When you renovate your home, sometimes it’s easy to get carried away. A home remodel costs more than $37,000 on average, according to home services resource HomeAdvisor, based on reports from its members. The average kitchen remodel cost alone is more than $20,000.
But it’s the little things — as well as the big, unexpected things — that can totally undo your home remodeling budget. GOBankingRates talked to experts to find out the sneakiest budget-busting expenses — and how to keep them from derailing your home renovation.
The Minor Kitchen Items
When renovating a kitchen, most people are great about budgeting for the big-ticket items, such as appliances, cabinets, countertops and floors. But they can easily forget the “small” things, said John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada, a site that helps homeowners budget and manage renovations.
“These include garbage disposal, light fixtures, fume hood, backsplash, baseboards, plumbing fixtures and more,” he said. And they can add up, causing “the homeowner to be over budget by 20 to 30 percent — which equates to thousands of dollars.”
Fortunately, the fix is easy, he said. Be sure to research all kitchen remodel costs thoroughly before you start. And, make sure this renovation will ultimately put more money back in your pocket.
When you budget out those beautiful new wood floors, you might settle for a lower-priced product to save money. But later, when it comes time to buy the wood, it’s often easy to rationalize going for a nicer product. That’s great, and possibly smart in the long run in terms of durability and if you want to add value to your home.
However, it can easily send you over budget, said Bodrozic.
“Hardwood floors can cost $2 per square foot on the low end and up to $6 per square foot on the high end,” he said. If you don’t do your research, you might go over budget by 30 to 75 percent, he added. Ouch.
The Forgotten Bathroom Items
As with a kitchen remodel, it’s easy to budget for major bathroom remodel costs, like sinks, toilets and bathtubs. But, you might forget to budget for smaller items like shower curtains, shower rods, soap and shampoo holders, towel racks and a dozen other things. But again, said Bodrozic, these can really add up, putting your project over budget by 20 percent or more.
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Thankfully, the same strategy can mitigate your losses: good planning. Make an itemized list of every single bathroom feature before you renovate, and price out new replacements.
When renovating your home, landscaping is often the last thing to be done and the last thing to be funded. But cutting back here can really hurt, said Than Merrill, former host of A&E’s “Flip This House” and CEO and founder of the real estate investment education company FortuneBuilders.
“People tend to get so caught up on the interior of their home that they fail to remember that the exterior should be equally desirable,” he said. “Curb appeal and attractive landscaping can add up to 30 percent to your home’s overall value, so you should think twice about scrimping on your outdoor scenery.”
The average nationwide cost to install landscaping is $3,325, according to HomeAdvisor. Not bad, but when it comes at the end of your renovation project, when funds are low or nonexistent, $3,000 can feel mighty pricey. So plan accordingly, said Merrill.
Landscape Maintenance Costs
Wow, you pulled it off. You budgeted enough to install some truly impressive landscaping. Your remodel looks great from the inside, as well as from the curb. But don’t forget to budget for maintaining that new landscaping. Often, said Merrill, the cost of maintaining upgraded landscaping can cost more than people think.
“Maintenance costs range from 10 to 15 percent of the home’s annual mortgage payment,” he said. “While it can be relatively cheap to initially install landscaping, it is important to factor in maintenance costs. Keeping a garden watered and well-kept can increase your monthly budget.”
If you’re doing a full kitchen renovation, or sometimes even a small one, you’ll be going without cooking capabilities for a while. And it’s no secret that renovations commonly take longer than planned. So, said Merrill, you should budget for eating out to save as much as you can.
“It can get expensive, especially for a family,” he said. In fact, according to Zagat’s State of American Dining in 2016 report, the national average cost of dining out was $36.30 per person. You’ll likely find ways to eat out much less expensively, but make sure you plan ahead. It could make those dinners out a lot more enjoyable.
