renovation regrets

Renovation Regrets: The 7 Biggest Mistakes We Made

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It’s time for a tour of our biggest renovation regrets!  

If this is your first time here, know that we have renovated our entire two-family house from top to bottom.  That means two kitchens, three bathrooms, flooring, exterior projects, and the staircase.  

Over the past 7 (!!) years, we have learned a lot.  Naturally, there are a few things we wish we had done differently!

That you may avoid the regrets that we possess, here are our top 7 renovation regrets.

Bathroom Door – 1st Floor

The first of our renovation regrets that comes to mind involves our first-floor bathroom door. In our first-floor simple bathroom remodel, I wish we had chosen a slider pocket door.  Yes, like it’s 1982.  

The swinging door in our 1st-floor bathroom just never has anywhere to go!! It also has the potential to swing right into our glass shower door, which is just not cute.

I hesitated on a pocket door because (a) they have a dated look and (b) we had electric wires running through that wall.  But man, oh man, we are forever dancing around the bathroom door, and I wish we didn’t even need one at all!!

overwhelmed by house renovation
…it’s a squeeze!

Kitchen Layout – 2nd Floor

Fresh off a move out of New York City, I thought there was ample space in this new cabinet layout for a nice café table in the “eat-in kitchen” from our second-floor kitchen renovation.  A small round table and chairs would be an easy fit by the window, no?  

We didn’t fully think this through from the real estate investor’s perspective.  

It’s a three-bedroom apartment — which, in the suburbs more than likely rents to a family of four.  A family of four likes to eat at a full-on table.  

If you want to rent out our 2nd-floor apartment, you will quickly learn that it does not boast a dining room.  It has 3 bedrooms, one living room, one eat-in kitchen, and one bathroom, all neatly tucked into 1,000 square feet.  

kitchen renovation regrets

Anytime we’ve turned over a lease, the most frequent feedback we get from potential renters is, “Where do you put the kitchen table?”

In retrospect, we may have fared better by leaving out the peninsula in this layout to allow for a dining table, and instead provide less counter space.  Should a renter want more counter space, they could bring their own little kitchen cart or something.  

C’est la vie.  It’s still a good apartment, and it’s still rented out, so it’s not too big a deal.  

That Terrible Luxury Vinyl Plank

We gut-renovated our first-floor kitchen 4 years ago.  (Check out the full Open Concept Galley Kitchen remodel here!)

We chose LVP (Luxury Vinyl Plank) for our flooring because it boasted a waterproof “wood look,” an affordable price tag, and it would help us avoid installing 17′ x 10′ of tile. 

It. Was. A. NIGHTMARE!  And it still is.  

Why?  It’s cracking!!  

The issue here is that our subfloor was not perfect.  And I mean, if you have a Cheerio’s worth of an issue with your subfloor, do not use this product.  For our subfloor, we were balancing out a different previous cabinet layout, old stick-on vinyl from the ‘70s, and an ancient cast iron brick stove (our old house was built in 1912).  

In retrospect, we should have found a way to either (a) put down plywood of some kind (not like we had the vertical space, but you know…) (b) work with the existing hardwoods (that may have cost a FORTUNE especially given the brick section) or (c) used a heckuva lot more self-leveling concrete or (d) gotten a higher quality LVP.  

Since installation, this LVP has cracked in multiple places, not only at the seams but also right down the center of the planks.  Our son spilled a cup of water one time, and it bled right down through the basement ceiling.  That’s through the LVP, the sticky vinyl, and the hardwoods.  Just… nightmare.

We don’t have a solution, other than to live with it.  To avoid pinches on little toes walking by, we keep a small carpet runner over the worst part of the cracking.  

renovations gone wrong
Why, oh why, could we not figure out a better subfloor? And why does this material crack at the mere mention of stress?

Not Sealing Grout

Neglecting to seal the grout in our bathrooms is one of my top renovation regrets.

Yes, there’s a big debate out there about grout color.  Contrast or no contrast?  Black grout, gray grout, or white grout?

I like white-on-white and not the “grid” look on white tile.  

However, I wish we had sealed our grout right away when it was brand new!  The white grout we used is a tough cookie to keep clean.  Now I have to go get the baking soda and toothbrush to clean it.  Either that, or I’ll be asking around for recommendations for grout cleaning + sealing companies.  

Fortunately, our bathrooms are small (under 30 square feet) … but, still.  Who wants to spend their Saturday morning on their hands and knees scrubbing a bathroom floor?

Not Painting the Basement When It Was 100% Empty

When you buy a house, the first project to do – if you need to – is paint.  (See also: What to Do Before Moving Into a New House.)

The second thing to do – if you need to – is refinish the hardwoods or replace the flooring.  

These two things are most easily achieved with empty – 100% EMPTY – rooms.  

If only I’d taken my own advice.

When we bought our home, we had so many projects to take care of that the basement fell by the wayside.  I wish we had taken the time to paint it.  

Now, with tools, a gym, 4 laundry machines, and a bunch of stuff in storage (we have no attic, so this is what we’ve got for off-season décor and suitcases), it will be a huge pain to paint the basement.  

Couple that with 2 new electric panels, plus the local gas company moving our meters outside… and we’ve got swiss-cheese looking paint.  

In my wildest dreams, we have a cute “laundry room” space, complete with cliché signs from a snazzy home decor store.

One of these days, I’ll get to it – one wall at a time, if I have to.  I just wish I had done so when it looked like this.  Empty. 

renovation regrets

Not Taking More Pictures

Listen up, fellow home renovators.  TAKE PICTURES!

Take before pictures, during pictures, after pictures, pictures of people working, pictures of the miserable mistakes (they will be funny someday, I promise), pictures of the uh-oh moments… take all the pictures!  

And now that we are in the modern-day, take some videos, too.  You will look back at this crazy renovation and enjoy remembering the process.  I promise!! 

My biggest regret about our second floor renovation is that I don’t have much footage of it.  We had such fun with friends and family working on the apartment up there, and so little documented from that special time. 

Trusting Our Electrician

You know when general contractors give you a hard time?  

You’re allowed to fire them.

It might be a pain, and make the project take longer, and it could get ugly.  

But in retrospect, our electrician gave us such poor service, that I wish I’d kicked him out. 

What do I mean by poor service?  An example: after rough-in, they left a live wire uncovered.  Derek was hanging sheetrock and bumped into it, literally shocking him.  

kitchen remodel mistakes
More caps would have been nice…

They also installed lights off-center.  They installed switches in the most ridiculous places – sometimes ignoring white spray paint and a symbol clearly stating “switch goes here.”  (You know, the x-o situation.)  They were disrespectful to me, and I wish I’d never let them finish the job.  

The kicker was that we’d had a very positive experience with this company previously. However, their staff saw significant turnover, and the good electricians we’d seen prior had left the company.

Overall, we have great faith in most of our contractors – and even have a post about Why to Hire a Contractor!  But in this case, this company wasn’t the best.  

Live and learn.  

Final Thoughts on Renovation Regrets

Honestly, for the whole house, these renovation regrets are mere complaints and not a deal.  The house is still in much better shape than when we first purchased it!  

Sure, if we could go back in time, we’d do a few things differently, but overall, as Pete the Cat would say, “It’s all good!”

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