Renovation Fails Cost You Big Time
Ask the Inspector, Blog

Renovation Fails – How to spot them and what to do

Thanks to reality TV’s obsession with renovations, it’s easy to believe anyone can renovate and make over a whole house and have it ready to sell in just a few weeks. Whilst many renovation fails are simply a matter of poor taste, some can be downright dangerous.

Renovation Fails Can Be Dangerous and Expensive

If you’re in the market for a new house it’s worth being aware of how to spot some common renovation failures. If you come across one, it can be a red flag that there are other problems that have been covered up – so make sure you engage the services of a qualified and experienced building inspector who can pick up potentially expensive and hazardous problems glossed over with a lick of paint and fancy tiles.

Whether due to budget blowouts, dodgy tradesmen or DIY done bad, some of the most common, funniest and most dangerous renovation fails include the following.

Kitchen renovation fails

A kitchen is the heart of a home and a good kitchen renovation can add value to a home as it ignites love at first sight. A bad DIY job in the kitchen on the other hand can not only put off potential buyers but can be expensive to fix up, unless you’re prepared to gut it and start over.

It’s easy to miss some of the more common renovation faux pas in the kitchen during a whirlwind inspection. Rather than get lost looking at tiles and paint colours which are relatively easy cosmetic problems to fix, make sure you inspect all the doors and cupboards closely to ensure that none of them suffer from the same problem as the following two renovation fails. Be sure to check for signs of damp under the sink and around splashbacks as well.

drawer pic 1

Check all corner doors and cupboards to ensure they can open fully. Spotting a kitchen renovation fail like this may give you some bargaining power when buying a house.

drawer pic 2
Make sure you check that any kitchen appliances like stoves, cookers and fridges don’t prevent any cupboards or drawers from opening. You may not spot this type of problem straight away but it’s worth making a point of looking out for.

Bathroom renovation fails

Like the kitchen, a well renovated bathroom can add significant value to a property. A bodged bathroom can be very expensive to fix. While you may be able to live with an outdated colour scheme, other bathroom renovation fails can range from being a major inconvenience through to extremely perilous – water and electricity do not mix well together.

tap pic

Get into the habit of quickly turning on taps in bathrooms during inspections to pick up this type of renovation fail which can be expensive to rectify. Check carefully for signs of damp and resulting damage too.

bathroom with toilet
Another amateur renovation fail. Although it looks easy to fix it probably heralds other bigger, more dangerous and costly problems lurking throughout the home.

Don’t be mesmerised by a shiny new paint job in the bathroom, train your eye to check the location of bathroom exhaust fans when you’re looking at homes to buy. This extraction fan will be completely ineffective at removing steamy air from this bathroom. Be sure to look closer under the new paint for signs of moisture damage, which is an open invitation for termites and other pests to move in.


Dangerous and illegal, at least this home renovator has the decency to warn others about the risk of a nasty shock. Some vendors may not be as considerate, and dangerous wiring may only be picked up during a pre-purchase building inspection

Patio, deck and veranda renovation fails

Patios, balconies and veranda renovations that go beyond a fresh coat of paint and updated balustrades can be more than an expensive inconvenience to fix, they can be extremely hazardous. An untrained eye may miss structural and load bearing problems and in many cases issues are not obvious until inspected from the underfloor. This is where it pays to engage the services of a thorough building inspector before buying.


Not all veranda and decking fails are as easy to spot as this one.

under floor
What lurks beneath the freshly painted deck or veranda could be a future catastrophe just waiting to happen.

Garage renovation fails

You might think that garages are pretty fail proof when it comes to renovations, after all there’s not that much to them. However, dodgy wiring and even dangerous doors can come back to bite your wallet and put your family in danger.

hidden light

When you see poorly planned renovation faux pas like this in a garage it’s like a flashing neon warning that there are probably other problems with this property.

garage door
Check garage doors carefully, especially if there have been other signs of cheap or rushed renovations. Garage door renovation fails can not only be expensive to correct but can result in damage to your car and be extremely perilous for kids and pets.

Bedroom renovation fails

Bedrooms aren’t immune from renovation fails. From simple things like poor choice in the type of paint for the walls through to incorrectly installed lights and ceiling fans.

renovation fails
Switch on any lights and fans to check they’ve been correctly installed. Like other relatively minor renovation issues, problems like this incorrectly installed ceiling fan and light are warning signs that the property has been renovated by inexperienced DIY owners and has probably been done cheaply with corners cut elsewhere, as they dream of a quick turnover and big profit.

Exterior renovation fails

It pays to inspect a property inside and outside for structural problems glossed over in a renovation. Don’t be distracted by a nicely painted façade and freshly spruced up garden that draw your eye away from pricey problems. As you approach the property from the road, check whether the home looks as though it’s on a lean, as this can herald big budget repairs. It’s also worth checking the condition of the roof for damage, leaks, rust and to ensure that everything is level, this is where it pays to engage the services of a thorough and experienced property inspection company.

red house
These old exterior windows are probably boarded up and painted over from the inside but are an ugly eyesore from outside. Ensure you inspect the property from all sides. Dodgy and poorly done renovations should be a warning to exercise due diligence with your building inspection.

Walk around the property and inspect from all sides to avoid missing dangerous problems like this one.

Out of sight and out of mind. Many problems on the roof like this one are not visible from the street. These owners must have been hoping for an extremely quick sale. The resulting water damage to the property would cost a pretty penny to repair and leave it irresistible to damp loving pests such as termites.

Dangerous renovation fails

Some renovation fails are beyond funny and extremely dangerous. Proceed with caution when inspecting these properties.

outside house
You can guarantee that this veranda renovation has no council approval.

This dodgy DIY drainage is just downright dangerous.

duct tape
Gaffer tape is handy for all sorts of things and no home should be without it, but it should never be used to repair broken framing during a renovation. This is why you must inspect a property from below before you buy – or pay a good building inspector to do it for you.

carpet on stairs
The carpet on these stairs is just asking for a trip to emergency with a broken bone or worse. Don’t be blinded and blinkered by a freshly renovated kitchen or bathroom renovations, keep your critical inspection cap on as you walk through the property.

Call the inspector

Funny to look at while browsing the internet, renovation fails are usually a dead giveaway that the owner has planned poorly and blown their budget, or, engaged the services of extremely cheap tradesmen. If you spot one while inspecting your dream home, don’t ignore it. It can’t be overstated enough that they are nearly always warning signs that herald further expensive and at times dangerous problems hidden away. Some owners will go to extraordinary lengths to sell their home quickly for a good profit.

It’s well worth the money and the time to call in a quality building inspector for a pre purchase property inspection that includes underfloor areas, decks and roof. Action Property Inspections know all the tricks of the trade that vendors use to gloss over and hide property faults. Book a property inspection with them today and they’ll ensure that a renovation isn’t trying to hide a lemon.


About Andrew Mackintosh

Andrew Mackintosh has been answering home inspection questions in the greater Brisbane area since 1995. He has personally carried out over 20,000 building inspections and is a licensed builder and licensed building inspector, Member of Queensland Master Builders Association & Institute of Building Consultants. Being the business owner and the inspector, Andrew is passionate about providing clients with excellent customer service, value for money, honest, unbiased, thorough inspection and reporting in a professional and timely manner to allow clients to make informed decisions when purchasing property.