Unexpected Home Renovation Costs to Plan For

unexpected costs of a home renovation: things to plan ahead for / from Burritos and Bubbly

When you’re starting a home renovation, everyone will tell you, “it’ll take twice as long and cost twice as much.” That’s just a fact. Case in point: our contractor estimated five weeks and it took eleven (and technically he still needs to come back to finish some things)! So of course you budget for the big stuff — labor, cabinets, appliances, etc. — but what about the less-obvious things that you will need to plan ahead for? Through two major renovations, we’ve learned to include some of the following things into our overall budget.

Eating out — This is a pretty straightforward one, but somehow we really didn’t consider it prior to our first renovation. You may luck out (and plan ahead) to be able to cook some meals at home, but remember whatever you cook you’ll have to clean, and that sucks when you don’t have a kitchen sink! So plan on eating out a lot. (See our post on how to eat during a kitchen renovation.)

Hotel — Depending on the scope of your renovation, you may end up needing to stay away for a night or two — or even more. When we renovated the kitchen and bathrooms at our old house, we were able to stay home the whole time, but that house was much bigger than our new house and the rooms were more separated from the bedrooms and living spaces. We also didn’t have a dog or a baby. In this house, we had to stay away for the entire first week while they did demolition and drywall (it’s super dirty and loud, and they were concerned mostly for the baby breathing in dust) and then for a few other nights here and there. We were lucky to be able to stay with Andy’s parents, but if you don’t have that resource, you’ll be forking over some cash for a hotel.

Dog boarding — We already wrote about living through a renovation with pets, but when it comes to budgeting, consider that you’ll most likely want/need to have your dog out of the house sometimes. Our cats were easy to corral in a bedroom, with the door closed to keep them safe, but a dog needs more space and needs to go outside a lot, which may mean walking through a construction zone. Between the dust, the noise, the dangerous equipment and nails everywhere, there will be days when it’s not safe for your dog to be in the house. We also felt so bad for Ruby that we made a point of taking her to daycare more often just so she could have fun and run around.  At about $20 a pop, though, it really adds up fast.

Sneaky construction costs — A lot of contractors will give you a cost estimate for labor only, so while you think about all the big things you’ll pay for out of pocket, like cabinets and countertops, there’s also a lot of less-obvious costs that sneak up on you. Basics like plywood and drywall are inexpensive individually, but when it comes to a whole renovation it can be a ton of extra money, for something that you don’t even really notice at the end. We ended up having to put a new subfloor down in our kitchen because the tile wasn’t going to be the same level as the wood floor in the living room, which wasn’t something we could plan ahead for, but it had to get done. (Tip: if your contractor charges you for their materials, above your contract/estimate, make sure they provide the receipts so you can be sure they aren’t over charging you or rounding up.)

New things — when your kitchen is done, I promise you will want new stuff to put in it. Do you really want to fill your pretty new cabinets with those old chipped plates? Do you really want to hang that dingy old dishtowel in your shiny new kitchen? Of course not! So these things aren’t 100% necessary, sure, but they’re really important to reaching the overall look you just paid a whole lot of money for. I find that when we’re at the end of a big renovation, we feel totally drained emotionally and financially, so forking over even another $10 for new kitchen towels feels like a lot… but it’s so worth it.

Cleaning — Keeping your house clean during construction is impossible. Our house looked like it was straight out of ET with plastic sheeting covering every opening and zipper doorways that we’d have to unzip just to go up the stairs, and we STILL ended up with a layer of dust on every single surface in every single room. Once the dust has settled, literally, you may want to hire someone to give your whole house a good scrubbing.

The #1 thing with a big renovation is that you can never possibly be prepared for everything that will happen. Things will go wrong, and unexpected things will come up. But mostly you just have to go with the flow and know it’ll be so so worth it in the end. Let us know in the comments if you have anything to add to this list!

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