Your house, your rules. Unfortunately, that means all the renovation problems are also on you — and there will be problems. It doesn’t matter if you’re buying a house alone or with someone you love. Mistakes happen.
To help you avoid those slip-ups, we’ve laid out the worst moves people make during home renovations. These tips come from experts in construction and design who are sick of seeing the same problems over and over. Some of these common mistakes could be lowering the value of your home!
1. Starting renovations too early: You had the place renovated before even moving in, and now you’re realizing some things: The kitchen layout doesn’t make sense, there’s a slant in the floor, and the colors you picked don’t feel right. Take some time to get to know your new home before you get started!
2. Replacing windows: Do you really need to replace those windows? If they came with the house, they’re probably just fine. Be on the look out for contractors claiming to “lower your energy bill” with an expensive window replacement. Simply adding some storm windows should do the trick.
3. Overspending on gadgets: Who doesn’t want the coolest, up-to-date tech? Well, unless you’re Elon Musk, you may need to cut down on the gizmos. If you ever sell your home, you’ll have to update all those nifty gadgets. That’s right — they won’t be “up-to-date” forever. How much will that end up costing?
Photo by Blake Patterson
4. Using design apps: Fancy design apps may have great reviews, but if you rely on them completely, you’re likely to get skewed measurements. Instead, go out and grab a good old fashioned roll of painter’s tape and physically map out where things will go in your home. The best part? No ads.
Smarritt / Reddit
5. Hiring help too quickly: You’re exhausted from interviewing contractors and designers. We get it. But if you give up too early, you could regret it big time. You want someone with the same aesthetic as you who asks a lot of questions. And yes, you should be calling references! All of them.
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Lindsey
6. Not calling a contractor: Don’t wait on getting a contractor involved! Get them right in at the planning stage to make sure your ideas are possible and within budget. Use this as a chance to feel out a few different contractors to see if their methods and prices work for you.
Photo by JD Hancock
7. Pretending to be a contractor yourself: You can Google how to do anything these days, but there are tons of reasons to hire a contractor instead. They’ve got relationships with sources and cheaper materials, they’ve built years of invaluable knowledge, and, most importantly, they’ve got accountability. Let them handle the riskier jobs.
8. Not calling a designer: If you’re about to drop hundreds on a painting scheme, make it look good. Like contractors, interior designers have the know-how and industry connections to make your home look 10X better than your DIY job. Plus, they only take about 10% of the budget. Stop trusting Pinterest!
Family Handy Man
9. Having a low budget: You thought you were going to spend how much on your home? Ha! Buying a house is just as pricey as having a baby. Better idea: Increase your budget on every project by 20%. If that still seems like too much, maybe you can’t afford that project right now.
10. Measuring incorrectly: The sofa you ordered doesn’t fit, and now you’re heartbroken. Before you make the purchase, measure your objects and your space in every direction! Height, width, pointy ends. Treat it like a giant puzzle. Don’t forget the most important question: How are you getting it in the house? Measuring, that’s how.
11. Splurging incorrectly: You’re allowed to splurge. We repeat: You’re allowed to splurge! Yes, be cost-effective, but for the things you really want, treat yourself. Get some designer throw pillows. Buy an original painting you love. Get a fancy lamp. Just don’t over do it! Break-up your spending with smart purchases and decisions.
12. Not creating a shared doc: Create a shared document online and send it to everyone involved in your renovation. Not a computer person? Buy a binder and keep a copy of all your specs inside. Keep the binder on-site for easy reference. This info will be invaluable if you ever chose to sell!
13. Working on everything at once: You may be looking at over a year of renovations. Start with the living room spaces, since this is where you’ll be spending most of your time. Then, move onto other rooms. If you try to tackle everything at once, you’ll end up burnt-out and feeling stuck.
14. Ignoring the outdoors: Your newly renovated living room may look great… until the roof caves in and destroys the furniture. Don’t forget to pay attention to the exterior of your home! Clean the gutters, check the grading, and ensure a solid foundation from the outside in.
15. Getting mini rugs: We don’t have anything against little rugs. What we don’t like is seeing rugs that don’t fit under the furniture! Save your floors from getting scratched-up by measuring ahead of time. If you can’t find the right size, head over to a custom carpet shop. They can make you anything!
16. Making too many changes: Once you’ve made a plan, stick to it! The people you hire will be frustrated (and will expect more money) if you keep changing your mind. If you really want to make changes, be sure to consult with your contractor well ahead of time.
17. Buying cheap everyday items: If you’re going to use something every day, then why aren’t you willing to make a quality investment? Things like cabinets, doors, piping, and general hardware make your home feel secure and functional. The same goes for the people you hire! The higher the quality, the better the comfort.
Photo by Jlhopgood
18. Putting stress on a relationship: If you’re just moving in with someone new, it may be wise to start with smaller projects and see how you work together. You may be shocked by their taste! Better to figure that out while thrifting for wall art than while building permanent installments.
Photo by William Pearce
19. Not having a timeline: A great way to feel like you’re tackling more at once is by planning ahead. Talk to your contractor about the best spaces to work on next. Give your designer a call and start thinking about curtain patterns. Make sure none of your decision making has to happen last-minute!
