The Home Renovation Project People Regret the Most (& How to Avoid It)

·4 min read

If it seems like everyone you know turned into Chip and Joanna Gaines over the past year…you’re right. Roughly 55 percent of homeowners—so basically, every other house on the block—took on a renovation project in 2021. That percentage remains just as high for 2022, but it’s not all shiplap and rainbows. Reno regrets abound, and when financial news service Moneywise surveyed 1,002 people about their remodels, more than half said they thought the projects would never be completed.

Honestly, we’re a little surprised that figure wasn’t closer to 100 percent—hasn’t everyone had Money Pit nightmares mid-remodel? Just us?—but what surprised us even more were the regrets that bubbled up once people had crossed the finish line. Some seemed cost-related; 23 percent regretted installing or expanding their deck, which is understandable, given the cost of lumber rose nearly 90 percent from April 2020 to April 2021. Others felt like the cautionary tale your mom throws out every time you talk about covering up the natural wood on your builder-grade cabinets (41 percent were ultimately unhappy with their decision to opt for colorful ones). But the biggest renovation regret across the board? Well, it was much simpler—and, thankfully, much easier to fix.

Overall, most people said they regretted going all in on an accent wall, be it with wallpaper or paint. A bold statement-maker may have been an exciting Zoom or Instagram backdrop in the early days of video chats, but it seems to have gotten old, fast, with 43 percent saying they wished they hadn’t done it. (Ah, accent walls. It appears they’re the bangs of the pandemic.)

If we’re looking for a silver lining here, the upside is that painting an accent wall costs about $200 on average—though a mural or trompe l’oeil could set you back closer to $1,850, according to HomeAdvisor—with costs fairly similar for wallpapering as well. Both are far less than the $6,721 people spend on average for a remodeling project. (Um, yay?)

And if you’re considering updating your walls, there are a few things you can consider to help choose a paint color (or pattern) you won’t tire of six months down the road:

1. Ditch the Dinky Paint Sample

Sure, taping that swatch on the wall lets you see it in your home’s natural light. But it’s so small that what you love in a couple-inches-or-less rectangle may be overwhelming when it spans several feet. Buy a paint sample and paint a posterboard, then hang that up with double-sided tape. You’ll get a much better idea of what that color will be like when it envelops your space. (If you’re considering wallpaper, the same posterboard strategy applies.)

2. Avoid Bitsy, Busy Patterns

If you’re planning an accent wall with your Zoom backdrop in mind, borrow this rule from broadcast news: Avoid skinny stripes or tiny, high-contrast prints. Just like news anchors stick to skin tone-flattering jewel tones over distracting patterns, these tiny prints can appear to “buzz” on screen, not to mention make the room seem more cluttered than it is IRL.

3. Consider Your Undertone

Here’s a tip that can also apply to anyone looking to revamp their cabinets, straight from a kitchen pro: “Keep all your underlying tones in gray, cream or mid-tone brown; they’re the most flexible and diverse colors, and build on top of that,” Masterbrand Cabinets director of design and trends Stephanie Pierce told us earlier this year. When looking at paint swatches—particularly yellow—people tend to skew more neon, Pierce said, so dialing things back and opting for a more muted shade may seem tame at first, but it can be more livable in the long run.

4. Think About the Feeling You Want to Create

You may regret the color you chose because it doesn’t match the needs of your room. That may sound out-there, but hear us out: What do you like to do in that room? Is it a space that should energize you—like an office or kitchen, where you want to get stuff done? Is it a cozy space for unwinding, like a bedroom or bathroom? You may want a livelier shade in the former; something cool and muted in the latter.

Maybe you want a moody escape, so you’re drawn to a deep, inky blue; maybe that will feel cave-like to you, and you need a calming space that’s a bit lighter, like a celery green. It’s a two-part process, determining what you need from that space, and gut-checking the reaction you get from being surrounded by that color.

Ultimately, though, the good news is: If you decide you don’t love that wall months later, repainting it isn’t nearly as rough as, say, tearing out your kitchen or deck.

RELATED: The Ideal Color to Paint Your Walls, Based on Your Aura (Yeah, That’s a Thing)