You’re about to remodel. What can you do to keep the ‘unknown’ costs under control?

It’s a common complaint among homeowners.  You have visions of beautiful new floors and cabinets, lovely granite and high-end appliances.  Shortly after your contractor begins tearing out your old kitchen, he comes to you with some bad news.

You have extensive dry rot.  Your pipes, hidden in the walls are a mismatched combination of pvc, copper and galvanized metal.  The beam holding up your ceiling is not heavy enough to support the structure.

In one moment, you see your beautiful dream kitchen becoming a nightmare.  Your bank account draining as if  it has a cut artery.

Here are some things you should know before embarking on a remodel that may better prepare you for reality:Remodel foundation inspection 001

  • Understand that a contractor doesn’t have a crystal ball.  He cannot see inside your walls or behind your cabinets.  He can only bid on what he can see.
  • Once the problem is uncovered, it is illegal for him to continue without properly remedying the situation.

Take a deep breath.  This is a very common occurrence, especially in areas with older homes.  During the depression, people used whatever they had lying around when a pipe broke – they couldn’t just run to the hardware store like we do now.

The fact is, from the moment your home is built, Mother Nature begins her slow and insidious assault on it.  Dry rot can be occurring for years without obvious signs.

Poor quality construction, sadly, is rampant.  It always has been.  If you think that having the city or county do building inspections will prevent bad work, you are naive.  The Uniform Building Code was created mainly to address issues of safety.  Your home may have passed all inspections, but still be crooked, windows not flashed properly, decks built that allow water to enter the structure, and more.

We’ve seen homes just a decade old with walls so rotten they were like sawdust.  The only thing holding up the house was the drywall.

Here are our recommendations to make your remodel a good experience:

  1. Leave about 10-15% of your budget in a ‘contingency fund’, so that when problems arise, you aren’t scrambling to find funding. If you don’t have to spend it; great.
  2. Understand that your contractor didn’t cause this problem.  It is likely he hates having to tell you about the hideous plumbing just as much as you hate to hear it.
  3. If your contractor is a professional, he may give you a few options for repairing the problems.  He should thoroughly explain each one – including pros and cons, and give you time to decide.
  4. Your contractor will also need to do some research to get prices for you.  Don’t expect him to quote a number off the top of his head.  If he’s good, he’ll draw the area, think about the labor it will take to tear out and replace the items, and get prices on materials.  Materials prices fluctuate constantly – in just one year, for example, plywood went up over 200%.  He’ll need to check with materials suppliers to get accurate figures for you.
  5. Accept that you should not and really don’t want to live in a pretty house that is ready to collapse.  The structure is the most important part of your home – it’s the part that will stand the test of time and keep your family safe and warm.

Working with a contractor you trust can help you make some sound decisions if you run into problems during your remodel project. He will collaborate with you to ensure your home is problem-free for years to come.   Then you can enjoy friends and family in your lovely new space without worrying about anything more than what wine to serve.

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