8 Construction Mistakes That Cost You Money

water splashing from gutter onto home foundation
  • 1-1,000
  • Intermediate
  • 0-100,000

Construction takes many forms. From a small bathroom upgrade to a complete kitchen renovation to building a home from the ground up, progressing the project from start to finish involves a lot of time, money, and resources.

Whether you’re tackling the task DIY style or have hired a professional for the job, you’ll need to observe the process, scouring for construction mistakes at every phase that have the potential to cost you big.

1. Failing to Complete a Line Location

Utility companies will gladly run a free line location for a very important reason—it’s dangerous, messy, and expensive to hit any type of buried line.

Avoid being the cause of a neighborhood power outage or gas leak by ensuring a thorough utility line location before a shovel ever hits the ground. This is true for big projects like a house or smaller tasks like fencing.

2. Making Assumptions About Site Grade and Drainage

The ground is an ever-evolving thing. While it might be obvious you’ll need an engineer’s input before building on a hillside, the risk is just as high that what looks like flat land could cause big issues too.

A slightly miscalculated grade means the difference between water flowing towards the house or away from it. Improperly compacted soil or insufficient drainage can also mean the difference between a stable home and one that develops foundation issues before its time.

house foundation with water damage under grass

3. Failing to Get a Permit

Permits are one of those things everyone hates. It’s just a way for the county to take your money, right? No. Inspections and permits ensure everyone’s safety, from the current homeowners to renters and future owners. It also protects the neighbors and contractors on the job.

Depending on where you live, permitting can be a major pain so it’s tempting to postpone or skip them altogether. The truth is, though, the majority of the time it will come out soon or in the future if you try to skirt the process. It will likely cost you in one of two ways.

Either you will be fined for not following the rules or the inspector will make you tear out completed work until the permitted portion can be inspected and improved. Sometimes both penalties are implemented.

4. Building Too Big

It often doesn’t seem like another 100 square feet here or there is a big deal. But when it comes to money matters, size matters too.

Every additional square foot will cost you in materials and labor. After construction is complete, the extra space will also cost you in utility expenses.

5. Miscalculations in Material, Labor, or Timeline Estimates

Whether you’re setting the budget or have a contractor doing it for you, pay special attention to the calculations for materials and labor.

Miscalculating a timeline can cost thousands. A change in materials cost can have the same effect.

6. Unclear Contracts

Contracts between you and subcontractors, you and your contractor, or between the contractor and subs can cost you if there is a misunderstanding. Make sure everyone is on the same page so it’s clear who is responsible for exactly what.

If anyone makes an assumption about something being included in the contract and it’s not, your bill goes up, possibly by tens of thousands of dollars.

7. Mistakes

door and window in wall with no steps

Then, of course, there’s good old human error. Sometimes this is a small problem, sometimes it can be a huge one. For example, if a worker frames a door the wrong size, there will be some expenses involved in tearing it out before reframing it.

However, if you miscalculate the openings for windows throughout the home and none of them fit upon arrival, your costs to fix the problem just skyrocketed.

Human error can also cost you when ordering supplies, especially those that are handcrafted or custom made, such as a mismeasurement in cabinets or ordering left-opening vs. right-opening doors.

8. Prevention

The best way to avoid these types of construction mishaps is to know what you’re doing. If you don’t, hire someone who does and make sure you have a good contract in place in case that person misses the mark.

Ask to see all material lists. Check quantities. Calculate totals. Ask questions if there’s anything you don’t understand.