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Common Remodeling Setbacks & How Much to Save For Them

Updated on March 15, 2016

When you’re preparing for a remodeling project, large or small, the one thing you can depend on is that at some point during construction, an unexpected issue will arise. Older homes can include many problems related not only to changing building and safety standards over the years, but also to wear and tear. However, if you plan ahead, these problems do not have to derail your dreams. Here are some examples of surprises that may be lurking behind your walls and in your attic:



Once used as a standard insulating material, asbestos is now known to be highly hazardous when it becomes airborne. Homeowners are often unaware of the presence of asbestos until they want to renovate. If asbestos is found in your home, professional remediation is a critical step to ensure the health of your family.

Electrical Problems

If your remodel includes power-hungry new appliances, you may already know that your old wiring and panel are not sufficient and have plans to replace them. However, if your remodel doesn’t include large new power demands, that doesn’t necessarily mean your electrical system is good to go. If your contractor finds damaged or improperly installed wires in the walls, you’ll need to replace them.


Plumbing Problems

Opening up your walls may disclose plumbing that was not installed according to code or pipes that are corroded. If your initial estimate did not include replacing the affected sections of plumbing, that may result in additional costs for your project. However, the cost of repairing the problems in construction will be far less than repairing damage from a water leak later.

Damaged Wood

Demolition may reveal areas of termite damage or dry rot not previously visible. An exterminator may be needed if a termite infestation is still active. Dry rot, a fungal growth that results from moisture coming in contact with wood, weakens and can ultimately disintegrate wood if left untreated. Remediation of this type of problem should include not just replacing the affected wood, but also eliminating the source of moisture.



Mold is another problem that can result from too much moisture in the wrong places. For example, you might expect to find it around leaking pipes. It can grow in carpet, drywall, insulation, and other types of construction materials. While not all mold is toxic, both the mold and the moisture feeding it will need to be removed.

Lead Paint

While lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978, lead paint can still be found in some older houses. Deterioration of lead paint poses a hazard to young children, who may ingest lead-containing paint chips or dust. Because a do-it-yourself attempt to remove lead paint could actually result in spreading lead further throughout your home, hiring a licensed professional with expertise in lead abatement is the best way to go.

To deal with these types of issues without throwing your overall budget completely out of whack, you should build in a contingency budget dedicated to coping with the unexpected. According to Orange County remodeling company, Sea Pointe Construction, this should be about 10 percent of your overall budget, while some recommend a contingency budget as high as 20 percent. If you are dealing with a much older house or know that you’re likely to find damage, based on past work done on your home, then you may want to opt for the higher end of the range. It will be more satisfying to pocket an unused contingency budget if you don’t find problems than to wish you had set aside more at the outset if you do.


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