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The Hidden Costs of Remodeling

You’ve been living with that crummy bathroom for years and you’ve finally decided to take the plunge and use some savings and a home equity loan for the bathroom of your dreams. It’s a $20,000 remodeling project and you have the contractor and your loan all lined up.  Things are looking great until the contractor shows up the first day to tear out the bathroom tiles. Uh oh. Looks like the old pipes have been leaking for years. The framing supporting the bathroom and the adjacent bedroom is rotting. It will need to be replaced. Additional money required: $7,000.

Unpleasant? Certainly. Uncommon? Not at all.


Unexpected Repairs

With nearly any remodel undertaken on a home that is more than a few years old you’re likely to uncover problems that will need to be fixed as you do the remodel. The list of expensive surprises is endless. Want to turn your attic into a guest bedroom? The insulation up there may contain asbestos, which will need to be professionally removed at significant expense. Tearing out old drywall to enlarge a room can reveal wood beams and studs severely damaged by termites and other insects.

Remodeling a kitchen usually means taking a look at pipes leading from the main water supply on the street to your home. Some of those pipes, if they’re more than a few decades old, may be soldered with something containing lead or the pipes themselves may contain lead. Given the concern over lead in drinking water, you’ll likely want to replace any pipes containing any amount of lead. Replacing the water main to your home will not be cheap. And how about mold? Though the direct links between mold and ill health remains controversial, especially with insurance companies, if you find mold behind a wall during a remodel chances are you’ll want to get rid of it.  You guessed it. That means spending more money.

However, making unexpected structural repairs is only one of the many hidden costs of remodeling. If there is exterior work involved in your remodel, landscaping may be damaged to the point where it needs to be replaced. Having a new roof put on your home can wreck havoc with landscaping close to the house no matter how careful the roofers are. Homeowners also often see their power bills soar during a remodel. Think of all the power tools that may be running at your house all day if a full crew is working there.  If a home has been repainted or replastered on the inside, the crew also may turn on the heat full blast overnight to expedite the drying of the paint or plaster. These are perfectly reasonable actions on the part of the remodelers. But they’ll end up costing you money.


Other Hidden Expenses

Do you have a dog or cat that usually stays home all day? The pet may have to go to the pet hotel or doggie daycare for the duration of the project. Is your kitchen being remodeled? If so you’ll probably find yourself eating out a lot or buying takeout food, both of which are more expensive than cooking at home. Or perhaps you’re considering moving out altogether for a couple of months while your house is ripped up. Depending on the rents for month-by-month apartments in your community, that easily adds at least another $1,000 or more per month to your remodeling costs.

Here’s something to consider: Some contractors will actually give you a lower bid if you agree to move out during the remodel since it will make life easier for them and their workers if they don’t also have to work around you and your family. Be sure to ask about this. You may think that it will be easy to be out of the house everyday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. while a crew remodels your kitchen and master bedroom suite. But what happens the day your child is sick and can’t go to school? What happens the day your car won’t start and you have to wait around at home for a tow truck? Are you really the kind of person who is perfectly punctual? While homeowners worry that contractors won't show up, contractors sometimes have to contend with homeowners who won’t leave. Nothing slows down a project more than a homeowner hanging around the kitchen, even for a few minutes every day, chatting up the carpenters or cleaning the breakfast dishes.

Bottom line: Remodeling ALWAYS costs more than the sum of the labor and materials. Be prepared.



Next article: When Remodeling Projects Go Wrong

Previous article: Managing Remodeling Finances



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