My Top 4 Home Renovation Mistakes

My Top 3 Home Renovation Mistakes & What I Learned From Them including tips for renovating an old house

This was a really funny post to write. I had to consult Sean on it because he plays such a big role in our home renovations. I really wanted his input when it comes to all the renovation mistakes we made — especially to narrow it down to a top 4! There are many to choose from, to be totally honest with you. But such is the life of a homeowner/someone who owns a fixer upper, I guess! My hope is that in sharing this with you, you’ll be more equipped for your own home renovation. I hope you find this post helpful!

My Top 4 Home Renovation Mistakes & What I Learned From Them

Choosing the wrong contractor

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know about Turtle and the debacle of our kitchen renovation in the bungalow. Our entire kitchen renovation was a nightmare ultimately because we chose the wrong contractor. I wish I had more insight on how to actually choose the right contractor… in hindsight, I wish I had asked a LOT more questions, interviewed more potential options, and had more flexibility within our timeline so that we could hire someone else.

Because of our timeline, we ultimately chose to work with him and that affected the entire project… and then caused it to drag out to be over a year long! Never. Ever. Again.

Going forward, Sean and I are both so much more equipped to understand what’s involved in a massive renovation like a kitchen. From understanding the order of what needs to be installed when to budgeting, we’re so much more aware. That doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes the next time we tackle a kitchen, but it does mean we have a bit more knowledge. And that’s so huge when it comes to avoiding renovation mistakes in the future!

We also have more confidence in what we’re able to do ourselves. Because we ultimately ended up finishing the space ourselves in tandem with another contractor, we feel more confident in pulling off bigger projects ourselves. That will definitely be tested when we take on the cabin’s kitchen, so time will tell!

Not being prepared for old house problems

When I first bought the bungalow, I knew I wanted an old house. After all, old houses have character and charm! But they also come with problems. And I just really didn’t think about it when I was house hunting? I know my real estate agent brought it up, but I had no real concept of the difference between an old house and a new(er) house.

A good example of this was that all of our walls in the bungalow were made of shiplap. Literally each wall was SO THICK. The walls were framed with actual 2x4s (not the smaller, modern ones), then strips of cedar planks were affixed to them. And then dry wall was added on top (sometimes over paneling, sometimes under paneling). Demo took forever because of this. But it also meant that we often had to re-install totally new drywall while doing a lot of work to make sure the walls were finally level.

It’s also worth noting that literally nothing in our old house was level. NOTHING. Each corner was wonky, each door frame was crooked, and each room felt like walking into a wobbly fun house while drunk. I think I just wasn’t prepared for that and didn’t even think about it when I was touring houses!

Picking a paint color based on the name

This is one of my most embarrassing renovation mistakes. I know, I know… I should really know better. But when I first bought the bungalow, I knew I wanted to paint it white. I had a million swatches and ultimately chose one called Greek Villa. I’m not even kidding, I liked the name and that sold me on it. I did swatch a sample on the wall and it was fine… until the house was actually painted that color. The paint color has a fair amount of ochre in it and I just happen to be really sensitive to yellow undertones.

It drove me crazy. Every time I took a photo of the house, I noticed it. When we painted the kitchen, I decided it was time to re-paint the rest of the house the same, brighter shade of white. It was definitely worth the investment of time to make this change, but the entire time I was cursing past-Joanna.

Going forward, I now always swatch colors. And not just on one wall, but on multiple walls so that I can judge them throughout the day in different types of light. As for the names… well, I still very much get a kick out of what paint companies call a color — but I’m not allowed to pick based on name anymore!

Not being prepared

Preparation in a home renovation can mean so many different things. But one thing I’ve consistently found that we always mess up is not being prepared with a punch list and having all tools on hand! This is especially crucial now that we live in a very rural, remote area. Being prepared for us means having a fully stocked garage so we don’t have to spend an hour each way driving to a hardware store!

To remedy this, for the last few projects, I made punch lists of everything that needs to happen to finish the project. From emptying the room to demo to hanging art, I now put it ALL on a list. Then, Sean and I have a meeting to put those items in order of operations so that we’re clear on what needs to happen before we can move onto the next task.

We also make sure to inventory our materials and tools on hand during this meeting to make sure we’re fully prepared. A trip to the hardware store is unavoidable and part of renovating… but we try to keep it to a minimum now! That means keeping a lot of extras on hand including paint brushes, roller covers, tray liners, and painters tape.

What is your top renovation mistake?? I’d love to know so we can all commiserate together! Leave a comment and let me know.

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Behind The Blog

Joanna Hawley-McBride is a Pacific Northwest digital influencer and former textile designer with an eye for beautiful things. Jojotastic is a lifestyle blog focused on Joanna’s work-in-progress home, interior styling, finding the best pair of underwear through #UnderwearThesis, and empowering women to explore nature — all in her signature unfiltered style.

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