Handling your own home improvement projects is a great way to save money and also bond with the other members of your household over a shared achievement.
That’s the theory, at least. But in practice, if you don’t have a lot of experience in carrying out domestic renovations, there are a plethora of potential pitfalls that await you.
Rather than learning from your own mistakes, why not learn from those made by others instead? To that end, here’s a look at the most common home improvement disasters, and how you can either avoid them or recover from them yourself.
In this article:
- Not having a contingency in your budget
- Choosing the wrong tools for the job
- Dressing & accessorizing inappropriately
- Being vague with measurements
- Failing to prepare properly
- Inconveniencing your neighbors
- Lacking the skill & experience
- Steering clear of safety gear
- Replacing when repairing is more affordable
- Cheaping out on materials or contractors
- Overlooking the local property market
- Wrapping up
Not having a contingency in your budget
Whatever the scope of your renovations, it’s sensible to have a budget in mind that’s not only realistic in terms of the work that needs to be done, but also flexible enough to accommodate unforeseen expenses that will invariably crop up at some point.
If you don’t have this contingency in place, then you might reach a point where you’ve run out of money, but you’ve not completed the work, leaving your home looking half-finished.
There are various viewpoints on the size of the contingency you should set aside. For smaller projects, having extra cash equivalent to around 20% of the basic budget is a good idea. For larger ones, where your finances might be stretched a little further, between 10% and 15% should suffice.
Choosing the wrong tools for the job
This should go without saying, but certain renovation tasks require specialized tools to complete. If you’re trying to get the job done with an item that’s not quite right for what you’re trying to achieve, then the results will either be imperfect at best, or downright ugly at worst.
A good example of this comes from using brushes to paint large surfaces, rather than investing in rollers. It’s not only more time consuming to rely on brushes in this scenario, but will also leave you with a finish that is potentially patchy, inconsistent in texture and even has different amounts of coverage across the area.
A similar snafu can occur if you’re trying to add caulk or sealant, and you try to freehand it rather than combining an applicator gun with the correctly sized and shaped smoothing tools.
Dressing & accessorizing inappropriately
Even if you are equipped with all the tools you need to take on a domestic renovation, you can suffer serious issues if you aren’t dressed in a suitable way.
It’s better to throw on old clothes that are past their prime and won’t be ruined by splashes of paint or streaks of grease, rather than wearing items that you plan to use in other contexts later on.
Likewise you have to avoid accessorizing as you might normally; for example, wearing that engagement ring with peridot and diamonds might look good in the snaps you take for your social media followers, but if it gets gunked up during the home improvement session, you’ll end up distraught.
The good news is that you can clean jewelry to remove paint and other substances, so it’s not the end of the world. But if you can sidestep this problem in the first place then you’ll save yourself time and mental anguish as well.
Being vague with measurements
Home improvement is not really an area in which ‘winging it’ is wise, particularly when it comes to measurements.
This is especially relevant when it comes to projects which involve carpentry, or really any interaction where you’ll be removing material to reach the desired size. It’s an old piece of advice, but double-checking your measurements rather than assuming you got it right the first time will save you from all sorts of renovation headaches.
You’ll also need a reliable and accurate tape measure, as well as a spirit level to ensure that everything is mounted or installed on a level plane. Once again, avoid skimping on tools, and bring the right items with you, before you get stuck in.
Failing to prepare properly
Speaking of getting stuck in, you need to recognize that DIY and home improvement projects should not be rushed. If you’re trying to do things too quickly, or you miss out steps in your efforts to reach the finish line early, disasters are sure to happen.
Again, the example of painting is useful. Whether you’re upcycling some old furniture, giving a new coat to interior walls, or anything else, there are procedures to stick to in order to achieve the best possible finish.
If you don’t use primer as instructed, or you don’t mask off areas that need to be shielded, or you don’t prepare the surface by abrading it beforehand to ensure good adhesion, the look and feel of the work you do will be seriously compromised.
Part of this preparation is also choosing the right type of paint. Don’t just assume that all paints are effectively interchangeable, because their formulations can differ dramatically. For example, paint which is designed for use in bathrooms and other areas of increased moisture is not the same as paint made for exterior surfaces, or materials like metal, and so on.
Do your research, plan an appropriate amount of time to complete the project, and resist the temptation to rush.
Inconveniencing your neighbors
If your property is in close proximity to other residences, it’s a good idea to be as courteous as possible with any home renovation work you’ve got planned, whether you’re intending to carry it out yourself or to source a contractor instead.
