7 mistakes to avoid when renovating your home

7 mistakes to avoid when renovating your home

Renovating your home might seem like an arduous and daunting task. There are a lot of factors that go into this process, at both the design and construction stages, which could be confusing and overwhelming to you. When going through this, it is vital to plan all the important elements before you start the work, to make sure there are no complications or unexpected surprises. These elements need to be considered regardless of whether you are building a new house or renovating your existing home.

Top tips for anyone planning a home renovation 

Aside from the design elements, there are a few other things you would need to consider. These might seem small and insignificant, but if ignored, these small details can lead to significant, inconvenient, and even disastrous results. To help prevent that, here’s a list of the most common mistakes to be mindful of while building your perfect space. Keep these in mind to achieve your desired results within your budget and within the best possible timeline.

1. Don’t build without a permit

Always be aware of the required permits, and apply for them in time, to prevent any complications later on. For structural changes - or even lighter changes in the case of a monument building - you will have to obtain permits from different local authorities. Ask your architect for help to understand if and which permits must be applied for and how to go about the process. Always follow the rules and make sure to have your permit approved before starting any work on site.

2. Don’t hire a contractor without a contract

Always make sure to have contracts in place between you and any professional(s) you hire. Signed offers or quotes are often not enough. Go over all details of the project, the contract, and the terms and conditions before starting your work. If the words in the contract are too technical and difficult to understand, don’t worry. This is perfectly normal. Just ask your architect and / or someone from legal or with past experience to help you with this. 

Not having a valid contract, especially with your contractor, could lead to major misunderstandings and liability problems down the line. Make sure to always hire an experienced contractor with positive reviews from your architect and their own previous clients to avoid a difficult or unreliable working relationship.

3. Don’t underestimate the timeline for your project

Before starting your project, make sure you estimate a rough - yet realistic! - timeline for your project. An architect would be able to help you with that. This would include accounting for the time to create a good and thorough design, find a good contractor, procure the necessary materials, get the permit approvals from the local authorities, and build the project of course. Always build in a buffer period as well, as such processes are bound to have delays and unexpected changes. So account for the unexpected! 

Your timeline may also be subjected to changes depending on the contractors and / or the materials suppliers’ availability, production and shipping capabilities. Having a realistic timeframe in mind will also ensure that you and your architect are on the same page regarding the scope of your project.

4. Don’t underestimate the cost of your project

Always make sure to have a good estimate of the costs of your project to make sure your finances match the scope you want to get done. The cost estimate will depend on whether your project needs to undergo heavy structural construction, plumbing and / or electrical works, the materials you choose, the size of the place, and other design and construction elements. With the help of your architect, arrive at an accurate estimate of the project to help you keep your finances in check.

You may need to pick and choose what to do and what to give up, or you can prioritise what you do now and what can be done later. This will ensure you have enough budget for all the work you plan to do, as well as prevent any last-minute surprises, especially if you have a tight budget. Always make sure you leave an extra buffer for contingencies in your budget for any unforeseen circumstances or last-minute wishes!

5. Don’t forget to check the status of works during construction

A good architect will keep a close eye on the construction site during construction and will keep you updated on all developments and any major setbacks. However, if you decided to manage the project and supervise construction by yourself, you must keep in close contact with your contractor and visit the site regularly to make sure you are satisfied with the construction as and when it is being done.

If anything is not as it should be, make sure to flag that with the contractor as soon as possible. This will help prevent confusion and last-minute changes, which would lead to more time and money going into correcting mistakes - ones that could have been prevented or corrected much earlier.

During the construction phase, seeing things in person makes it easier for you to get a comprehensive idea of your project rather than visualising things through drawings. Communication is key, so make sure to meet or communicate with your architect and / or contractor on a regular basis.

6. Don’t change any design elements without consulting your architect

It is not uncommon that, after you’ve finalised your design with your architect, you confirm the order with the relevant supplier at the showroom only for them to propose a change to the design for whatever reason. But always check with your architect before agreeing to any changes with the supplier!

The reason for this is a change in the kitchen, for example, could have a bigger impact on the rest of the house, not only in design terms but also in technical terms, such as electrical and plumbing connections. A change that may seem minor to you can have huge consequences that would cause changes in other aspects of the project.

These changes can cost you a lot of time, money, and inconvenience, especially if permits are already approved or construction has already started. If you have doubts regarding design elements for your home that you had previously decided with your architect, make sure to discuss them with the architect themselves. Together you can find a solution. Your architect has the overall picture of the project in mind and will be able to advise on the consequences of any changes.

7. Don’t buy low-quality or cheap furniture

Always choose durable and high-quality furniture for your space. Saving money by buying low quality and / or furniture that can be used only selectively, such as furniture in loud colours, will lead to added costs at the end of the day. Having said that, there are reasons why buying temporary furniture could be smart, for example, if you have young children or if you are planning on renting out your house. If, however, you are designing the home for yourself, it is best to choose good quality materials, finishes and furniture. Good quality does not have to mean expensive if you are not also paying for a big-name brand. Overall, make sure you are not “penny wise and pound foolish,” as the saying goes.

Renovating your home doesn't have to be arduous or daunting

A good architect and a good contractor will be able to guide you through these factors and considerations to ensure your project goes smoothly. Of course, these are just a few of the many things you must consider when building or renovating your house. Many other factors could derail your project and cause changes to your estimated timeline and finances, but addressing these seven don’ts will at least ensure that the basic fundamentals are all considered.

Whether building a new house or renovating your own, keep the big picture in mind and make sure to plan long term. Above all, keep the communication open with your architect, contractor and any other professionals helping you through this process.

Stephanie Akkaoui Hughes


Stephanie Akkaoui Hughes

Architect, author, international speaker, Founder and CEO of AKKA Architects, Stephanie is part of a new breed of young visionary architects who operate beyond the nowadays restrained realm of architecture....

Read more



Leave a comment