10 Things That Can Derail a Home Renovation

September 28, 2022

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It’s no secret that renovating can come with some hiccups. Actually, whether you’re DIY-ing or hiring contractors you would be naive to NOT anticipate hiccups. While we typically lean into optimism around here, bumps in the road seem to be inevitable no matter how much planning and precaution we take. To quote Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” I don’t make up the rules around here! It’s science okay? With all that being said, you should be aware of all the things that CAN go wrong, so that it doesn’t feel like such a blow when things go awry. So here’s 10 things that can derail a home renovation!

Brass Ceiling Light | Wallpaper | Wall Sconce | Black Shade | Washer & Dryer Gray Tile | White Tile

1. Running Out of Money

Everyone sees buildings go up and then all of a sudden, construction comes to a halt. On a large scale, this typically means the funds have run dry. On a smaller scale, if you budget for a home project, without allotting for the unexpected, you might run out of money! Either the project stops until you get the funds, or you find a way to pivot. This is why Chris and I always budget for 30% more of the projected cost of the project. This buffer has saved us many, many times because the honest truth? We have not done one single project in this house that hasn’t had an unexpected cost. Budgeting looks different for everyone, but we share a few of our renovating budget tips in this post!

2. Contractor Schedule

Floor Lamp | Mirror | Candles

If you’re hiring out a project, almost always you are not the only client on your contractor’s schedule. They could be balancing a handful of other projects, have a vacation to go on… you never know! You’re at the discretion of the contractor’s schedule, which could be months out. We’ve also heard that a lot of contractors are booked out 6 months from now! So you gotta think ahead haha.

3. Hiring a Bad Contractor

To me, the worse thing that could happen in a home renovation is hiring a bad contractor. Sometimes a contractor seems promising until they reveal their shoddy work. Or maybe they do great work but they’re poor at communicating, or they leave a mess for you to clean up. No matter what it is, hiring a bad contractor can cause delays, run your budget dry, or cause major long term problems. Here’s some tips to help you find a good contractor.

4. Communication Issues

Sometimes this goes hand in hand with hiring a bad contractor! We love our contractors here in North Carolina because on top of the great work they do, they keep us in the loop with what’s going on! As you know, communication is a two way road though. There have been times where I’ve had to swallow a piece of humble pie, knowing that I didn’t communicate expectations clearly enough. I’ve learned that when I’m communicating design plans, I need send pictures of what I want and what I don’t want and why!

Even from the DIY perspective, communicating with your partner is equally important! Whether it’s budget, something found, a problem, a delay, communicate immediately! Both of you should be kept in the loop about any bumps along the way. Also, just a good life rule is to NOT shoot the messenger! Again, you’re on the same team and you’re figuring this out together. We talk about this in our Tips for DIY-ing or Renovating With Your Partner post.

5. Not Making Decisions Beforehand

Confession time. This is me! Sometimes I have to see a project to a certain point before making the next decision. Just know that the more time you take to make decisions, the more delays! This is sort of what happened in the laundry room. Deciding on a countertop material was not coming easy, which delayed the countertops getting measured and templated. You might not be able to make all of your decisions up front, but try to be quick about making decisions as they come.

6. Not Having Everything BEFORE the Renovation Started

This is the #1 reason why Greta’s bathroom is taking so long… okay and the laundry room. We demoed both of those spaces before we even had product on hand! Big mistake. Another tip: unbox your products as they come to make sure they’re what you wanted and aren’t damaged. This is what I should have done with the vanity in Greta’s bathroom when it arrived. The vanity was sitting in a box in the garage for about a month, and it wasn’t until install day that I realized the wood tone was too dark for my liking earlier. I could have ordered a new one sooner if I’d checked! Hindsight. If you want a project to go fast, have everything on hand before you start (or at least have it ordered).

7. Shipping Delays

This unfortunately is pretty out of your control. It’s also something we experience all. the. time. Sometimes products arrive early, but if when they get delayed or lost, you might find your project at a stand still. The best you can do is just try to expect a possible delay and order earlier.

8. Changing Your Mind

If you’ve been following along with the outdoor kitchen, you know this is what happened here! I thought my mind was set on using stone for the surround until I saw it in place. As much as I hated saying, “I don’t actually like it, can we take it down and pivot?” I had to do it. It’s normal and okay to change your mind, but it will put you behind. Like really behind. We ended up DIY-ing the paneling on the kitchen ourselves which took time. And even after we painted it a mushroom taupe color, I changed my mind again and painted it black!

Creating an initial mood board and doing mock-ups can help you be more sure of your decisions so you change your mind less! Sometimes it’s just an inevitable part of home renovating.

9. Mistakes

Sconces | Mirror | Vanity | Tile 

Another inevitable part of home renovations is mistakes. Whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring it out, accidents happen. If you look closely enough at the box trim tile below the shower nozzle you might notice something’s off. It’s literally off-centered with the shower head and nozzle. This tile expert also came highly recommended as one of the best tilers in the area. Not throwing shade to him, it just goes to show that you can hire the best, and mistakes can still happen! We pivoted and decided to take off the box trim all together and just fill it in with the marble subway tile.

You might also notice the vanity is missing a countertop in this photo. One of our contractors accidentally chipped it and so they had one custom made to replace it. They swallowed the cost for us and we let it roll because these things happen, but it did put the renovation behind.

10. Weather

Backyard Sources

If you follow me on Instagram, you maybe saw that every single time I tried painting this outdoor kitchen, it started raining. I was starting to think this project was cursed. Literally over the span of weeks, I would wait for a clear day on the weather app, go outside to paint, and it would turn on me. Eventually I just put up a canopy and painted through the rain because I was so sick of waiting for the perfect day.

We made it through, but sometimes the weather can quite literally put a damper on things.

Did we officially scare you out of doing any home projects? I really hope not, because there’s nothing like that feeling of putting your blood sweat and tears into your home and seeing it come to fruition. What precautions do you take to avoid some of the things on this list?

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What do you think?

  1. Katie says:

    Wow all
    Of those so true. We just did our first major house flip and it took 9 months and I can’t tell you how many times I referred to your blog or advice on stuff you don’t think about til you’re in the moment. This is definitely something that with experience must get easier. Thank you for all your experience sharing your blogs have literally gotten me through some big decisions (paint – sheen! Does semi gloss on trim and doors really matter or on the other hand, is it really shiny??) paints 🙃, cabinet colors, turf types, wallpaper, mixing metals and colors in general, lighting choices, how high or low to hang things, etc. The list goes on!! Life your dupes!!!

  2. Tamara says:

    Omg! This hit home in such a big way. Almost done with our complete reno and could relate to every one of these! Makes me feel so much better that it still happens to you ha!

  3. Katie says:

    One thing you didn’t add, is permitting – it took us 6 months to get a building permit for our home renovation! And we weren’t allowed to do all we wanted to do based on local design boards/zoning. Probably more of an issue in certain regions and bigger projects.

  4. Christina O says:

    All of these are great! One that I think should be at the top….our economy. From there, we’ve seen a cascade of affects.

  5. Cindy says:

    We are building a house and you nailed(no pun intended) all the challenges and issues. I hope anyone renovating or building reads the above thoroughly. Communication is key and not leaving anything up for chance. I always want to see what something looks like before I make a decision. Thank you for being so honest about your journeys.

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