Replacing Kitchen Floors
The kitchen area is often exposed to water. So during a kitchen renovation, it’s not uncommon to find water damage, said Merrill. “Be sure to check for mold growth and deterioration in hardwood flooring,” he said. “Any development of rot might force you to have to replace your flooring altogether.”
If that sounds expensive, it is. “Installing new floors could range upwards of $10,500,” said Merrill. The best way to combat this is to have a professional check for deterioration during your budgeting phase.
When you upgrade your home during a renovation, often you’ll discover your old wiring is not up to the task or in need of upgrading itself, said Brian Davis, a real estate investor with 15 rental properties and co-founder and lead blogger at SparkRental.
Repairing faulty wiring can range in cost, said Davis. “It just depends on the extent of the problem,” he said. “It could be as simple as running one new wire in one room — as low as a few hundred dollars — to the entire house needing rewiring, anywhere from $3,500 to $10,000 or more.”
Fortunately, Davis said a good home inspector or contractor can find the problem early.
Bad ductwork might not seem like such a big problem, but it can be, said Davis. “Poor layout or duct gauging can mean that some rooms just don’t get heated or cooled properly, even if the rest of the house is sweltering or freezing,” he said.
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And although an inspector will turn on the heating and central air to make sure each works, they might not leave them on long enough to make sure each room will actually heat or cool, he added. The cost to fix it varies greatly.
“It depends on how much of the ductwork has to be replaced, how easily accessible it is and how large the house is. It could be anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000, or more for large homes,” he said. A thorough assessment before starting a renovation should be done.
If you think rotting framing sounds bad, you’re right. Davis said this problem is one of the hardest issues to spot, too.
“While good home inspectors will try to open access panels if they find easily accessible ones, there’s no guarantee they’ll see any framing at all, much less a rotting section,” he said.
“I once had to reframe an entire rowhouse, which cost an extra $6,000,” said Davis. He added that he felt he got away cheap since he was already knocking down and replacing walls. “Replacing the framing in most homes means gutting, which can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000, sometimes more.”
If you’ve hired an architect to draw up plans for your renovation, you probably budgeted his or her costs into your project. But sometimes government regulations can turn up costly surprises, said David Reiss, a law professor and the academic program director for the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE) at the Brooklyn Law School.
An architect’s revisions can get pricey fast, he said. “If your architect charges $100 per hour for things like amendments to the original scope of work, and they have to spend a few hours on getting the amended plans approved, you would have those hard costs.”
Reiss advised checking your architect’s and contractor’s references to ensure they moved projects along in a timely manner on previous projects.
If your remodel is extensive, you might have to move out of your home during much of the work. That means paying rent for another home or apartment. The unwelcome surprise comes if your home renovation is delayed because of problems encountered, permit delays or other factors. Delays can cost you more than you expect, said Reiss.
“If you cannot move into the home for an additional month, that will cost you an additional month’s rent somewhere else,” he said. Budget in an emergency fund for these types of delays.
Mold is the home renovation’s version of cancer. It can quickly turn a small repair into a costly nightmare. For instance, Michael Theriault, founder of home waterproofing company The Crack Doctor, is often called in to investigate a basement leak or suspected leak in a foundation.
“However, clients rarely take into consideration the fact that if they’ve had a persistent leak for a prolonged period of time, there is likely mold that we will also have to deal with before fixing the problem,” he said.
Unfortunately, removing mold can be a timely, expensive task, and sometimes requires a special mold removal and remediation expert team, Theriault said. That can cost anywhere from $500 to $5,000, depending on the severity of the problem, he said.
“This is yet again one of those reasons it is always recommended to have a little money set aside in your renovation budget for unexpected surprises,” said Theriault.
Sneaky Roof Problems
Is it time for a new roof? Maybe you’ve discovered a leak? Hopefully, that’s all it is. But the reason for the leak could be a larger underlying problem, said Kershan Bulsara, manager of roofing company Roofmaster.
“If you are having regular problems with ice buildup, including ice dams and icicles, this is a sign that you have a problem with heat loss in your home, which should be rectified to avoid future problems and overly high heating costs,” he said. The solution is repairing or replacing the roof, of course, but you’ll also have to install new insulation.
