Watch Out!

5 Common Mistakes You Might Make Renovating Your House

By Jennifer Nelson

Oct 20, 2021

No one wants to spend time and money on a home renovation only to be disappointed with the results. So before you swing a sledgehammer (or allow anyone else to), use the planning stages to carefully ponder what you want—and what you don’t.

To help steer you in the right direction, here are some common mistakes people make when renovating their house. Heed this list to avoid countless headaches, mini money pits, and deep regrets once the dust has cleared and you’re settled in your new space.


1. Picking designs that are too trendy

When first delving into the planning stages of a remodel, it’s easy to become infatuated with gorgeous Instagram photos highlighting the latest design fads. Yet be warned, these trends can distract us from planning for what we really need.

“As you look to trends for inspiration for your renovation, it’s best to take cues from trends instead of blindly following those trends,” says Wendy Gonzalez, interior and lighting designer at Modern Ornament in Livingston, NJ.

To best incorporate a trend in your home, pull out the elements that feel right for you, and then add your own spin. For instance, go ahead with a traditional country kitchen, but select that funky backsplash tile you love. Avoid anything that seems like it might be a whimsy, as in out again in a year or two. (Think boldly colored bathroom tile, open kitchen shelving, or oil-rubbed bronze finishes.)

“The best trend for your home is the one that makes the people who inhabit it feel like they’re at home throughout the years, whether you’re in it for the next five, 10, or 30 years,” says Gonzalez.

2. Veering too far from the original architecture

Make sure not to veer too far away from the style of your home. You don’t need to slavishly adhere to the exact same style of architecture in every single renovation, but you should aim for something similar. You won’t want to take a modern home, for instance, and remodel the living areas into a traditional or Georgian style, but a modern farmhouse motif wouldn’t be too far a leap.

Many homeowners get so giddy over the remodeled space, they fail to step back and consider the entirety of their home so they can come away with a cohesive redesign. Usually a good designer or architect can rein in a remodel that’s gotten off its style course.

3. Over-renovating for your neighborhood

Avoid renovating your home into the best on the block, as you may be unlikely to recoup your renovation return on investment.

The reason: If fancy renovations aren’t the norm with nearby properties, later on if you try to sell your home, its higher price (due to all of those high-cost renovations) may deter homebuyers, and shoppers with bigger budgets may likely be looking elsewhere. So it may be best to scale that Champagne taste back a little.

Instead, it’s best to balance any remodeling plans with what homes in your area offer. Check with me. I know the neighborhoods and can let you know which renovations will add value to your home.  Another tip when remodeling a space is to check out real estate listings in your neighborhood and see how they’re described. Are there any chef’s kitchens, steam showers, or wine cellars? If not, it might be a tipoff that those amenities are likely excessive in your neck of the woods.

4. Underestimating the cost

“Make sure that you fully price out your taste in things,” says Raf Howery, CEO and founder of Kukun, a company that helps consumers calculate remodeling costs. “The majority of budget overruns are due to two things: underestimating the cost of the material and time delays, which lead to increased labor costs.”

To avoid this fate, do research ahead of your remodel and estimate the costs of all the materials you want to use, from fixtures to hardwood to cabinets and appliances. Then budget for labor, which is often commensurate with the cost of material.

The more expensive and high-end your material and fixtures, the more in labor they will likely cost to install. When you’ve tallied your choices, tack on the requisite 10% to 20% for unforeseen expenses.

5. Renovating for your ideal self

If you think a newly remodeled kitchen is going to keep you totally organized even though your current space is more akin to disorganized chaos, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Since habits are hard to change, you’d be better served by designing a smart, renovated space for the life you currently have—not the idealized life you hope in your newly remodeled space.

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