Homeownership is a fulfilling and rewarding experience, especially considering you will have the freedom to make improvements to the property. Home improvement projects like finishing a basement or remodeling the kitchen are great ways to increase the value of the house, while also improving your own quality of life.
While there are countless improvements and renovations homeowners tackle purely out of personal interest, there are also plenty of projects that need your attention for upkeep purposes.
Whether you’re planning an improvement project for value increase, personal desire, or maintenance, the costs can quickly climb into thousands of dollars. It’s very common for unexpected roadblocks to arise that will further increase the overall cost, but they must be dealt with in order to move forward.
Before planning your next home improvement project, consider these hidden costs and potential prerequisites to ensure your project proceeds as smoothly as possible.
Table of Contents
1. Removing Mold
When you first start your home improvement project, something you might encounter is mold. All too often, homeowners come across various forms of mold when getting to the structural level of a home.
Mold is caused by unresolved moisture such as persistent leaks or unventilated humidity. Finding the source of your water damage can be tough, but the most common areas where mold grows within a house are the bathroom, basement, and attic, but it can also occur in any walls or flooring with trapped moisture.
If you notice your foundation walls stay wet after a rainy day or cracks begin to form in the paint of the bathroom walls after steamy showers, you’re going to have a mold problem.
The reason mold is so problematic and a potential roadblock for home improvement projects is that mold can cause a variety of health issues. Mold continuously releases microscopic spores into the air in order to reproduce. Inhaling those spores can provoke minor symptoms at first, but can lead to more severe health problems with consistent exposure.
One of the more dangerous types of mold that are easy to identify is black mold. Black mold is more dangerous than other molds because it targets the lungs more aggressively, is undetectable via air sampling, and tends to grow in more hidden locations like behind walls.
If mold is eliminated early on, it won’t cause much of a delay in your project timeline. However, mold that has been developing for months or years will have spread so aggressively that it becomes too much for a homeowner to handle safely. The materials that the mold has grown on like drywall, for example, will deteriorate over time and release excessive amounts of spores during the renovation process.
Attempting to self-remediate the mold without the proper knowledge is unsafe; proper remediation requires protective face gear, gloves, and ventilation to prevent spores from entering your body or finding a new home.
In the case that mold has spread, this will further delay your home renovation project, as now instead of just starting the project, you will need to see what structural elements of the area need replacing, first. Completing a home renovation project over an area that was impacted by mold will only result in larger issues later on.
In this overwhelming situation, it’s best to call a professional mold specialist that is trained to handle the affected area safely. Unexpectedly having to hire a mold specialist can strain your project budget because larger-scale remediation can easily climb over $5,000.
A possible relief to this financial hurdle is if the mold specialists offer to finance their service meaning fewer upfront costs and making payments over time.
2. Encapsulating or Abating Asbestos
These days, most homeowners know if asbestos is still lingering somewhere in the household. If asbestos does exist in the area you’re looking to improve or maintain, the risks of exposure should not be taken lightly and it should be professionally handled first to ensure everyone’s safety.
Before we dive into different solutions for asbestos, let’s review why it’s in your home in the first place and how it could be hazardous to your health.
Asbestos is a group of minerals capable of withstanding very high temperatures. This benefit led to house building materials being manufactured with asbestos for decades. Asbestos was one of the top materials used throughout the early 1900s for insulation and other building materials.
Unfortunately, the widespread use of asbestos in building materials eventually turned into a nightmare for homeowners and contractors alike. It was later discovered that when asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) deteriorate or are broken down for construction purposes, they release microscopic fibers of the mineral.
Once these fibers become airborne, they can be inhaled which the body fights to remove for many years. The result is the potential for severe health issues such as asbestosis or mesothelioma cancer.
It’s clear why asbestos is a roadblock to home improvement projects and there are two solutions for moving forward—encapsulation or abatement.
Encapsulation involves coating the ACM in a sealant that preserves the material and prevents asbestos fibers from becoming airborne. Although this is a great solution for many cases, it is just delaying the inevitable, and in the future, you may need to completely remove the encapsulated material which drives the debate if encapsulation is even worth the investment.
