One of the most important concerns for people beginning a remodeling project is money. If you can’t accurately assess how much a project will cost, you risk going into unexpected debt or leaving a job half finished. It’s easy to blame the contractor when sticker shock has you second-guessing your home-remodeling project, but there are many reasons your costs can skyrocket, and your contractor can’t always plan for them.
Your contractor might be basing his or her estimate on architectural plans. If those plans are inaccurate or incomplete, you’ll spend more money than you expected. Once the contractor is at your home, things can change. For example:
- You need more light switches or outlets than expected.
- You need dimmer switches instead of standard light switches.
- Your network requires Cat-5 cables.
- The windows are too small.
- The doors don’t work with your furniture placement.
- The heater or air conditioning unit the architect suggested won’t keep your home comfortable.
Then there are problems related to fire codes and infrastructure. If, for example, you’re installing new fire-suppression sprinklers, the fire marshal might decide that you need to install a new water meter and pipes. The fire marshal can insist that you widen your driveway and a install new hydrant if the existing one is too far away from the structure. All of these things can quickly send your home-remodeling costs spiraling out of control.
If you’re expanding the size of your home or adding a pool or hot tub, you might need a bigger gas meter, and your contractor may not know all the associated costs and won’t know this until after the initial cost estimate.
ADR recently did a small remodeling job — adding a backyard deck and a large jacuzzi — that was expected to cost $60,000. The company installing the hot tub suggested the owners install a larger gas meter. When gas-company representatives assessed the situation, they determined that the gas lines had been run under an unpermitted permanent structure. They shut the project down until the lines, which had been installed illegally 20 years prior by a different contractor, were reinstalled legally. This unexpected problem tacked an extra $12,000-$15,000 on to the project’s cost.
Some things will be outside of your — and sometimes your contractor’s — control. The best way to prepare for the unexpected is to be diligent: ask as many questions as you can, and hire a contractor with the experience to dodge as many of these bullets as possible.