Back to Home Improvement

Avoid making these 7 home renovation mistakes

cutting corners through cheaper material

When a friend moved into his first home — an outdated, post-war bungalow — he knew a few things would have to change. The kitchen laminate on both the countertops and floor had to go, as did the outdated bathroom (complete with hues of brown).

Yet, instead of calling in a few experts to get quotes, my friend naively budgeted about $20,000 for the entire kitchen-bathroom overhaul. He was foolish.

Close to $35,000 later — and after a tonne of hard, comparison shopping for material deals — and my friend had a lovely new kitchen, an updated bathroom and more than a few hard-won lessons.

Canadian homeowners love to update and renovate their homes

According to the 2019 CIBC Home Renovations Poll, 49% of Canadians plan to renovate their homes this year, budgeting $10,211 on average. Among those who completed recent renovations, 39% went over budget – demonstrating how out of control renos can really get.

To help you rein in costs and prioritize spending, here’s a list of the seven most common mistakes homeowners make when taking on a renovation, plus a few tips for increasing your home’s value while staying within your budget.

#1: Lack of Planning

young couple stares at home reno plans

The trend toward spending less on renovations and more on maintenance and necessary repairs has encouraged a more relaxed approach to actual home improvement projects and a lack of planning. What may start out as a simple replacement of a leaky faucet may turn into a full-blown bathroom remodel.

Before starting any repair project, consider the risk of a “snowball effect.” It always seems as if one thing leads to another when working on home repair projects. Your leaky bathroom faucet may uncover rotting subfloor that needs to be replaced too. When you lift the toilet to replace the floor, you may find a crack in the bowl that requires another trip to the home improvement store. You get the picture.

Before being blindsided into a larger remodeling project, carefully examine surrounding room components for potential problems. If the work is beyond your DIY capabilities, call in a contractor for a professional assessment of what needs to be done vs. what you want to have done.

#2: No Detailed Budget

man using a calculator to create a budget

The 2019 CIBC Report further identified that 38% of millennials will probably put together a renovation budget, but they’re also more prone to blowing right past that anticipated cost. Part of the problem is the overwhelming pull to “ballpark” an entire job, rather than set down a detailed budget.

To avoid going over budget, you must first start with a realistic budget and the best way to do this is to start with a detailed budget.

Research your particular project. Go online and check home improvement sites to find what you like, what’s available, and how much it will cost. Then price out material. It’s best to set realistic “as-is” costs — costs for materials and labour without the sales and discounts — than to expect to find a sale only to come up short when it comes time to find and purchase the necessary items.

Without a structured budget and a plan to stick to it, no amount of “bargain shopping” will help reign it in. The end result-a beautiful, overpriced renovation and a lot of debt.

#3: Cutting Corners

cutting corners through cheaper material

Be careful about cutting corners to save money. Buying lower quality products or materials may seem like a good way to stick to your budget, but inferior components can fail prematurely requiring potentially expensive repairs or even replacements.

Another problem is the upsell. Quite often as you shop around you’ll see material or items that are “so much nicer” than what you originally budgeted for in your current remodel. The temptation is to spend a bit more to get this new, shiny product. That’s when budgets can quickly creep up and exceed your original estimate.

#4: Overestimating Your Abilities

DIY reno is popular but you need to know your abilities

Another key, particularly if you plan on doing the work yourself is to realistically calculate your capabilities. If you’re only vaguely familiar with plumbing work and you’re tackling a bathroom renovation, you need to set aside time to learn, make mistakes and, perhaps, repair the damage. Even if you do it right the first time, that time will take much longer than if you paid a professional. Nothing wrong with that, but just be sure to accurately estimate what you can accomplish in your home reno and what, exactly, it will save you.

#5: Changing the Design


As we start to renovate, it’s easy to notice something we didn’t factor in or didn’t address. That’s when the temptation to change the plan becomes overwhelming. Thing is, any change in a plan, no matter how small, can have a significant impact on the design and construction of the overall reno and this means added costs.

The key is to really take the time before you start renovating to nail down your overall vision and plan and to solidify your home reno needs during this planning phase. Fail to take the time before the project starts and you will certainly pay out-of-pocket if you decide to change the design or expand the project after the project starts.

#6: Inaccurate Return on Investment

windows and doors are a great home reno investment

While many home improvement projects can add significant value to your home upon resale, not every project has the same impact.

According to National Bank of Canada fixing your roof and replacing windows and doors are good, safe home reno investments that help maintain your home’s worth. Upgrading a kitchen or adding a bathroom will provide a greater return on investment than installing a pool or doing a renovation that pushes your home’s selling price higher than surrounding homes (this is known as “over-building” or “over-renovating”).

According to the Appraisal Institute of Canada, the top five home renovations that increase property value are:

  1. updating the kitchen
  2. renovating the bathroom
  3. repainting exterior and interior
  4. updating the decor like lighting and plumbing fixtures (such as kitchen faucet)
  5. replacing worn flooring or refinishing hardwood floor

(It’s interesting to note that the 6th home “reno” task that adds value is decluttering.)

Also, determine how long you plan to live in your home. If you plan to renovate to sell, smaller more visually appealing home renovation projects will bring a faster ROI.

#7: Failure to Prepare for Disruption

10 bad home improvement projects

Home renovations, big and small, will cause a disruption in your household routines. If you plan to stay in your home while the work is being done, it will be easier if you can keep work zones separated from your family and pets.

Homeowners often overlook the challenges associated with the project and fail to prepare properly. If you’re doing a full kitchen upgrade, you’ll want to make plans for meal preparation elsewhere. Don’t forget about how you’ll handle breakfast and lunch for the kids too.

Daily site clean-up can help the project run smoothly. If you’re doing the work yourself, consider renting a dumpster to handle construction debris. If you hire a contractor, discuss the plan for clean-up and discuss any safety concerns as soon as possible. Also, talk about work hours beforehand. You’ll want to make sure the family can privately shower and get ready for the day without contractor interference.

Avoidance of home reno mistakes makes for a happier experience

Protect yourself from home renovation mistakes by properly planning your project, establishing a budget and keeping track of expenditures, calculate the value you’ll gain and the true return on investment for the renovation work, and prepare carefully for the disruption to your household during the work.

By carefully addressing all of these issues before starting your home renovation project, you’ll have a more enjoyable experience and an improved home environment to enjoy for years to come.

Image of Serge Bojinski

Serge Bojinski

Serge is the editor of, as well as a blogger and home improvement enthusiast. He lives by the motto: "eat clean, train dirty."