The Top Home Improvement Mistakes

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For many homeowners, remodeling can be a trying experience. Avoiding some common remodeling mistakes will lessen the pain of working with contractors who disappoint or help with making a DIY remodel an experience to remember. The most common remodeling issues center around bad planning, going over budget, rushing a project or hiring an unethical contractor.


When planning a remodel, it’s important that enough planning time is part of the remodel project.

  • Understanding how long the project will take as well as anticipating some obstacles for the project will result in a positive experience and satisfying remodeling experience.
  • Knowing your budget is crucial. It’s also important to realize that sticking to a budget and preparing for items to go over budget will help weather a remodel project. Money worries can ruin a remodel and cause problems beyond the remodel.
  • In addition, not sticking to a plan and making constant changes will be a headache for a contractor and a money issue for you. Prepare for costs, estimate on real numbers for materials, contractor’s hours and potential hazards due to weather or unforeseen building issues that may not be apparent until the remodel occurs.
  • Pipes, wiring, cracked foundations and other hidden structural issues will change a budget especially if there is damage from termites, rust or wear and tear. Be prepared to cover these hidden costs if they occur.
  • Another important part of planning besides a proper working budget is to make sure all permits and approvals are in place before a remodel project begins.
  • Check with city and county permit officials to make sure paperwork is complete. In addition, know your homeowner association codes and laws if you’re a member. Permit approval is important and without it, it can stall a remodel and will cost you valuable time and money. It’s also a good idea to let your neighbors know what you are doing, if it restricts their life in any way. An unhappy neighbor can impede a project causing unneeded stress.
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If a budget is unrealistic, a remodel will be a nightmare. Unpaid bills will result in lawsuits and angry suppliers and contractors.

  • Create a budget with several options for materials and labor.
  • In addition, keep in mind seasonal issues of winter weather, hurricanes and weather hazards, which will increase a budget because there could be delays in materials and work.
  • A budget that does not have a monetary cushion can cause issues long after a remodel is completed because of debt and lawsuits. A monetary cushion is important because changes always occur and it’s best to be able to handle them when they happen.

Building materials

Overpaying for materials can be costly to a remodeling project.

  • Know where your materials are going to be purchased.
  • Price them out and create a cushion based on that knowledge. Contractors are notorious for cutting costs on materials and not alerting the customer.
  • Keep an eye on purchasing slips and who is purchasing for you.
  • In addition, being too frugal for a DIY project can result in a disappointing remodel that will need a great deal of maintenance or another possible remodel, which is costly in the end. Make sure measurements are accurate too.


Contractors are the most common headache for a remodeling project. It’s vital when choosing a contractor you do very good research. Reputation is key to choosing a contractor.

  • Make sure your contractor is insured, has no ethics issues and is a contractor you will be able to work with for a long period of time.
  • Since many decisions will be made with your contractor and a great deal of money may exchange hands, you need to like your contractor and have a trusting working relationship.
  • Check with building associations to make sure there are no filed reports on ethics issues with a contractor you want to hire.
  • It’s also a good idea ask other homeowners who have had remodels to get contractor suggestions and warnings.

Ignoring any element of your remodel can cause a problem, which includes small items from the wrong fixtures too unrealistic budgets and bad measurements, which will cause a bad remodel experience. Don’t immediately decide to completely gut your home for a remodel when only a portion is necessary. Make sure measurements are accurate for hallways, doors and bathrooms. This also includes windows and steps. Know your paint colors and understand your electrical layout as well as water lines so there are no extra issues with losing power or water or causing a flood. Do your homework and know your contractor and your remodel will be something to show off for a very long time without a nightmare story attached.

Last Updated: January 5, 2012
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About Sabina Dana Plasse Sabina Dana Plasse holds a bachelor's degree in history from Bucknell University, a master's in liberal arts from Johns Hopkins University and a master's in film and video from American University. She is an award-winning writer and editor living in Sun Valley, Idaho. Besides writing on fine arts, lifestyle, home and garden, entertainment, philanthropy and business, she enjoys teaching film and writing screenplays. Sabina has served as the arts and events editor and living writer for the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper, a twice weekly national award-winning newspaper serving Idaho's Wood River Valley. Sabina adores mountain town living where she is an active snowboarding, skier, mountain biker, hiker, supporter of the arts and an avid seeker of practical living ideas.  

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