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4 Common Home Renovation Mistakes Homeowners Make

A Construction Budget, Engineering, and Building Permits are Key

© 2011 by Kelly R. Smith

Photo of Kelly R. Smith

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This article was updated on 06/07/21.

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People love their houses. They work hard in order to purchase them, and then they buy nice solid wood furniture for them, different things to decorate them, and pony up money annually for homeowners insurance, in order to protect them from various perils and risks.

Basically, most of us invest a lot of money and energy into making a few rooms the place that we like to call “home”. The American dream, so to speak. Ensuring that our home continues to keep its nice appearance throughout the years is also important; this means that the house needs to be refreshed through a renovation process from time to time.

A good number of us can do much of us if we are handy and have some basic corded and cordless tools and reliable information. In some cases we have to enlist the help offered by a professional. For examples, per the building code some jobs have to have permits pulled and handed by a licensed plumber or electrician.

Renovating your home usually implies a serious financial investment as well, depending on the scope, but at the same time any home renovation project is also a home improvement project, which will increase the equity value of your house substantially.

When you decide to do a home renovation project, it is very important to learn as much about the particulars of the desired transformation as possible, in order to get the best results at the end of the job, as well as to avoid the mistakes that people are prone to commit when they neglect doing their homework.

Read on to discover some of the frequent errors that many people do whenever they plan to improve their residences by themselves.

Craft Your Renovation Budget

Deciding to renovate your house without using the help offered by a team of professionals will allow you to save some money; nevertheless, if you decide to do the project on your own, it is vital that you nail down your construction budget.

Underestimating the requisite funds is the most frequent problem; without proper planning, most people will discover that they will need to pay more than what they were expecting.

Why? Generally because they need to buy more construction materials and specialty tools that they didn’t take into account from the very beginning. Budgeting is key. Tripping up here is a major mistake.

What is the solution then? Find a knowledgeable person, such as a residential architect or engineer, and ask him to look over your budget as a disinterested third party, adding the missing items, correcting the quantities (and thus the prices) and so on. You might have to pay for this service, but remember that it will lead to a more satisfying conclusion.

Hone Your Time Management Skills

Besides money, it is important to approximate the time properly, also taking into account the possibility of having something unexpected happen during the process. Something unexpected always happens; that;s just the nature of the beast.

It would be a pity to be forced to occupy a living area when your house is a mess, because you didn’t take into account the extra days that are needed because the exterior painting didn’t get done, for example, due to the rainy weather.

And even if your construction budget is crafted perfectly, make sure to put aside an additional amount of money for the scope of work, so that you can finish everything and purchase whatever is necessary. It's not uncommon to ballpark this number at 10%.

Why? No matter how carefully and accurately we create a time line, inevitably Murphy’s Law marches in, in the form of rain-outs, late deliveries, subcontractors that don't show, etc.

If you plan to change the rooms up, for example, to create a nursery for a new baby or to demolish some interior walls in order to enlarge the living room into an open floor plan, you will have a lot of debris that needs to be disposed correctly.

Talk to a specialized company to come and take the garbage and the debris, or find a suitable place where you can transport all of it by yourself, without breaking any rule or regulation. This will likely be another budgetary issue; you will have to pay for a dumpster pull or pony up the bucks for a landfill dump fee.

Know Your Load-Bearing Walls

If you need to demolish a wall or just to cut a hole in it, be careful that you do not affect the structure of your house during the operation. You don’ want to remove a load-bearing wall without installing adequate headers.

Check this with a structural engineer, as you do not want the house to fall on you during the next earthquake, hurricane, etc. In fact, every decision that implies serious modifications, even if doesn’t affect the structure at all, should be planned carefully.

You also do not want to attack a wall with a reciprocating saw and encounter a run of Romex or some plumbing. This is a common but avoidable mistake. The idea is to do whatever it takes so that you will not regret it later, when the wrong things have been done already forcing your budget further into the tank.

Home improvement generally involves a lot of messy debris in at least part of the house, and not covering or properly protecting the pieces of furniture inside it, the floors or the sofas will mean adding to the mess and spending more in the end.

So, you should start the process by carefully covering everything, so that you can use your furniture afterwards. To really protect work areas and make clean-up easier, use a Zip Barrier for dust containment.

Licensed Contractors vs DIY

The changes related to pipes, electricity, and gas lines should be done by the licensed experts as dictated by your local building codes in most locations. You will need building permits and inspections for these tasks. Once the city gets in your pocket, your budget takes another hit.

A huge mistake some homeowners make is not pulling permits. True, you may not get caught, but city inspectors have been known to order all work undone and re-done, even if it is up to code. Bye, bye budget.

A proper painting job and drywall repair and finishing can be done by most of us however, and these labor costs savings will go a long way in offsetting the budget. Do what you can; let the pros tackle the rest.

The mess will surely be big during the renovation process, but so will the satisfaction when everything will be once again at its place, and you will just walk from one room to another, admiring your work and feeling once again at home.

These are just a few of the biggest and most common home renovation mistakes homeowners make. The bottom line? Plan extensively, budget realistically, use common sense, and be flexible.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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