The 10 Biggest Project Mistakes New Homeowners Make

Updated: May 24, 2023

It's completely natural for new homeowners, confronted with an entire house full of possibilities, to dive into projects with the enthusiasm of a kid in a candy store. However, that enthusiasm can quickly wane in the face of real-world complications. Here are 10 new homeowner mistakes you should avoid in order to keep the enthusiasm high, the headaches to a minimum, and the joys of homeownership intact.

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Picking the Wrong Tool for the Job

Often times a task is made dramatically simpler when it’s tackled with the right tool. Many new homeowners lack the experience needed to even know the tool exists, or they decide to make do with what they have because of budget constraints. However, you’d be shocked at how many tools are available for rent or through tool co-ops. Do a little research ahead of time, and you may be able to find a tool that drastically cuts the labor involved in your project. Of course, we’d be lying if we said that there isn’t some appeal to adding a new tool to your collection.

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Too Many Trips to the Store

As much as we love the convenience of big box stores, they can be a major drain on time and bank accounts. One of the most common new homeowner mistakes is underestimating how much material is needed for a job, or picking up the wrong item when shopping for a project. Keep in mind that you’re almost always better off getting too much of something and planning to return the excess later.

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Finishing in Dirty Air

This is a common mistake for new homeowners who are really getting into the groove on a project. There they are, cutting or sanding in the room that they’re working on, and as soon as the carpentry or drywall is complete, they immediately move to the stain or paint stage of the project. Their new homeowner mistake is not giving the particulate in the air time to fall out.

It’s important to let your work space settle and clean it thoroughly before moving to the finish stage of your project. Skipping this step will only result in a grainy, bumpy finished product that’s sure to disappoint. A more advanced solution is to use an air scrubber, but most new homeowners aren’t looking to invest that kind of money, especially when a little bit of patience will achieve the same result.

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Not Enough Time Estimated

Always budget more time for your project than you think it should take. Most new homeowners know that project planning is an essential part of any large job, but remember that the definition of a “large job” depends on where you are on your DIY journey. If you’re starting out, then building a bench might be a major undertaking. Regardless of where you fall on the experience curve, a little planning now can save a ton of time later on.

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Not Pulling Permits

Whether doing the work yourself or using a contractor, be sure that any required permits are pulled. Some contractors may wave off the need for permits, but if the job receives a stop work order, it won’t be their home stuck in limbo. This is an especially foolish mistake for new homeowners working on their own and learning as they go. Although every municipality and every inspector is unique, treat your home inspector politely and you’ll likely find that they will give you advice and some guidance to make sure your project meets specifications. It’s like having a free construction supervisor.

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Getting Intimidated

Home ownership is a major life change, and the personal and financial situation new homeowners find themselves in is often more than a little intimidating. Many DIYers who were perfectly comfortable working on projects as renters get nervous at the thought that they own the property they’re working on. The good news is that the vast majority of home improvement projects can be tackled on your own. While there will certainly be some jobs for which you prefer to bring in assistants or pros, almost any task in your new home can be accomplished if you’re willing to put in the work and the time to educate yourself.

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Not Crossing the Finish Line

It’s an amazing thing about most home improvement projects: no matter what the job is, it often seems like the last 20 percent is the most difficult. Whether it’s due to exhaustion, fading daylight, or simple boredom, an amazing number of DIYers struggle to finish a job and see it all the way through to the end. Make sure you go the extra mile to get things done and you’ll not only avoid a house full of half-finished projects, you’ll enjoy that well-earned sense of satisfaction that comes with a completed job.

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Improper Measuring

A surprisingly common mistake among new homeowners is inaccurate measuring. Whether it’s only measuring once, pulling a tape measure from the wrong point, or relying on memory instead of writing measurements down, new homeowners often end up with a stack of miscuts and wasted materials at the end of the job.

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Giving in to “Good Enough”

We’ve all been there at least once: for whatever reason, a job just is not going right, and the frustration mounts. In these situations it can be so tempting to shrug and say, “Good enough.” But the honest fact of the matter is that “good enough” usually isn’t.

The “good enough” mentality usually goes hand-in-hand with rushing the end of a job and a fundamental mistake or poor planning that has rippled out to affect the finished product. This is why remodelers and home inspectors complain about half-done work.

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Starting Multiple Projects

If you’ve got a new home, then you’ve got a new to-do list. For a new homeowner it can be difficult to know where to start, and extremely tempting to dive into all of those new projects at once. And, chances are, a new homeowner can manage two or three simultaneous project. But, a whole houseful, in the house where you need to live and relax, that’s setting yourself up to either not finish some of the projects or to settle for “good enough”. Better to limit yourself to a few key projects and work through the list methodically, enjoying the finished products and reaping the benefits of your projects as you complete them.