Renovation projects offer homeowners an unparalleled opportunity to transform their living spaces. However, without proper planning and execution, these undertakings can quickly go awry, leaving dreams shattered and budgets busted. As a homeowner considering a renovation, it is imperative that you understand the most common pitfalls—and how to avoid them.
After much experience in the remodeling industry, we have witnessed firsthand the mistakes that can derail a renovation, especially with the projects we’ve completed in the past. In this comprehensive guide, we will outline the top 10 biggest errors homeowners make during renovations, provide expert insights into the root causes, and offer actionable advice to steer your project to success.
Lack of Comprehensive Planning
The number one mistake homeowners make is embarking on a renovation without a detailed plan outlining every aspect of the project. This includes setting clearly defined goals, creating an itemized budget, establishing a realistic timeline for completion, selecting finishes and fixtures, hiring contractors, securing permits, and more.
Without comprehensive upfront planning, you leave yourself vulnerable to lapses in decision-making, budget overruns, shoddy contractor work, permitting issues, and cascading delays. As a local renovations company in Atlanta with lots of services to offer, we have seen too many homeowners realize halfway through a project that their initial ideas were half-baked, which leads to financial strain, overwhelming stress, and poor results.
As a homeowner, you may not possess the expertise required to anticipate every contingency and develop an airtight plan yourself. Consulting with an experienced renovation project manager early on can help you map out your vision while avoiding missteps. Their insights ensure you have accurate cost projections, reasonable time expectations, and technical aspects covered before breaking ground.
Selecting an Unqualified Contractor
Your contractor will largely determine the success of your project, so choosing the right one is crucial. Unfortunately, some homeowners make the grave mistake of hiring a contractor without thoroughly vetting their qualifications, reviews, portfolio, insurance coverage and license. This can lead to shoddy and even dangerous workmanship and leave you footing the bill.
Be wary of unbelievably lowball bids—cheap contractors often cut corners. Take time to check references, inspect licenses, and review examples of previous projects. Interview multiple candidates and don’t simply go with the lowest bidder. The ideal contractor will have technical expertise, a proven track record of quality work, glowing reviews, and fair pricing.
Failing to Obtain Permits
One of the most common and serious oversights homeowners make is neglecting to secure required permits before renovating. Whether large or small, most projects require various permits to comply with local zoning, building, and safety codes. Starting work without proper permitting can lead to thousands in fines, stop work orders, and even demolition and rebuilding in a compliant manner.
Before you lift a hammer, research which permits your project necessitates. This may include plumbing, electrical, demolition, gas line, sewer connection and more. The permitting process often takes longer than expected, so build ample lead time into your timeline and have applications ready for your contractor to submit.
Many homeowners underestimate the true cost of their desired renovation by 20% or more. Without accounting for contingencies, overages, and unexpected issues like mold or structural repairs, they find themselves strapped for cash mid-project. This forces stressful last-minute changes to scale back the scope or quality.
Avoid budget pitfalls by working with an experienced professional to develop an accurate projection of all costs before starting. They can help you identify reasonable allowances for demolition, contingencies, fees, financing costs and other line items you may overlook. Build in at least a 10-20% buffer above your initial estimate.
Impractical Material Selection
The materials you select can make or break your renovation in terms of aesthetics, durability and maintenance. Homeowners often choose trendy finishes that end up clashing with their homes’ existing architectural style. Or opt for high-maintenance materials that require frequent and costly upkeep.
Work with a designer to select finishes that align with your home’s style. Avoid drab, builder-grade materials by investing in higher quality and unique touches. Seek durable, low-maintenance options that offer long-term appeal. And don’t forget—materials often have long lead times, so order early.
Scope creep happens in all kinds of projects you might have. Renovations projects are no exception to the rule. Just to recap, here’s what the definition of scope creep is according to ProjectManager:
“Scope creep is what happens when changes are made to the project scope without any control procedure like change requests. Those changes also affect the project schedule, budget, costs, resource allocation and might compromise the completion of milestones and goals. Scope creep is one of the most common project management risks.”
Now that you have a good reminder of what this is, how does it apply to the mistakes people make with their renovation projects?
What happens often is that you might overestimate or underestimate how long the project might take or throw too much capital at the beginning trying to get it off the ground.
It’s tempting to keep adding on exciting new elements to your project as work gets underway. However, failing to stick to your original scope leads to expanding costs and delays. Before you know it, your project has morphed into a major overhaul requiring new permits, contractors and bank account-draining expenses.
Once your plans are finalized, resist the urge to tack on additions or deviations. Changes mid-project tend to have a snowball effect on your budget and timeline. Scope creep can also lead to an over-improvement, meaning you over-spend on a home update that won’t increase your home’s value.
Even small renovations can make your home unusable for days or weeks. Failing to appreciate the full extent of disruption a project causes to your living situation and routines can leave you highly stressed when the work commences. From construction noise and blocked access to rooms buried under tools and debris, remodeling is invasive.
Before starting your project, assess realistically how the work will impact your household. If necessary, make alternate living arrangements like staying with family or renting a short-term furnished apartment nearby. This prevents your day-to-day life from being uprooted.
Lack of Oversight
Homeowners often take a hands-off approach once their contractor begins work, rarely checking in on progress. Without proper oversight, some contractors may cut corners or make unauthorized changes. By the time flaws are noticed, it may be too late or costly to correct them.
While you hired a professional for their expertise, you still need to monitor work intermittently. Request progress photos, conduct site visits, ask questions, and request change orders in writing. Oversee milestones like insulation installation so you can inspect before drywall goes up. Staying engaged ensures your vision is executed properly.
Neglecting Building Codes
Well-meaning homeowners sometimes make improvements that violate regional building codes, often unaware. Something as minor as installing the wrong toilet in a bathroom remodel can be a costly code violation requiring corrections. Building inspectors will catch any violations, leading to rework.
Make sure your contractor has a thorough working knowledge of the building codes for your area. Review codes yourself relating to electrical, plumbing, egress, insulation, and ventilation for your specific project. Obtain all required inspections and certificates of occupancy before occupying completed renovations.
Forgetting Final Details
In a rush to complete the project, it’s easy to overlook those all-important final details. Homeowners often move back in before installation of finishes like lighting fixtures, hardware, accent tile and appliances. This leaves a feeling of incompletion despite the major work being done.
Don’t underestimate the impact small finishes and accents have on the success of your project. Work with an interior designer to select unique light fixtures, stylish hardware, art and accessories that personalize the space. Build in plenty of time for shipping and installation. And resist occupying rooms until every detail is thoroughly addressed.
By understanding the most common renovation pitfalls, you can sidestep these missteps and ensure your project proceeds smoothly from start to finish. No renovation is without hiccups, but careful planning and realistic expectations go a long way. Lean on knowledgeable professionals like contractors, architects and designers to stay on track. With diligence and patience, you can bring your home renovation dreams to fruition beautifully and cost-effectively. To learn more about what we can do to help, contact us today for more details! We’re excited to work with you and provide excellent service and great estimates if you’re in the Atlanta area!