“It could cost over $1,000 to blow more insulation into the attic, which can be done to mitigate the heat loss that leads to ice buildup,” said Bulsara. If you are not replacing the roof and just need to fix the leaks that the ice buildup caused, Bulsara said to expect at least another $500 in costs. The good news: A new roof is one of the renovations that will pay off in the long run.
Upgrading appliances and installing new ones can be one of the most affordable ways to increase your home’s value.
But if you’re doing a kitchen renovation and using a general contractor, he or she might have a line item for appliance installation, said Jesse Fowler, president and founder of Tellus Design + Build in Costa Mesa, Calif. That’s fair enough — most of the time. But, said Fowler, often the vendor or store from which the appliances were purchased has included installation.
That results in you essentially paying twice for the installation, said Fowler. That can cost you anywhere from $400 to $1,200, he said. So, make sure you check.
Floor preparation costs are a big surprise to too many people, usually costing in the thousands of dollars, said Fowler. For this reason, you should always ask your general contractor or company you hire for the policy on this upfront. Try to get cost estimates and the likelihood of any problems.
“A company will very often exclude floor preparation in an original estimate and then when the house is demolished, they will point out some un-level areas, or cracks, or what looks to be damaged sub-floor, and then hit a homeowner with a big price to fix it,” he said.
Inadequate HVCA for Add-Ons
If you’re adding a bedroom, den or other room to your existing home, make sure your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system can handle the extra area, said Fowler.
“HVAC Systems are rated, or sized, to the square footage of a house, by around every 500 square feet on average,” he said. A 430-square-foot addition will most often require an HVAC upgrade, he said. Unfortunately, he said, this is often not mentioned by the designer or general contractor in the initial budget conversations.
“Upgrading the complete system usually ranges from $5,000 to $12,000,” he added. So before you decide to add a room, make sure your HVAC system is up to the additional task.
Stucco Replacement for Windows and Doors
Say you’re planning to add a new door or window into an existing wall during your renovation. You might think you can get away with blending the new exterior stucco surrounding the addition into the existing stucco. Think again, said Fowler.
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“When set in stucco, a removal and replacement of a new construction window will look obvious and terrible if the stucco is just patched,” he said. Instead, you’ll need to redo the wall’s stucco corner to corner, including paint.
“Depending on house size, going corner to corner on a wall for consistency as opposed to just a patch often adds $1,000 to $3,000,” added Fowler.
Electrical Panel Upgrade
When you renovate a space and upgrade the electrical, or add new loads, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the main electrical panel is undersized and can’t handle your improvements. The only real solution is to replace the entire panel, said Fowler.
Unfortunately, your general contractor might not tell you this up front. Fowler said to expect an extra cost of $2,500 to $3,500. So make sure you investigate whether you’ll need this addition before starting any project that includes electrical.
Adding Finishing Touches
When you finish a remodel, it’s only natural to want to finish it off with new furniture and fixtures. But that cost can be shocking, said Rick Cantu, vice president and manager of 5Miles, a mobile marketplace for new artisan and pre-owned goods.
“Suddenly the couch, chairs, lamps and coffee table you want put you way over budget,” said Cantu. “What people might not know is that they can get similar items, or something that they can revamp and really personalize, at a much lower cost from a mobile marketplace.”
For example, he said new couches can run from $300 to thousands of dollars but can be found for a fraction of the cost on mobile marketplaces. The same goes for everything from sconces and lamps to barstools and dining tables.
About the Author
Terence Loose is an award-winning freelance writer who writes about everything from travel and sport to fitness and finance. He is a Hawaii-based writer who has covered a broad range of topics during his 20-plus-year career, from finance and education to travel and celebrity. He is a former editor for both Movieline and COAST Magazines and his work has appeared in publications as diverse as COAST, Riviera and Movieline to the L.A. Times Magazine and Orange County Register.