5 Home Renovation Mistakes to Avoid (With Pro Tips)


Who doesn't love 'before and after' renovation photos? It always looks so easy! But what we often don't see is what happens between these two snapshots. Transforming your home can be fraught with tears, heartache and costly mistakes.

While some of this is just part of the renovation journey, it is possible to save yourself from major disasters. We've consulted our brand ambassadors, Shannon Vos and Geneva Vanderzeil, on the top 5 renovation mistakes to avoid. Both have survived multiple projects and are happy to share what they have learned. 

1. Tackling jobs outside your comfort zone

Even a seasoned DIY expert like Geneva agrees there are some jobs best left to the experts.  

When renovating her home with partner Ben, they adopted a practical approach to their own abilities and called in the contractors for more complex tasks. This included drafting plans, structural updates, complicated tiling, plumbing and lighting.  

"There are YouTube videos for just about everything, but while it is 'possible' to do everything yourself, unless you're seriously talented, it's not always advisable," Geneva said. "You want to make sure any updates are done properly to increase the value and functionality of your space. This will also save having to get it redone." 

If you are a first-time renovator, it may be best to stick to more basic projects such as painting, laying flooring and maybe a little plastering. 

"Start small, so you can work on your confidence and build your skill set," said Shannon, who has just finished his fourth home renovation. "There are a few questionable brick-laying jobs I've done – luckily nothing structural – but it is one of those jobs I've turned my hand to that I discovered is really hard." 

Legally, home renovators are allowed to do their own waterproofing, but this could prove to be an expensive renovation mistake. So when in doubt, call in a professional. And while it may be tempting to add a few downlights, it could prove dangerous.  

"You should never be playing with electricity unless you are an electrician," Shannon warns.  

2. Trying to do everything at once

Renovating can be a disruptive time, but avoid madly trying to get it all done in a hurry.  

Shannon knows only too well the pressure of a large-scale renovation, having been a contestant and winner of The Block Glasshouse. His most recent renovation has taken two years to complete, during which he lived in the house with his wife and two young sons. 

Completing the work in stages can be a better option than tackling every room at once. Work out your priorities and then slowly make your way through what is likely to be a long list of jobs. "You don't want to do a shonky job by rushing it all, so little by little can be the best approach," Shannon said. 

If you are able to live away during the renovations, Geneva suggests not going on-site every day. It can become a little overwhelming if you go too often. "Obviously, when you do go, it's important to check things to make sure they are right, but daily checks are just going to drive you and your contractors crazy," she said.

3. Not planning a buffer in the budget

There are always unforeseen costs when renovating but rarely unforeseen savings, so you need to be prepared. Even if budgeting down to the last cent, still expect the unexpected. 

Shannon recommends adding an extra 30 per cent as a contingency. This could be used to fix up nasty surprises along the way, such as termite damage. "It is a bit like the housing market. You can't just go all in and max out buying the biggest house you can afford on a 3 per cent interest rate without factoring in any rate increases. You always need to have a buffer," he said. 

If you need to reduce expenses, consider cutting the big ticket items, such as adding a pool and not the finished elements like plastering and tiling.  

"These are the things that people see, and they will be the things that irk you when you feel a drummy tile or see a dodgy painting job. It is a big renovation mistake to cut corners on the finished trades," Shannon said.   

Mentally prepare for a few hurdles to avoid feeling overwhelmed mid-project. "Sometimes it just is what it is – you have to be able to deal with it," Shannon said. "Learn to let go and just focus on what is in front of you instead of trying to make everything perfect." 

4. Spending money on the wrong thing

Sticking to the budget, particularly when decorating, is definitely one of the hardest parts of a renovation. But don't add to the stress by overspending on things that won't make a big difference to the overall look. 

"It is so easy to get completely caught up with what you see online, and make a million mood boards with all your different ideas, and not really consider how much everything is going to cost," Geneva said. "Often what you're seeing was built without a budget or upper limit." 

Sometimes a compromise can turn out to be even better than what you had initially planned. For example, Geneva had to swap marble countertops in her kitchen reno for a more affordable timber finish, which she discovered she liked even better. 

Another renovation mistake is to forget about the importance of natural light in a space. This can be achieved by skylights, windows and repainting to ensure the interior is fresh and bright.

5. Constantly changing your mind

A golden rule of renovating is that once you have chosen something, then stick with it.

"It is hard when you do a complete 180 on design and materials; I know this feeling ever so well," says Geneva. "Change is definitely not a good idea when it comes to renovating because that's when the cost and time blow out. So pick something and move on!" 

Being disorganised and failing to plan properly will inevitably cause major headaches during construction. There is nothing worse than starting your renovations only to discover you forgot to buy the bathroom taps or kitchen sink. Everything needs to be ordered and delivered on-site before you begin the work. This ensures there are no unnecessary delays during the building. "If everything is ready, then your renovations will flow much more smoothly," Shannon said.

It is not often anyone says their home makeover project had no hiccups along the way. Listening to the advice of others and learning from their renovation mistakes can help to keep your one on track. And who knows, you might get lucky! 

If you would like to know how much your home might be worth and what renovations would add the most value, book a free property appraisal with your local LJ Hooker real estate agent today.


DISCLAIMER - The information provided is for guidance and informational purposes only and does not replace independent business, legal and financial advice which we strongly recommend. Whilst the information is considered true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact the accuracy of the information provided. LJ Hooker will not accept responsibility or liability for any reliance on the blog information, including but not limited to, the accuracy, currency or completeness of any information or links.

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