Scary Home Improvement Mistakes


Home improvement. It’s become an American obsession, judging by the popularity of home improvement-themed TV shows like “This Old House,” “Fixer Upper”, and “Property Brothers.” In fact, we seem to be turning into a “Rehab Addict” nation. Sorry to play the role of devil's advocate, but there is a flip side (pun intended) to all the kitchen remodels and bathroom renovations going on these days. As Halloween approaches, beware, ye mortals. In your quest for an abode that’s drop-dead gorgeous, avoid these 8 scary home improvement mistakes.

  1. Trying to go it alone. Home improvement is definitely one area where it pays to know your limits. Small do-it-yourself projects are fine, but for larger upgrades, you’ll be walking an eerily dark and lonely path unless you bring in a pro who has the expertise and the equipment to get the job done right. Trust us on this one: a sloppy, botched DIY renovation will not add curb appeal to your property.

  2. Neglecting your homework. Don’t be afraid to burn the midnight oil researching your dream home improvement to your heart’s content; delving into the mysteries of materials, techniques, and expected remodeling costs will help you to plan the scope of your project. You’ll also be a better-informed consumer when it comes time to choose a contractor.

  3. Hiring an unlicensed contractor. If you’re like most folks, your house is your highest-priced possession. Don’t leave it in the hands of just anyone with a cell phone and a tool belt: stories we’ve heard of bad contractors and their home improvement mistakes will make your blood run cold. Unless you get a thrill from expecting the unexpected, be sure to hire a reputable licensed and insured remodeling professional.

  4. Taking on a bigger home remodel than your bank account can handle. Let’s face it, high quality home remodeling is expensive, especially with the typical cost overruns of 10-15 percent. Run away from Mysterious Shrinking Bank Account Syndrome. Make sure that you are financially equipped to handle your home renovation project.

  5. Thinking like Peter Pan. Peter Pan refused to ever grow up. He also knew how to fly and got away with feeding his enemy’s hand to a crocodile. For most ordinary humans, however, growing up and growing old are part of life. If you’re planning to make your current house a “forever” home, include provisions for aging in place in your remodel design. Otherwise, your shortsightedness may come back to haunt you.

  6. Getting on the wrong side of the law. There’s a catchy tune that goes, “I fought the law … and the law won.” Don’t try to fight the law with your home improvement; you won’t end up the winner. Make sure you have the correct permits, HOA and condo board approval, and so on. If you go over to the Dark Side with an illegal renovation or repair, you might have trouble getting homeowner’s insurance coverage or selling your home.

  7. Failing to sign a detailed contract. Hammer out a written contract (not just an estimate) with your contractor before his crew starts work … and before you hand over any cold hard cash. It should – no, make that must – include every single detail of the work and materials, and be signed by both parties. Remember, your contractor can’t be held to any plans or promises that aren’t in the contract … and that could turn into a real nightmare.

  8. Letting the reno drive a stake into your relationship. Sometimes, it’s not just the old cabinets that get torn apart when you remodel a kitchen. Make sure that you are on the same page as your significant other in terms of what the two of you want from the home renovation and how you will handle the inevitable stress ... so nobody turns into a monster.

Laura Firszt writes for

Updated October 23, 2018.

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