10 Renovation Mistakes You're Most Likely to Regret, According to Design Pros

Don’t worry—these snafus are avoidable.

<p>onurdongel/Getty Images</p>

onurdongel/Getty Images

Undergoing a home renovation of any size requires a serious investment—not just of your money, but of your time, emotions, and heart. Simply put, it’s not something you want to mess up. It doesn’t help that a renovation can be a complicated process with a lot of moving parts, from scheduling subcontractors to coordinating deliveries of all the new kitchen hardware you just ordered. After all that hard work, the last thing you want is to come away with serious regrets.

The best way to approach a reno—and avoid a costly (or heartbreaking) mistake? Learn from those who have already been there, done that. We tapped professional designers to compile a list of common renovation regrets you may run into along the way. From taking on too-difficult DIY projects to holding too firm to a budget (really!), these renovation mistakes are monumental—and totally avoidable if you know well enough. Ready to save yourself some stress? Let’s dive in.

Related: Home Renovations Can Be Seriously Stressful—Here Are 5 Tips for Managing Anxiety

Not Hiring a Pro For Guidance (and Support!)

One of the best things you can do during a renovation to keep your sanity and help the whole process go smoothly is to hire a designer. Doing so is an investment, but one that will go a long way toward your satisfaction and sanity. “The sentiment ‘You get what you pay for’ is so overused, but it's so true,” says Louise Hane of Louise Hane Interiors. “Do your research and interview several professionals to see if they are the right fit for your personality before you trust them with your home's decisions. Everyone you work with during your renovation should have a personality that you understand well—that is how you will have a successful project.”

Holding Too Firm to a Budget

Narrowing in on a budget (and sticking to it) is an essential part of any renovation, but there is such a thing as being too strict with your numbers, the pros say. “One of the biggest regrets clients have is trying to be too budget-minded during the design process,” says Susan Klimala, owner and creative director of TKS Design Group. “We’re respectful of the fact that everyone has a budget—however, clients often cut wishlist items like heated floors or inset cabinetry at the contract stage, only to miss them later on. Have a budget going in, but be open to your team’s advice when it comes to setting realistic expectations—sometimes, adding to your initial investment or taking a bit more time to save up for your dream renovation is necessary.”

Failing to Think Beyond Construction

A major renovation often requires major changes—ripping down walls, relocating plumbing, adding square footage, and so on. But if you focus all your attention (and budget) on just the construction aspect of your project, you’ll miss out on all the add-ons that will truly bring your new space to life. “One major regret that happens is when homeowners do not approach their renovation holistically,” says Susan Yeley, creative director and owner of Susan Yeley Homes. “They don't plan financially or aesthetically for the rugs, window treatments, and furniture as early and with as much conscientiousness as they do the appliances and countertops. In the end, they wind up curled up in a cheap place-holder sofa, in a now-bittersweetly beautiful architectural shell.”

Diving Blindly Into DIYs

It can be tempting to consider doing some (or all) of your renovation project yourself, especially when you consider how much money it can save you. Our advice? Think long and hard before you pick up a hammer. The pros are pros for a reason, and there’s a big difference between painting a few rooms and rewiring your electricity—even if you’ve watched numerous YouTube videos. Leaving the serious stuff to the experts will save you time and money, not to mention prevent any long-term damage to your home.

Opting for Budget-Friendly Finishes (and Compromising on Quality)

Working within a budget is a give and take, so it’s natural to examine where you can skimp in some areas to splurge in others. That said, many pros suggest never compromising on any high-touch items that will get used daily or draw all the eyes in your room. “Opting for cheaper materials or quick fixes can be tempting, but these decisions often lead to higher maintenance and replacement costs down the line,” says Dara Segbefia of The Zen Experience. “I advise clients to invest in high-quality materials and craftsmanship that will pay off in the long term, ensuring durability and lasting beauty. An intentional approach prioritizes quality, so every element of the renovation contributes to a sustainable, well-crafted home.”

Falling for Pinterest Perfection

Seeking out inspiration for your home is great, but not when it prevents you from discovering what you truly want for your space—or enjoying what you have. “Sometimes, homeowners get swept up in Pinterest imagery and forget two key things as they plan for their renovations,” explains Yeley. “To start, photography shows homes as they are professionally staged, not homes as they are lived in. Beyond that, it’s important to know yourself and really examine how you live.” Before committing to a trendy finish or of-the-moment countertop, consider how it will meld with your actual lifestyle, not just how it will look on your Instagram feed.

Rushing Your Purchases

A successful renovation is all about playing the long game, and sometimes that means holding off on big purchases, despite sales or a holiday bonus burning a hole in your pocket. “One big mistake I’ve seen homeowners make when it comes to renovating their home is purchasing furniture without a design plan,” says Olivia Westbrooks of Olivia Westbrooks Interiors. “It’s so important to have a sense of proportion and a flushed-out design concept before making any big purchases. I’ve had clients buy pieces without a floor plan or a furniture layout drawn up, which can leave them with pieces that are too large or too small for their spaces.”

Forgetting to Document Everything

If you’re helming your renovation without the help of a pro (or, at the very least, a project manager), you’ll want to devise a tight system of documentation. Not only will doing so help you stay organized, but having everything in writing will protect you from liability should anything go wrong along the way. “Our firm issues what we call a "Red Book" for every project, where we document the design and specifications in immense amounts of detail,” says Yeley. “If you are flying by the seat of your pants, not documenting what you said or decided with a contractor or sub before everyone went to lunch, you leave yourself vulnerable to a ‘He said/she said’ situation if things go awry. Choose a good team full of people you trust for your renovation; but also, write everything down.”

Related: Your Home Renovation Could Be Tax Deductible—Here's What You Should Know

Not Swatching Your Paint Picks

As anyone who has ever tried to find the perfect white paint for their space before knows, not all shades are created equally. What looks great in a friend’s home or under the lights of your local hardware store can appear drastically different on your walls, which is why it's so important to swatch your paint picks in your home (preferably in multiple spots) before deciding on a shade. “People tend to think picking a paint color is easy, but it’s not as simple as people may think,” says Westbrooks. “There may be 50 different shades of black and they all have different undertones, which can also be impacted by the lighting in the room. Clients may want a true black, but if they pick a black with a green undertone, it will cast a green shade when the light hits the paint on the wall. It’s our job as interior designers to know the ins and outs of paint colors and how they will work in a space.”

Rushing the Process

Large renovations can be disruptive to daily life, often necessitating that homeowners modify their habits—or move out of their homes entirely—until the project is complete. Still, as frustrating as living around dust and debris can be, it’s important not to rush to the finish line. “Slow down—a few more months of construction is a small price to pay for a lifetime of living in a better, more thoughtful home,” says Yeley. “Homeowners who get impatient and make decisions just to get something done or press their contractors into faster work over more thorough work invariably look back and say they wish they had thought about it more, given the floor-finisher the extra week he wanted, or waited out the lead time for the tile they had their heart set on. Play the long game, and you'll be glad you did.”

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