Your house should be your haven—a place where you can relax and tune out the world beyond your walls. But when your home no longer fits your lifestyle, you might be ready to think about remodeling—either changing the space you have or adding on. Either way, your dream of a new, improved living space could turn into your worst nightmare if you’re not prepared. Avoid the remodeling stress by taking the time to uncover the hidden costs.
Permits. From construction to plumbing to electrical work, make sure your contractor obtains the necessary permits. Don’t assume they’re handling this task—confirm it. Violations can cost you in lost time and unnecessary fines.
Dumpster fee. Empty paint cans, demolition debris, and the discards that pile up when you’re remodeling will probably require a dumpster. The cost will depend on the size and the number of times it will have to be emptied.
Upgrades. Once you see the new space evolving, you might visualize more improvements, or simply change your mind. If you decide you want taller cabinets, different fixtures, a bigger closet, or different flooring, those upgrades can cost you plenty. Do your homework before you commit to a remodel; research alternatives so you’re aware of options (including the pros and cons of each).
Under-wall surprises. Often, you don’t know what lurks behind the walls, floors, and ceilings of your home until demolition has begun, like dry rot, faulty wiring, or insect infestation. From replacing the sub-floor to safely removing asbestos or lead paint (in older homes) to rewiring or replumbing the space you’re remodeling—or entire home, depending on the severity, these surprises can send a shock wave to your budget. Talk to your contractor about possible construction surprises and how to identify them. Hiring a home inspector is a good start!
Special equipment. During the course of the remodel, the builder might discover a problem that requires special equipment he doesn’t already have. You could be responsible for the cost of equipment rental or a specialty contractor. Discuss the possibilities and costs before committing to a contract.
Rising supply costs. Building supplies change regularly. A major natural disaster, like Hurricane Katrina, can shift the balance of supply and demand, causing a major hit to your budget. Before your contractor begins, confirm that the supply costs have not changed.
Breakage. Accidents happen. But who pays the cost for repairing damage during remodeling? If a window is broken by a worker, will your contractor foot the bill for the replacement? Discuss liability before you choose the contractor.
Landscape repair. In the course of remodeling, you could damage your landscaping, either from tossing debris outside, driving heavy equipment on your lawn, or other potential hazards. Allow some funds to clean up the yard, and replace damaged lawn and plantings, or make sure the remodeler has included the costs in the estimate.
Construction interruptions. What happens when remodeling a portion of your home causes you to make significant changes in your lifestyle? A kitchen remodel might require getting takeout or dining out for a while, which can add up. You might need to board your pets to keep them safe from the chaos. You might also need a temporary storage unit. Consider how the construction will disrupt your regular activity and plan accordingly.
One way to avoid the remodeling stress that comes with hidden costs is to interview several remodelers before signing a contract, and then being clear about what that contract includes. According to Paul Winans, former chairman of the board for the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, “It’s almost more important to know what’s excluded than what’s included. Be sure to check references and speak to past customers so you can be sure you’re working with a reliable, reputable contractor who will show up as promised, do quality work, and adhere to the budget and timeline.
The best way to avoid all the stress and hidden costs though is to find a new home that already has the latest design trends and energy efficiency you’re looking for.