5 Common Home Renovation Mistakes

John Ambrosio November 15, 2016

Planning on a major renovation?  Here are 5 common mistakes home owners can make during a home renovation project.
1. Removing structural walls
It’s the new norm.   We all want to live in homes where walls do not impede our sight lines.   It hard to believe that our parents and grandparents were all able to raise us with walls separating each room.  Yet we all grew up just fine.    But I get it, an open floor plan makes the living area feel much bigger, and allows home owners to easily entertain their guests.    With that said, a home owner should be asking the right questions before removing any walls in their home.  The obvious concern is whether the wall is structural or not (load-bearing).   If the wall is structural, your Contractor (or you for a DIY project), should obtain a structural engineer to review the structural components and load points in your home.  They will be able calculate the appropriate beam sizes and post locations to ensure the upper floor and roof structure in your home remains supported.  And don’t forget to get a permit!   Not only is it the law, but it saves you on legal liability in the event the structure fails in the future.  Also, having an extra set of eyes on the work is always good to catch any oversights or mistakes before its too late.

2. Not budgeting enough for ‘less sexy’ items
When budgeting for a renovation, we spend more time pricing out items such as cabinets, flooring, countertops, tiling, etc.   If your project involves gutting a space, be prepared to spend some money on what I call the ‘less-sexy’ items.  How many of us walk through the local home improvement store to check out the insulation, sub-floors, or even vapour barriers?  Kind of boring eh?  Well the truth is, these items may eat up a lot of your budget during a renovation.   Also, a rule of thumb is to put aside 15% of your budget to deal with unforeseen issues that you will have once all the walls come down.   Older homes in particular.  There is a lot of ugly history behind those walls, which should be dealt with before the new drywall goes up.

3. Improper Wiring
One possible mistake a home owner can make is to have a friend’s friend, who has ‘some’ knowledge of electrical, complete the wiring in their home.   If they know what they are doing, then that’s great.    But if you notice they are spending more time on YouTube, then actually wiring your home, then that might be a red flag.   Electrical is one of those things you don’t want to mess with.  Not only is there a serious liability component if there ever was a fire, but it’s not worth exposing your family to the risks caused by improper wiring.  A licensed electrician will not only ensure the wiring and lighting is safely installed, but they will also ensure that your electrical panel and wiring can actually service the new outlets/lighting.  A licensed electrician will get an understanding of what kind of appliances or electronics you wish to use in the room, and will wire your room appropriately to ensure you aren’t tripping breakers, or worse, overheating your wires which may cause a fire.   A licensed electrician will also ensure the proper permits are submitted, and that the work is inspected.    If there is one area in a renovation I would not cheap out on, it’s electrical.

4. Taking on too many DIY tasks to save some money
There are some home owners that like to get involved in their renovation project.  This could be the result of saving a few bucks, or the desire to put some blood and sweat into their home.   At the end of the day, it all comes down to how much is your time worth?   If you are someone who works 40 hours a week and comes home to the responsibilities of raising a young family, then over-extending yourself by taking on too much DIY work during a renovation may prove to be too much to handle.   Painting a room may be manageable, but if you take on too much, not only will it reduce quality time with your family, but it may delay the completion of your project by holding up the other workers and trades.

5. Choosing your Contractor based on the lowest price
First, you will notice a difference in price between a Licensed Contractor and an Unlicensed Contractor.   The latter does not have the overhead of Liability Insurance, Licensing fees, and Workers Compensation.   Other than this, if you are tempted with the lowest price contractor, be sure to ask the right questions before you hand them a cheque.  Who will be doing the work?  Can I review the contract terms?  What are the payment terms? Will the electrical and plumbing be completed by a licensed contractor?   If you find that the contractor is really a glorified handy-man, who will be doing all the work himself, I would be showing him the door.  Keep in mind that good labour isn’t cheap.  If you want the right people working in your home, there is a fair market value for their time.  If your decision to select the lowest price contractor results in poor workmanship, then you will be spending more money in the end fixing their work.
Author: John Ambrosio, Owner of Ambrosio Construction & Renovations Inc.

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