The other option is a full abatement or removal of the ACMs, which is a lengthy and delicate task meant to be handled by a professional asbestos removal team. Even though the residents will likely need to vacate the property, the end result is no more asbestos worries in the affected area.
Unless the asbestos in your project area is already encapsulated, you’re looking at an additional cost to move forward with the project. The national average cost for asbestos removal is around $2,000, but of course, this estimate could be much higher or lower, depending on where you live.
What truly determines the bulk of your asbestos abatement costs is the size of the areas and the labor costs associated with completing the job. Abating a whole house exterior of asbestos siding is going to cost more than removing asbestos vinyl floor tiles in a small laundry room, due to the amount of labor time required. In order to get an accurate estimate of how much your asbestos solution will cost, contact an asbestos removal service.
Not only will they provide you with a cost estimate, but they can also test other materials for asbestos if you’re uncertain. One thing an uncertified homeowner should never do is attempt to remove asbestos themselves.
This is not only dangerous for the individual, but everyone else in the residence as well because the improperly handled asbestos fibers will move throughout the house for years to come. At the end of the day, safety is key when completing a home renovation project, even if it causes your budget to increase.
3. Replacing Wood Rot
Over time, the core wooden beams and joists of a structure can deteriorate from the influence of fungi, commonly known as wood rot. Although wood rot is caused by fungi which all fall under the same umbrella as mold, it acts with a different purpose than we reviewed previously.
The main objective of wood rot fungi is to eat different parts of the wood itself. This can be problematic for home improvement projects in moist areas like the bathroom, basement, and attic, especially when the project relies on the surrounding structures being in good condition.
There are three main types of wood rot: brown rot, white rot, and soft rot. Dry rot is capable of surviving in lower moisture levels than other types of wood rot. It is also known as brown rot from its effect of turning the wood into a much darker shade of brown.
Dust that falls from the affected pieces may signal the presence of dry rot. White rot’s appearance fits the name, for its easy to spot with its blatantly white coloring. Soft rot, otherwise known as wet rot, eats the wood from the inside out and forms a honeycomb-like appearance. This is one of the rarer and slower progressing forms of wood rot.
Wood rot is not typically hazardous to human health, which means self-removal is safe, but some areas will still require professional attention such as the joists of the household. In severe cases, the support beams and joists can lose so much integrity that the affected areas can begin to sag and eventually collapse.
Repairing or replacing rotted joists can cost in the range of a few hundred dollars per joist up to a couple of thousand dollars per joist, then multiply that by how many need to be replaced. Since wood rot thrives in hidden portions of the house, it could surprise you during projects like replacing siding or flooring where you won’t know until the protective layers are removed.
4. Eradicating Pests
One of the more unsettling roadblocks you could encounter is pests. If one of the many forms of household pests is nested within the project area, chances are you’ll need to act on a solution prior to moving forward.
It’s important to differentiate between smaller pests that won’t hinder your project, like a handful of basement spiders versus something more severe such as termites. Let’s dive into a few common household pests that will need to be addressed in order to progress with your project.
Although the organized work structure of ants is fascinating, finding carpenter ants in your home is a major concern. Carpenter ants target the wooden supports of a house and burrow tunnels throughout the beams. This can create major structural integrity problems as the wood becomes more hollow.
Carpenter ants seek out rotted wood and moisture for their nests, so staying on top of moisture in vulnerable areas is a first step in preventing them from finding your house appealing.
If carpenter ants feel their nest is disturbed or need to act defensive, they will bite humans and release an acidic spray on the bite further increasing the pain. Since carpenter ants burrow and nest in hidden areas, a professional pest remover is recommended to ensure all nests are destroyed as soon as possible.
Easily one of the most infamous household pests is cockroaches. Even though cockroaches are attracted to an unclean environment like rotting food, crumbs on the floor, and moist areas, you could discover some that are scoping out your property for a new home.
