best contractor for the job is not necessarily the cheapest. If your only criteria for hiring a contractor is price then you will probably be disappointed. Your contractor is an essential part of a successful remodel and price is only one of the criteria in making your decision.

4. Hiring the First Contractor You Meet

Along the same lines as the previous home renovation mistake, hiring a contractor should take time and careful consideration. Don’t hire the first person you meet. Interview and get estimates from at least three contractors. Have a list of questions that you ask each of them. Make sure they understand your time expectations and that you have a good rapport with them.


5. Incorrect Measurements for Cabinets

Put down the tape measure and hire someone to measure your cabinets. It's true that all measurements need to be rather exact; however, kitchen cabinets really need to be right. It's not okay to miss the stove opening and make it a 1/2" too small—your range won't fit! Save yourself the headache and hire a professional for this one. Many big box home improvement stores will measure for you. Or if you are having cabinets or counters built for your kitchen, that manufacturer will likely want to take their own measurements.

6. Choosing Trendy Colors and Finishes

This one is okay if you plan to stay in the home. However, if you are renovating to sell, go with neutral colors. Right now, those neutrals are gray tones. They may look bland to you, but the neutral palette will appeal to a wider range of potential buyers. Dramatic or trendy colors limit the buying pool. Before you do any remodel you have to consider why you are doing the remodel. Is it for form and function or is it for design and décor?

7. Not Accounting for Budget Overages

You have a budget and an estimate. Maybe you have a spreadsheet for every line item cost. That's great! Yet, overages happen. They happen on nearly every project making this one of the most common home renovation mistakes. A general rule of thumb is to budget 10% more on your budget for overages. Some contractors recommend 20%.


8. Rushing Into a Remodel

This is a classic mistake people make when renovating. You should never even consider doing any demolition work until every detail has been considered and planned for. The end project should be planned before you begin the project.

9. Paying Too Much for Materials

Shop around and ask your contractor if they get special pricing on materials. Sometimes you may pay more for a contractor but what you save in materials cost makes it well worth it. Be sure to check material prices at several different sources, and if you find a source that is significantly less than others, question why. Like with contractors, least expensive is not always the way to go.

10. Using Cheap Materials

What you save upfront when you buy cheap materials may seem enticing but may end up costing you much more in the long run. Don’t skimp on materials as it will not pay off.


11. Paying Too Much for Materials

Shop around and ask your contractor if they get special pricing on materials. Sometimes you may pay more for a contractor but what you save in materials cost makes it well worth it. Be sure to check material prices at several different sources, and if you find a source that is significantly less than others, question why. Like with contractors, least expensive is not always the way to go.

12. Not Getting Lien Releases

This is by far one of the biggest mistakes a homeowner makes when renovating. In Florida, a contractor can file a lien on your home while work is being done. Many forget to issue a lien release after the job is completed and paid. When work is finished and you are asked to pay, make sure you get a lien release from the contractors who have worked on your project. Know the laws in your state that pertain to construction liens.

13. Ignoring Safety Procedures

There are safety procedures that need to be adhered to when you have anyone working in your home. If you have someone working on your roof, for example, make sure that they are tethered or are using the right safety equipment. While it makes sense that the contractors working on your home will try to insure their own safety, as the homeowner, it's your responsibility to make sure the people working on your property are practicing safety.

14. Cutting Corners to Save Money

When renovating you need to do things correctly because one thing affects many other things. Don’t cut corners when renovating because what you save in one area might cost you in another.


15. Focusing on Décor and Not on Quality Construction

You see this kind of renovation when people “flip” houses. They are often more concerned with the décor and the quality of construction can suffer. It's okay to meld great décor with a great remodel, but be sure to place quality high on your list of priorities.

16. Forgetting to Consider Floor Plan Flow

I see this one a lot when showing homes, especially in areas where it's common to add on to older homes. Oftentimes homeowners forget to have a space plan made before they begin. When a good flow to a floor plan isn't considered, that mistake becomes obvious to others. Some common flow problems include rooms that are not big enough for their intended purpose, appliances located in rooms other than the kitchen (I've seen refrigerators in other rooms!), and the need to pass through one bedroom to access another one.

17. Choosing Appliances Last Is a Huge Mistake

That refrigerator in a living room mentioned above probably happened because of this mistake. Many homeowners work with a kitchen designer to work on their cabinet design but leave the appliance selection until later. They often want to see how much money they have left but this is a very bad idea because appliances need to be picked up front, especially when allotting for space or extra amenities such as a downdraft vent in a cooktop.

18. Skimping on Storage

Storage is extremely important especially if you are going to resell after the renovation; don’t forget to maximize the storage space in any renovation.


The key to a successful renovation is choosing the right contractor, doing your homework and planning before you ever swing a hammer or write a check. Knowing these common mistakes can help you make the right choices when renovating.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Cristina Vanthul


Cristina Vanthul (author) from Florida on March 19, 2021:

Thank you, Peggy.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 18, 2021:

You have made some excellent points to consider when thinking to make changes to a home that will eventually be sold.

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