Photo by Yandle
20. Expecting perfection: You might know this one already, but keep your expectations in-check. Older buildings can have unexpected problems. Newer buildings may be missing certain components. Think of it as all part of the fun! Every part of your new experience should be enjoyed, as long as you don’t mess up too badly…
Photo by Dan Zen
Good luck trying to sell this home with a big ol’ telephone pole right in the middle of the entranace to the driveway! Some inattentive telephone company employee sure goofed up big time here. Let’s hope there’s a discount on the home’s listing price!
2. It may take you some time to realize what’s wrong with this picture… that is, until you take a closer look at the bottom of that garage door. This garage wouldn’t be so bad if we all commuted using hovercrafts, but alas, this isn’t Back to the Future.
3. On a purely functional level, there’s not much wrong with the way that this house was renovated, but from an aesthetic perspective, it’s an utter disaster. Come on—it’s not hard to realize that those designs don’t match!
4. On paper, the idea of having a platform raise from the ground to reveal your expensive sports car is neat. But in practice, it makes your home look less like a James Bond movie and more like a waste of technology.
5. If you think you see something risque in this photo, get your head out of the gutter! Somebody definitely should have realized what this ceiling was going to look like before they finished it.
6. It’s pictures like this that must have made neighbors shout, “Are any of you even trying?” It’s unfathomable that a builder could install new windows this way and think that their work for the day was done.
7. It’s unclear from the looks of it how well this toilet actually works. But at such an awkward angle, it’s certainly going to make the process of doing your personal business a little more interesting!
8. You’d think that one of the most basic requirements of building a staircase is making sure there’s enough open space above it as you ascend. It may be a headache to plan, but when it doesn’t work, it’s more of a headache to actually use!
9. Either this home builder wanted to use just one light to illuminate two rooms at once, or they miscalculated where the wiring would be located. Why wouldn’t they remove the light fixture when they built the wall?
10. It must’ve been annoying when these designers realized they’d inadvertently blocked off the door’s pathway with the bricks from the patio. At least they were able to come up with a solution as, uh, elegant as this.
11. It couldn’t have been easy to design a driveway on such a steep slope, but surely there must have been a better way than to put it at what looks like a 45-degree angle! Can you imagine trying to pull into the driveway in the winter?
12. This is a perfect example of why you should never hire an avant-garde architect. Sure, the concept of a staircase that leads nowhere is fascinating. But who actually wants to live in an M.C. Escher lithograph?
13. What are we even looking at here? How difficult would it have been to measure the dimensions of the door and the wall properly before turning it into this weird geometric mess? Hey, at least the frame was cut precisely!
14. What is it with builders and steep driveways? If it’s such a challenge for this homeowner to walk on this driveway, how on Earth is anyone expected to drive a 3,000-pound vehicle up and down it?
15. This building is strange enough, what with so few windows to let in light. But what’s really concerning in the garage door… three stories high. How is anyone supposed to park up there?
16. You’re going to need some intensely precise driving skills to be able to maneuver your car’s wheels properly onto those planks of wood and safely into the garage. Even for the best drivers, this is a nightmare!
17. You know how, legally, you’re not supposed to park within 15 feet from a fire hydrant? Well, that’s a lot more difficult when the fire hydrant is placed literally right in front of your garage. Hey, at least this person will be safe in case of a fire!
18. The construction team who planned this sky-high garage clearly anticipated some sort of a ramp to lead from the house to the roadway. Unfortunately, that never materialized… and it looks like these cars aren’t going anywhere.
19. Sometimes you have to make concessions when designing small spaces. This usually results in one room serving multiple functions, like a kitchenette inside your living room. Not so common? A dining room with a toilet. Oof.
20. What’s the point of a door stop if it’s not going to be able to, you know… stop the door? This person’s problem might have started when they placed it on the door itself; typically, doorstops are attached to the wall so you can avoid this issue altogether!
21. This is just baffling. Why is the radiator built into the door? Most importantly, though, what room does that door lead to, and how is anyone ever going to get into it… or out of it?
22. Even if you know nothing about architecture or home design, you could look at a piece of work like this one and feel downright offended at something so lazy. Come on, put some effort into it, people!
23. Okay, is there some home designer out there who’s trying to murder the people living in the house he’s working on? You can’t put a faucet over an outlet and convince people it’s not at least a little bit intentional.
24. From the looks of it, this could’ve been a pretty nice porch… right up until the moment that the homeowners decided it needed a hot tub. Could they really have expected things to go any differently?
25. This poor lad found himself in quite the predicament. It’s one thing to paint yourself into a corner; it’s another altogether to paint yourself into a corner on a roof. Either he waits for it to dry, or he signals a helicopter. (We’re betting on option A.)
26. At this point, wouldn’t it just be easier, and less expensive, to simply relocate that sapling and then finish paving the driveway? It’ll only be harder and more costly to get rid of the tree the larger it grows!
27. This seems almost surreal as you try to figure out what’s going on here, but your eyes do not deceive you. Somebody really messed up when setting those tiles properly alongside the carpeted part of the floor. Remember: measure twice, cut once!
28. It’s one thing to install a fan onto a ceiling where it clearly could never fit, but these marks must’ve been made from somebody actually trying to turn it on! Talk about the you-know-what hitting the fan, right?