Renos Where to Start #8 Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid in DIY Renovations

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With the advent of DIY and home renovation TV shows, home renovations and remodeling has been on the rise. Other than the recession of 2008, home improvement and repair expenditures has increased by over 120 billion USD since 2001.

More and more people are jumping into renovations with two feet, taking on new challenges and getting their hands dirty. But with any DIY type endeavors, there are bound to be mistakes made.

Here are our top 10 Mistakes to Avoid in DIY Renovations. 
  1. Design Planning
    • Hiring a designer can be costly on a tight budget or for a small project but they have vast knowledge and experience.
    • Ever walk into a room and think "what where they thinking?" Remember the trampoline in the living room
    • The more complex the room the more there is to consider. Kitchens & bathrooms,  Electrical, plumping & HVAC have not only key things to consider but specific codes that need to be followed for the safety of your family and home.
    • If you are in charge of design, take your time and do your research.  
  2. Project Planning 
    • How to go about the renovation.
    • What should be done first, second,...?
    • All too often people start pouring cement for a new deck and slapping up drywall without building permits, or electrical inspections.
    • Planning not only involves picking colors and appliances but also organizing ordering of materials, scheduling contractors & inspections. Poor planning can be costly and frustrating. 
    • A cement truck arriving when the site and people are not prepared is not cheep.
  3. Not Knowing When to Contract Out the Work 
    • Knowing your limits.
    Now What?
    • You spend thousands of dollars on structural work, electrical work, insulation etc for your new master bedroom only to take on the task of drywall taping and mudding yourself. 
    • Drywall taping/mudding is a very unique set of skills and it is literally the finishing touch on your project. A poor job could create cracks in the taping and bumps in the mud that may not be evident until the painting is all done and you're laying in bed looking up. 
    • We are not all plumbers, electricians, drywallers, builders and designers. 
    • Know your skill set and work within it.
  4. Time Management
    • My uncle once told me of a friend he knew that hand measured out the placement of every drywall screw (not guide lines, every screw) when finishing his basement. That's 48 screws per 4' x 8' sheet. While that's awesome attention to detail, it is not necessary to be that accurate.
    • The value of a journeyman is that they know where to spend the time on the details and where not to. Watch a journeyman in any trade and they are methodical and patient. They take the time in the prep/planning phases, spend an extra 5-10 mins setting up there equipment, truing up the blades and guides. 
    • In the end DIY's spend more time sweating the small stuff, worrying about aspects that are not needed. 
    • Consider what is the purpose or focus of the particular stage you are on. Finishing work, take your time, rough construction doesn't need to look pretty.
  5. Going over budget
    • Add 25-30% to your planned budget. 
    • If this is your first time hanging drywall, buy an extra sheet. First time tiling or laying hardwood, ensure the company has LOTS of extra stock for those missed measurements.
    • There are going to be unforeseen expenses for any project: hidden water damage, mold, below code structural aspects. 
    • When we built our first home, the lot was sold as serviced, only to find out the services were ancient and had to be brought up to code. $15 000 was added to the build before we even got started. 
    • BUT if this is your first time there will be unforeseen expenses simply because you didn't know that they existed. 
  6. Shinny Object Syndrome
    • Bathroom renovation. You walk into the bathroom show room and the sales person does there job.
    • Don't be distracted by the newest, the fanciest displays. Set your budget for each item. Toilets, sinks, light fixtures, appliances. If you see something that is above your set value, stop and take the time to see how it effects the budget. 
    • If you don't keep track of an extra $50 here, $200 there you will be surprised how much it adds up in the end.
  7. Gold Faucet on an Ikea Vanity
    • Consider the age, style and the value of your home. The neighborhood you live in.
    • Don't put in a $20 000 bathroom in a home valued at $300 000. 
    • At the same token, discount kitchen cabinets in a $500 000 home could actually devalue your home. 
    • Ensure the renovation scale, features, appliances etc, are proportionate to the value and design of your home. 
  8. Poor Allocation of Funds
    • This ties into #7
    • You most likely don't need a gold toilet. You are better off spending a little more on an experienced drywaller. 
    • Quality kitchen cabinets come from quality materials. Cheap hardwood is, well, cheap.
    • If you have hard water in your area, a water softener is a good investment.
    • Spending your budget in the right areas will pay off ten fold in the time to complete the project and the overall quality of the project. 
    • Get three quotes for any contracted work and check references. I saved over $60 000 when building our home through this process. Better doesn't always mean more expensive, but you better check.
  9. Lack of Knowledge
    • This has come up in every point so far. 
    • This is why its called DIY. The entire point is that this is a journey for you. An opportunity to learn new skills and knowledge. To take true ownership of your home and pride in making it your own. 
    • Do your research. If the renovation is going to take a week, spend a month planning. If it will take a 1-2 months to gut the kitchen spend 6 months designing and planning it out. 
    • Minimize issues by planning and then planning some more.
  10. Lack of Experience 
    • You can't fake experience, so don't.
    • If you don't know how to use a table saw, don't. Get someone to walk you through the process.
    • Ask questions.
    • Hire a contractor that is willing to work with you and have you as their assistant. You're paying them, learn from them.
    • Be on site but don't get in the way. Watch how professionals work. 
    • Got a friend that has a trade? It's amazing how hard friends will work for the promise of a cold beer and a BBQ. 
Know your limits. Do your research and ask questions, as many questions as you need, from experts you trust. Completing DIY projects can be incredibly rewarding. Start with small, safe projects and scale up as your skill set and experience increase. Know when to stop and ask questions so that you can have a safe and rewarding final product.

What are your thoughts on our Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid in DIY renovations? Anything we missed? Share in the comments section.

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