Cockroaches are very difficult to kill because of the complex exoskeleton that saves them from powerful squishes. More unique breeds of cockroaches have evolved and developed resistance to insecticides.
While they aren’t known to bite humans, their legs have thorn-like prongs that can scratch humans and provoke a bacterial infection. Given their resistance to over-the-counter products, a professional pest service is considered a must to eradicate cockroaches from your property.
Another determined wood destroyer is termites with a similar agenda to carpenter ants. A key difference between termites and carpenter ants is that termites actually consume the wood, whereas carpenter ants leave behind debris from their burrowing.
Since termites eat away at the structural wood, we run into the same problem as carpenter ants where the integrity of the beams and joists decreases. There are a handful of signs of termite damage and an infestation would need to be handled prior to moving forward with a home improvement project to ensure the upgrades are not eventually ruined.
The term rodents include a wide variety of small outdoor animals, but the most common three that want to share your house are rats, mice, and squirrels. Mice and rat’s behavior are very similar, they will chew through your walls along with what’s in your walls like wires or insulation.
Meanwhile, their next objective is to fill their bellies with whatever food they can find within the house and since rats have superior teeth, they can chew through most anything short of stainless steel. A squirrel’s behavior is similar but far more skittish with the main purpose being to nest in a sheltered area like the attic.
All rodents can become problematic when improving the attic, basement, or garage areas as they will continue to be destructive and make nests in newly built materials. In order to handle a rodent infestation, you can begin by using traps but make sure they’re placed in areas your household pets cannot access.
Mice are more likely to fall for a trap with their explorative behavior, whereas rats will be more difficult to trap because they are very cautious around anything new. If you have trouble finding the main nest or have spent weeks with traps, a call to an exterminator might be your next step.
Of all the pests we’ve covered so far, wasps are most likely to be a danger to the homeowners themselves. Wasps will burrow into different exterior areas of the house and attack nearby humans if they feel their hive is in danger. This is especially problematic when replacing siding, painting, or deck work.
Evaluate the exterior areas of your house for nests prior to an improvement project to avoid some nasty stings, especially if you’re allergic. Also, try to research the kind of wasps you’re dealing with ahead of time because some species are far more aggressive than others.
Thankfully, effective wasp and hornet removal products are sold over the counter, but you’ll need to assess the damage from the nest afterward.
Discovering pests during your home improvement project can be a frustrating experience but selecting an experienced pest control service will help turn things around. Hiring an annual pest controller for a routine inspection and preventative sprays usually costs between $500-$900, depending on the square footage of the property.
On the other hand, extermination services vary based on the pest and labor required with spiders on the lower end of $200 and termites with a higher price tag of $2000. Ultimately, the sooner the pest issue is discovered, the less labor is required to exterminate them and lower overall costs.
5. Purchasing Building Permits
Whenever you’re planning to make major renovations that could affect building codes, you’ll need to check with your local municipality to see if they require a building permit. Some of these larger changes include building an additional room, building a shed, updating the piping, etc., but the requirements for what projects need a permit largely vary with location.
In some cases, you may be required to provide more details about your exact building plans such as a blueprint before getting approval. Building permits usually start at $100 but can cost up to $2,000 depending on the location and project.
In order to get the best building permit estimate for your project, contact your local government ahead of time. Neglecting to do so and continuing with the project will result in heavy fines that can be compounded by factors like injuries, pollution, and portions not up to code.
Also, having portions of your property not up to local code can make the property more difficult to sell in the future, as certain types of mortgages require the property to be fully up to code. As much of a hassle building permits may be, following the local process will protect your property investments.
Home improvement projects are an exciting opportunity to increase the value of your house and even learn a bit along the way. You should always start a project with the mindset that something may go wrong or need materials you didn’t account for originally and plan extra time to handle surprises.
Along with handling material surprises, be sure to plan for hidden financial surprises as well because you never know what else could be lurking in your home that needs to be handled in order to move forward with your project. So load up your toolbelt, get inspired, and start planning your next home improvement project.