The 10 Biggest Home Remodeling Mistakes

There’s no one way to approach a successful home renovation, but these helpful tips will help keep your budget—and your sanity—intact.

Caitlin Murphree Miller
Home Remodeling Project
Hero Images/Getty Images

1. Skipping Inspections

Don't miss the opportunity to arrange every kind of inspection imaginable for your home--before you buy it, if possible (think electrical, HVAC, structural, roofing, termite, plumbing, etc.). Granted, inspections aren’t typically free, and they do add to the cost of the home-buying process. But, consider the upside: By giving yourself an aerial picture of the time, effort, and financial resources you’ll need to pour into a home, you can make an informed decision about what you can afford—or, whether or not you even want to take on the renovation in the first place. This step could save time and thousands in renovation costs over the coming years.

2. Ignoring Potentially Expensive Problems

Don't let the allure of glittering white subway tile in a Pinterest-perfect dream kitchen persuade you to shrug off a leaky roof, a wonky support beam, or a murky water spot in your basement. Take note: If a contractor, inspector, or utility worker gasps in shock at the age or condition of your utilities, go ahead and make a plan to replace them. There are two aspects to a renovation: The stuff you want to do, and the stuff you have to do. Make sure you know the difference, and that you first spend your hard-earned money on must-do items.

3. Not thinking big-picture

Before you get started, take realistic stock of your home renovation needs and the cost associated with each project. Make a list—think short term (within the next year), medium term (2-5 years out), and long term (5 years or more away)—and a stick to it.

4. Hiring the first contractor, roofer, or electrician you meet

Get at least three (or more) estimates on the work you need completed. Ask for references, and confirm that your potential hire has completed quality work on homes that are similar in style and age to yours. Remember: These companies are doing major work for you, and their skill and craftsmanship will impact the long-term value of your investment.

5. Not considering a home's long-term needs.

Think kids, pets, and future buyers. Do this before knocking down walls, turning your backyard into a koi pond, or transforming that third bedroom into a killer master closet.

6. Tearing down walls without preparing for what’s behind them

Altering structural elements, relocating pipes, and moving electrical utilities are not cheap processes. Make sure your project is a must-do, and then consider whether you’re willing to deal with whatever (potentially expensive) issues may be uncovered when you get started—especially in older homes.

7. Not hiring professionals

Take a hard look in the mirror and ask yourself if your DIY skills are up to snuff for any given project. Nothing is worse than wasting your time (and money) on a project that you’ll have to pay someone else to re-do.

8. Underestimating the value of paint

You’ve probably heard it before, but a few coats of quality paint and primer on walls and trim is a cost-effective way to breathe new life into dark, musty, and tired rooms. Plus, if you have the time and knowledge do it yourself, you can put your funds towards paying a professional to take on more difficult projects.

9. Failing to check neighborhood guidelines

When buying a home, you often agree to abide by strict neighborhood association or historical commission regulations, particularly regarding exterior home elements. Go through the correct approval process before you dig, tear down, gussy up, or add on. If you don’t seek prior approval, you may be asked to revert your project to its former condition.

10. Not seeking advice from neighbors

Chances are, at least one of your neighbors has been through a home renovation of their own—and their digs may be similar to yours in style and age. They can often recommend trusted local professionals, or offer valuable insights into what you may expect during a home renovation. Plus, it’s a natural way to establish healthy, long-term relationships within your new community.