Homeowners are generally aware that problems could arise during an improvement project, but most do not realize they can lower the chance of setbacks by taking certain steps before and during the process.

Here are 10 common pitfalls that often surprise homeowners when they are making major home improvements. Not only can this knowledge lower stress levels, but it can also save money.

1. Trying to Do Too Much

The most common problem that improvement-minded homeowners encounter is a simple one: they try to do too much.

Laying tile, hanging wallpaper, or installing drywall seems easy enough, even for those with little experience. However, with work and regular chores comprising most of the day, do-it-yourself projects can quickly become a burden.

The best way to maintain sanity levels is to tackle one project at a time, while leaving room for unexpected setbacks. Rather than laying tile in the entire basement, for example, complete one room or one section at a time. Develop a better understanding of the process by starting with the smallest room.

Another advantage of the room-by-room approach is that everyone who lives in the home will be able to use the rest of the areas during the project. Continuing with the basement tile example, moving section by section will prove more convenient than tearing up all the tile at once and rendering the whole basement off limits for the duration of the project.

2. Trying to Get By With Cheaper Materials

Inexpensive materials may keep a project under budget, but a low price can mean poor quality. It is almost pointless to paint the walls if the paint is going to start peeling in a year or two.

When it comes to major building materials like windows, doors, insulation, and roofing, make certain that your chosen contractor provides an honorable warranty. For do-it-yourself projects, choose quality materials that have long warranties and positive customer reviews.

3. Unprecise Measurements

One of the biggest mistakes for do-it-yourselfers is failing to take accurate measurements. This oversight can cause issues in two different ways.

First, it can make a project much more complicated than it needs to be. If wood or tile is cut to the wrong dimensions, it will be completely useless, and most home improvement supply stores will not accept returns of altered materials. The homeowner will have to purchase new materials, which increases the overall cost.

Second, precise dimensions (down to the tenth of an inch), can help limit the overall initial cost. Recheck measurements to make certain that they are as accurate as possible, leaving little room for purchasing surplus.

4. Foregoing the Proper Permits

Many cities issue permits for major projects. Others have zoning laws that only allow for certain kinds of improvements. These rules differ from city to city. Local authorities often require permits for major structural work or any work to the home’s exterior.

Permitting issues can also arise after a project is completed. Home sellers must disclose their improvements during a sale. Therefore, the city will ultimately become aware of the project even if the property owner did not obtain the necessary permits beforehand. The disregard may also deter prospective buyers if they discover any upgrade is not up to code.

5. Working Without a Budget

A surprising number of people, 37% according to a recent survey by Harris Interactive, fail to set a budget for their home remodeling projects. While these survey respondents had a vision for the finished room and a rough idea of their available spend, they did not calculate exact numbers.

The cost of any project can spike unexpectedly. For example, if one coat of paint does not produce the desired color, a second coat becomes necessary. This is a simple example, but the result illustrates the issue clearly: twice as much paint means double the cost. With additional brushes and rollers, even those seemingly cheap purchases add up.

6. Failing to Call Professionals for Help

A repair job or home improvement project may seem simple on a YouTube video, but renovations rarely as straightforward as they appear.

Homeowners can save money by taking the do-it-yourself approach to projects like hanging wallpaper or installing counters. However, when it comes to altering the infrastructure of a home – the wiring, walls, windows, major pipes, etc. – a professional should take the lead.

7. Moving Forward Without a Written Agreement From a Contractor

When it is time to call in a pro, be sure to obtain prices for materials and labor up front. Even if the contractor came recommended by a trusted friend, all aspects of the work should still be in writing. Most reputable contractors will do this anyway so that there is a clear understanding of expectations.

If the written agreement is light on details, include information about the kind of materials your contractor should use. Then, if this professional fails to live up to their end of the bargain, there is a paper trail to prove what they did wrong.

8. Not Considering ROI

One of the main reasons a homeowner will initiate an improvement project is to increase their return on investment (ROI) when they sell the home.

Kitchens and bathrooms, for example, are the trickiest rooms to renovate. The owner could easily end up paying handsomely for renovations, only to recoup a small percentage of the project price added to the sale price of the home. If the upgrade costs $10,000, be certain that the home’s value will increase by at least $10,000.

9. Making Too Many Improvements for the Local Market

Extensive upgrades – a new kitchen, a deck or a swimming pool – do not guarantee a higher selling price. In fact, depending on the location, these over-the-top improvements could make it more challenging to sell a home.

Houses in the same neighborhood typically sell in the same price range. Some may be in the higher part of the range and some in the lower, but it is very rare to sell a house for $300,000, for example, in a neighborhood filled with $100,000 houses.

The goal of an improvement project should be to bump a house into the top price category for the neighborhood. Any improvements beyond that will not lead to a higher selling price.

10. Not Taking Month-to-Month Costs Into Account

Improvements should add value to a home, but there can also be a second benefit: an increase in a home’s overall efficiency. This additional benefit can pay off both in the short-term and in the long-term (because a more efficient home will be more attractive to potential buyers).

Achieving this double benefit is simpler than it might seem. For example, do not opt for the most inexpensive windows when Energy Star certified options are available. Cheaper materials, if they make a home less efficient, will end up costing more in the long-run due to higher energy bills.

Avoiding these 10 pitfalls can make success easier to achieve when it comes to home improvement. Some special programs, like Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing programs, can further increase the chances of smooth and profitable home improvement projects.

To qualify for PACE financing, a homeowner has to prove that their project will lead to savings that are greater than the cost of the improvement – so any project paid for with PACE financing is virtually guaranteed to provide added value to a homeowner.


Find out how PACE financing can help you upgrade your home enjoy the benefits of energy conservation – contact YgreneWorks at (855) 901-3999; info@ygreneworks.com.