The noise, the traffic, the detritus and the general disruption to a neighborhood caused by particularly sizable renovation schemes will be easier for other members of the community to cope with if you give them advance warning.
Likewise, you may need to get a permit from the local authorities to go through with the work in the first place. There will also be building regulations to adhere to, and other rules regarding things like site noise and the disposal of construction waste.
Choosing to be neighborly and sticking to the letter of the law will make you a model citizen while you remodel your property. Plowing ahead with a project in a way that inconveniences others or even spoils the look of a neighborhood will quickly make you persona non grata, and could land you in legal hot water as well.
Lacking the skill & experience
Simply put, if you’ve never done a particular DIY task before, you have to assume that you won’t get every aspect right the first time. And the bigger the project, the more of a margin for error you have to accommodate in your planning and your expectations.
It’s all well and good to watch tutorial videos and read explanatory articles, but at the end of the day you’ll do better if you have someone with the right skills and experience on hand to teach you in person. If this isn’t a possibility, then it’s time to call in the professional contractors.
Indeed there are some jobs which are only suited to the pros, whether because of the training required and equipment needed, or because of regulatory restrictions and licensing laws.
Steering clear of safety gear
Earlier we talked about what not to wear when carrying out home improvements, but it’s just as necessary to have extra accessories to protect you and others when you are working.
The type of protective gear you need will depend on the job that’s on your schedule. If you’re working with heavy items that would do serious damage to your feet if dropped, then steel toe cap boots are a good investment.
If you are going to be using tools that emit sparks, or spit out material at high speeds, then safety glasses or goggles are required. If you’re going to be working with strong chemicals or sharp items, robust gloves are a must-have.
Once again, the main thing to remember is to research, plan and prepare rigorously. And remember that high quality safety gear won’t only be handy for this project, but will ideally be able to serve you long into the future in all of your other home improvement endeavors.
Replacing when repairing is more affordable
Another strong temptation that home improvers face is that of tearing everything out and starting from scratch. But this scorched earth policy, particularly if you are renovating a rundown older property, might not be the most cost-effective route to take.
Let’s say your home has got some period features. Rather than removing them or replacing them, choosing to repair and refresh them is both more sympathetic to the era in which the property was built, and also less of a burden on your budget.
Obviously there are some instances in which repairing is not economically viable either; it’s all about calculating costs and making an informed decision.
Cheaping out on materials or contractors
We just mentioned being budget-conscious in your home improvement efforts, but you need to make sure that this is not something which involves making sacrifices which come back to bite you.
The quality of the materials you use is a good example of this. If you choose the bargain basement paint brands, or a irregular off-cuts of timber, to save a few dollars upfront, you’ll pay for it with both the quality and the durability of the finish.
The same rule applies to working with contractors to help you complete a project. It’s a good idea to get quotes from several different sources, but that doesn’t mean you should just go for the cheapest of the bunch.
Value for money is better than raw affordability, especially when it comes to improving a property you intend to live in yourself.
Overlooking the local property market
So you’ve got an idea to make your home your own, and you go through with the work in exactly the right way with all of the best materials and tools you can afford, and perhaps you even draft in a contractor for the trickier aspects of the job. This is all well and good, so long as you have also explored the state of play in the property market of your area.
The reason that you need to do this is that if you aren’t aware of both current property prices, as well as the trends which are influencing buyers at the moment, you could end up either overspending on a project that doesn’t add value to your home, or even making it harder to sell as and when you do decide to move on.
Different levels of demand for certain features will determine the value proposition of certain renovations and additions.
For example, getting rid of a bathroom to add another bedroom, or vice versa, could positively or negatively impact your property’s value, and the only way to know which way the cookie will crumble is to ask a real estate agent before you make a commitment.
Equally, if the improvements you make are too personal, perhaps veering towards the more eccentric or avant-garde end of the spectrum in terms of aesthetics or configuration, then you’ll be limiting the marketability of your property.
If you’re planning to live in your property for many years or even decades to come, then you might not be concerned by these considerations. If you are still waiting to find your forever home, then pairing back your renovation efforts right now could be worthwhile.
Reading about home improvement disasters might put you off the idea of getting your hands dirty and renovating your own property, but that’s not the intention here at all.
Instead, you’ll hopefully be even more inspired to start planning a project, armed with the knowledge you’ll need to pull it off with as few hitches as possible.
Most importantly, don’t get disheartened if things don’t go exactly to plan. Most mishaps are reversible and learning new skills won’t happen overnight, but takes time to get right.