What Are The Two Biggest Mistakes That Homeowners Make During A Renovation Project?

The design and renovation of a home is a complicated process. Homeowners often feel discouraged when some of their ideas or attempts at design and renovation fall flat, even after spending a lot of money on their renovation. However, it’s not the homeowner’s fault. We are given the impression from the media and advertising that it is all quick, easy, and simple and wraps up beautifully in a big reveal after 60 minutes of well-edited renovation. As many come to realize, this is far from the truth.

During my many years of designing and renovating homes, I have spoken to countless homeowners, many of whom shared their experiences with a former renovation; I can tell you that many of these failed, nightmare renovation projects had two things in common.

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What are the two biggest mistakes that homeowners make during their renovation project?


They start construction without a detailed design – You’ve likely heard me talk about this before, so many unsuccessful renovations start construction without even having a design. What does this mean? That means you do not know exactly what you are building, which means you are forced to design space while in progress. You have now put yourself in the position of making design decisions in the order of the construction process, which is not a good way to design a space. Why? Because the order of the construction process is different than the order of the design process. For instance, when I design a space, I choose certain elements before other elements. I might choose fabrics for furniture before selecting a paint color, so my paint color can now be precise and deliberate to what I am trying to accomplish. If I have no design, finishes, colors, and materials are chosen according to how your contractor needs those elements, “I need a tile choice because we are ready to install the tile.” Never a good way to design a space. Projects always take longer, and it is next to impossible to quote a project without a design. Any numbers that your contractor gave to you will certainly increase now that he knows that you want a porcelain farmhouse sink instead of the simple stainless sink that he was envisioning you choosing.


They try to manage their project on their own. – Homeowners assume that managing a project should be easy. “I’ll call a bunch of contractors, and they’ll know what to do and work together, right? “Unfortunately, no, that’s not the way it works. Many feel as though they should be able to do this easily. But as most people quickly realize, it is far more complicated than it looks and needs industry experience to pull this off. This is where some homeowners stop and call for help, distressed, overwhelmed, and feeling defeated. Many homeowners perceive their design problems and contractor problems to be unique to their situation. However, I can tell you that many missteps can be made during the planning project, and they are common issues that most people will step into without the experience and knowing how to avoid them. Many of these renovation “nightmares” result from inexperience in the project management of the project or lack of a buildable, professionally developed, detailed design.

When designers, contractors, electricians, and other tradespeople assist you with your project. Numerous details overlap and must be coordinated between the designer, contractors, and other tradespeople and artisans—a job of whoever is managing the project, not the contractors you have hired. If you do not have a project manager you have hired to manage the project, the project manager is you. Some contractors are hired to manage the project and build, but this needs to be established initially, and the contractor should be compensated.

What happens when there is no project manager? Problems are not headed off and will arrive. Everything that goes on behind the scenes in a renovation project is what people don’t see. Things that you will see chaos, expensive mistakes, and problems if they are not happening. I do most of what I do on a normal day as a designer/project manager to communicate information and head off problems to tradespeople and contractors. Knowing who needs what information and when it is essential, there are nuances in the construction field unique to the industry. If you call the plumber into your project and he gets there and tells you the project needs several things before he can do the finish plumbing, don’t expect him to be able to drop everything when you do figure out when you need to call him in. All tradespeople manage numerous projects at once. When he’s called in, and you are not prepared, he has to leave someone else waiting and will now have to re-configure his schedule to get back to your house. You can also expect additional charges from tradespeople when they are called in to do a job and the job site is not ready for him to do what he needs to do. This point is an important one as it takes experience to know when and when not to proceed with certain tradespeople. An area that homeowners can quickly add on additional costs and extend the overall duration of a project.

These are just a few examples of how a project goes astray. Design and construction should be left to the pros, and don’t worry, part of our job as design professionals is to ensure your needs are met with the design. Renovations can be costly, and you want to be sure expensive mistakes and poor choices don’t leave you feeling disappointed with the results in the end.

Until next time,

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