10 Pricey Problems That Can Pop Up During Home Renovations

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Homes in April 2022 sold for a median price of almost $425,000, up 15.6% year over year, according to Redfin. With the rising cost, you might have decided you’re better off staying put and fixing up your home than buying a new one.

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No matter how small or large of a home renovation you undertake, plan for cost overruns. You could encounter a variety of problems during your remodel that will throw your budget out of whack. Here are 10 potentially pricey problems to prepare for.

Permit/Planning Fees

Building permits are required by your local government any time you undertake a home project that will build something new or remodel a building already on your property. The permits are intended to make sure you comply with the laws; depending on the scope of the project, a building inspector might make a site visit to sign off on the work.

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Before you start any work, or before a contractor hammers the first nail, check with your city or town to determine whether a permit is required. Not having one could cause problems for you down the road, and you want to make sure you properly budget for it. The Family Handyman website estimates a building permit can cost $50 for a very small project or as much as $2,000 for a major one.

Underestimating the Budget

The National Association of Home Builders said the price of supplies used in residential construction climbed 4.9% in the first four months of 2022, 19.2% year over year and 35.6% since the start of the pandemic. Even if you’re completing what you otherwise think might be a simple DIY project, you don’t want to underestimate the cost. If you do, you could wind up with interior walls that are only two-thirds painted or a floor that is three-fourth hardwoods and one-fourth dingy vinyl.

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Trying to DIY a Job for Professionals

Ever heard the expression “the cheap comes out expensive”? That’s exactly what can happen when you attempt a DIY project meant for professionals, and you could cause more harm than good. Trying to repair a furnace, remove asbestos, fix a roof, perform some plumbing or electrical repairs, remove trees or do some carpentry tasks are among the jobs a professional would be better off fulfilling, the Family Handyman said. Taking the DIY approach could create bigger problems that are costlier to fix than the original issue and, even worse, may prove dangerous.

Debris Disposal

If your project involves demolition — taking down a kitchen wall and all of its cabinets, for instance — don’t forget to include the price of debris disposal. HomeAdvisor estimates renting a dumpster costs between $200 and $800 a week or $1,000 to $3,000 a month. The fee depends on dumpster size and your location.

Changing Your Mind

The cost for changing your mind about your project depends on the extent of your perceived boo-boo. If you painted your bedroom Cotton Candy Pink and decided you’re really better suited for Boring Beige, the price will be a few gallons of paint. If you regret your choice of granite countertops and decide they’ve got to go — even if you paid $3,000 for them — then consider that you’ll have to pay at least that amount to replace them.

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Structural and Other ‘Hidden’ Surprises

You no doubt have watched home renovation shows where the project timeline and budget take massive hits when problems are uncovered as carpet comes up or walls come down. The problems you could encounter include water damage, foundation cracks or damage, lead paint and asbestos or old wiring or pipes. Costs can be significant, depending on what you or your contractor discover. Better Homes & Gardens noted that your budget should include 10% of the total project cost as a contingency for project overruns and emergencies.

Delays

Supply chain delays and labor shortages, as well as the time it’s taking to get a building permit, are leading to project delays in 2022, said U.S. News and World Report. Because of that, it’s best to wait to begin your project until every plank of flooring, every backsplash tile and every door is in stock to make sure you can complete it. While you wait weeks for your supplies, inflation is sending the costs soaring, too, per the report, which says you need “vision, patience and budget” if you are going to renovate today.

Bad Contractor Estimates

Renovating your home is expensive, so don’t pay more than you have to by working with a contractor who quotes you a price that exceeds the job’s value. HomeGuide recommends that you invite at least three contractors to bid on the job by visiting your home and discussing the scope of the work. Get recommendations from family and friends, read reviews and check the contractor’s track record with the Better Business Bureau. Ask for a detailed estimate in writing, and make a schedule to pay as certain project benchmarks are reached.

Cost of Materials

As we know, material costs are rising, but you can save money by shopping around and comparison pricing. HGTV recommends cutting back on costs in certain areas and splurging on the ones that are your highest priority. One area to go the budget route in your kitchen remodel, for example: the floor. Instead of natural stone tole, choose a porcelain tile lookalike. Porcelain costs less and, because it’s resistant to cracking and chipping, it will last longer, HGTV says.

Another area to save? Cabinet door pulls and handles. One 4-inch door pull adorned with a Swarovski crystal on each side costs almost $46 at Wayfair. A 10-pack of crystal glass rhinestone cabinet handles is about $25 at Amazon.

Eating Out/Hotels/Pet Boarding

Depending on the extent of your renovation, you and your family might need to vacate your home during construction. Or, if your kitchen is out of commission for a while, you’ll be living on takeout. Ask your contractor for a realistic estimate of how many days your house will be a construction zone, and check around at local hotels to see whether they have discounted rates for longer-term stays. You’ll need to add lodging, meal and pet boarding costs to your construction budget.

The finished product of your home renovation should be delightful. Getting there? Not so much. The key is to create a budget that leaves you wiggle room to withstand the financial surprises that could pop up.

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About the Author

Jami Farkas holds a communications degree from California State University, Fullerton, and has worked as a reporter or editor at daily newspapers in all four corners of the United States. She brings to GOBankingRates experience as a sports editor, business editor, religion editor, digital editor — and more. With a passion for real estate, she passed the real estate licensing exam in her state and is still weighing whether to take the plunge into selling homes — or just writing about selling homes.

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