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The Biggest Renovation Mistakes People Make, According to Mike Holmes

The Biggest Renovation Mistakes People Make, According to Mike Holmes
Man with caulk gun descending stairs toward home improvement project

Mike Holmes is one of HGTV Canada’s go-to contractors and the host of Holmes and Holmes, Holmes: Buy it Right, and Home to Win.



A renovation can add great value to your home and can increase the enjoyment you get from your living space. It is a big undertaking and you need to be realistic going into it. Here are some of the most common mistakes that I see when a homeowner decides to take on a renovation:

1. Hiring the Wrong Contractor

I see this all the time – homeowners hiring the first contractor who responds or hiring the one with the cheapest quote. Good contractors are busy contractors; they won’t be able to start on your renovation right away.

Don’t be turned off by a contractor who can’t start your renovation tomorrow or next week. A good contractor will always provide you with a detailed estimate of work to be done, including materials being used and required permits (if any). This will help you to compare apples to apples and understand the variance between quotes from different contractors. A detailed estimate takes time to put together, so be prepared to pay for it. And always make sure there’s a contract. This is all part of doing your homework before hiring your contractor. Don’t you want to know exactly where your money will be spent? Don’t you want a clear understanding of timelines? You’ve put a lot of thought into your renovation needs, so don’t rush the process of finding the right contractor. It may mean the difference between a job done quickly, and a job done right.

Related: Mike Holmes Reveals the Red Flags to Watch For When Hiring a Contractor.


2. Unrealistic Budget

So you’ve allocated funds for your complete kitchen renovation with all the bells and whistles – be realistic about your needs and wants, and what you can afford to spend. This is where that detailed estimate will come in handy. I’ve seen so many homeowners go way over budget or simply run out of money halfway through a big project. Create a budget that’s tied to your must-haves and don’t forget to include a buffer for those unexpected surprises.

3. Focusing on the Bells and Whistles

Fancy finishes look great but you also want to think about your renovation being done right. Your home just shouldn’t look good; it should be good. A renovation that starts with a complete gut can reveal some unexpected issues, like mould and poor insulation. Putting money towards an unexpected mould remediation or to beef up your insulation isn’t “fancy” but it’s necessary. You may need to shift your focus to stay within budget. And your contractor can help you with choosing more cost-effective finishes that will help you get the look you want and take care of those nasty surprises – all while staying within budget.

4. Going for the Quick Fix

People think that a quick fix will save them time and money, but they couldn’t be further from the truth. A bathroom renovation isn’t just about getting a new tub, sink and toilet. It’s about taking it down to the studs and seeing what’s going on behind the walls. It’s about checking the plumbing, the electrical and insulation and making sure that everything is brought up to code. I’ve been called in to do a bathroom renovation where it was drywall over tile over drywall, completely covering up issues with mould. I was the fourth contractor called in to do the job! Talk about a total waste of money. So don’t go for the quick fix. Plan carefully and make it right the first time.


5. Trendy Designs

What’s trendy now can quickly become outdated, so don’t spend a small fortune on bold designs that will become out of style. This will end up reducing the value of your home rather than adding to it. Think of the design you want, and if it’s in your budget, consider bringing in a designer to help. Be smart about it – think of the layout and what would work best. Go for functionality rather than trendy. You’ll end up with the renovation you want and one that is timeless.

6. Cutting Costs

Some people will make the mistake of going with cheap fixtures and materials to cut down on renovation costs. Big mistake! Being realistic about what you can afford to spend does not mean that you should scrimp on quality. Cheap fixtures and materials will cost you more in the long run by having to be replaced more often, not to mention causing more waste in our landfills. Spend your money wisely and go for quality products.

7. Living in a Renovation

Renovations can be very stressful. Most homeowners make the mistake of living in the space during a renovation. Going through a renovation typically means having the electrical, heating and water supply shut-off, which is a huge inconvenience to homeowners. Although containment chambers are put in place to enclose dirt and dust, it will still be an issue throughout the renovation, along with the constant noise. And having crews clean up every day to accommodate you living in the space will add to your costs.

There’s always the risk of the construction going longer than expected. Things like unexpected surprises or emergency repairs can push the renovation timeline, and if you’re still living in the home, this can cause added stress. I always recommend homeowners move out during a renovation. Discuss this with your partner during the planning process. For a successful renovation, always keep the lines of communication open, especially with your contractor.

Related: Mike Holmes Jr. Reveals the Secret to Surviving a Home Reno.



Images Courtesy of The Holmes Group and Getty Images

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