Tips To Help You Avoid The Unexpected Costs Of Remodeling A Home

Getting ready to seriously remodel your home?

Strap in! The worst part won’t be living in the basement and cooking on a hot plate. Nor the intermittent power outages. Nor even the shock of the initial price. No, the worst part will be the unexpected delays and added costs.

Related: Finding A Short-Term Rental During Home Renovations

Because when it comes to home makeovers, to quote Saturday Night Live character Roseanne Roseannadanna, “There’s always something! If it’s not one thing, it’s another!”

This is particularly true for DIYers, but it happens when you hire pros, too. A buddy of mine hired a top-notch contractor to completely re-do the first floor of his house, including a complete kitchen overhaul and removing several walls. The project ran seven weeks late and thousands of dollars over budget, in part because the pro didn’t realize he would need to order a custom-length steel header to replace a load bearing wall.

Careful planning and a Zen attitude are essential to surviving the nightmares that can occur on the way to your dream house. To help you with both, recently put together a list of some common causes of over runs and delays.

Kitchen Islands

  • Make sure that must-have granite top will fit through the door and/or up the stairs. Otherwise, your builder will be sawing it in half in the front yard.
  • Most codes require outlets every six feet. That’s no big deal – unless your kitchen sits on a concrete slab, which will require drilling through concrete and could add $1,000 to your project.
  • A concrete slab will pose a similar issue when piping in a sink. This might add up to $2,500 in costs.
  • Overhead lighting is no problem if there’s an attic above the kitchen. If not, you might be looking at patching and repainting the ceiling.

Commercial Grade Appliances

  • A restaurant-style refrigerator may look cool, but those beasts weigh about 800 lbs. – nearly three times the weight of your old LG. This might require added floor joists, and the removal of doorjambs to get the thing into position.
  • Don’t take this the wrong way, but are you really gonna use that six-burner stove with the grill? Take your time. Not only are they expensive, but they also gobble up space that might otherwise provide storage or just breathing room.
  • If you go with a commercial stove, you’ll need a commercial grade venting hood, which requires special venting and upgraded power. These modifications can cost $1,000.


  • If your house was built before 1975, you may have dangerous asbestos fibers in the most unexpected places – linoleum floor, old drywall compound, popcorn ceilings. This could cost anywhere from $1,000 to $30,000 to fix, depending on the level of contamination.

Bedroom Windows

  • That basement space isn’t legally a bedroom unless it has a window or door that allows occupants to escape outside in case of emergency. That tiny patch of glass does not meet the mark. Installing a code-approved window might involve foundation work and installation of a window well. This could add $2,000 or more in costs.

Related: 3 Home Systems That Pay For Themselves

Of course, this is just a taste of what you might encounter with a major renovation. One way to ease your mind going into this exhilarating ride is to write a flat-fee contract with your builder. This ensures that he will think through the job very carefully and bear the cost of any unforeseen obstacles. To keep the project on schedule, you might also try to get a provision that requires the contractor to pay you an agreed upon amount for every day the project is late. That’s a tough sell, but well worth the try.

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