Updated: Mar 29
The thought of remodeling your house is always exciting. However, a large scale home renovation project is almost guaranteed to come loaded with tons of challenges.
In this article, we'll take a deep dive into the 14 problems you're likely to run into during your next home renovation project in the San Francisco Bay Area. We'll even discuss what you can do to avoid them.
Fortunately for you, we've run into all of these issues and learned from them the hard way. Thanks to our hands-on experience, we can speak with confidence on this topic.
Reasons To Do A Home Renovation
Before signing up for a home renovation project, it's essential to understand your goals. Your goals play a significant role in how your renovation project will play out. Below are the three
common reasons you may decide to renovate your house.
Upgrade Your Living Space
You may be embarking on a home renovation project to upgrade your living space for yourself. In this case, you won't be tied to some of the constraints if you were renovating to sell the property or rent it out to a long term tenant.
Sell For A Higher Price
Completing upgrades before selling your house is a great way to increase its market value. It's critical to choose updates that will add the most value in the shortest amount of time. You also need to make sure severe issues a professional inspector would call out are fixed.
Conversion Into A Rental Property
Turning a home into a rental property is a great way to earn extra income and build equity. Depending on the market your house is located in, rental properties usually do not need as high-end materials as a house you're renovating to sell.
You can generally spend less money on renovating a house to turn into a rental property. For example, when selling a house, you may need to replace the roof if it's nearing the end of its useful life, and the buyer requests it.
When renovating a house to turn it into a rental, as long as the roof is safe and isn't leaking, potential renters probably won't care. Eventually, you'll have to replace the roof, but you can postpone it until absolutely necessary.
Most Important Rooms To Renovate
Some home renovations add more value to your property than others. If you're tied to a budget (and who isn't?), be sure to put your money where it's most valuable.
Kitchens are one of the most functionally utilized parts of the house. In no other room do we cook epic meals, wash dishes, cut fruit trays for summer get-togethers, you get it. The kitchen is an area that brings families and friends together.
Most buyers or renters will put a lot of weight on the look, feel, size, and functionality of the kitchen. Some upgrades you may want to consider are:
Install a new appliance package if the current appliances are out of date.
Upgrade to modern countertops. Granite is always welcome if you can find a great deal.
Consider replacing the floors to a beautiful tile if they are old and outdated.
Replace or refinish the cabinets.
Add a garbage disposal if you don't already have one. Disposals make life a little easier.
A simple backsplash always helps to make a kitchen look that much fancier.
Kitchen renovation costs can add up quickly, so pick and choose which items will best help your kitchen shine.
Bathrooms are the next most important area you want to tackle. We spend a lot of time in the bathroom, and it's crucial you, your buyer or renter feel comfortable in it.
Some recommended upgrades include:
Replacing the shower and tub if they are old and dingy.
Please, replace the toilets at least!
Upgrade to a modern tile flooring.
Install a new modern vanity, sink, and mirror.
New lighting fixtures are always welcome.
Bathroom remodels can also add up quickly, but should run you less than a kitchen remodel.
The Problems You'll Face During Renovations
Every home renovation project will run into roadblocks. Below, we'll talk about 14 problems you're likely to run into during your project and what steps you can take to avoid them.
1. Cost Overruns
Oh boy, I could go on and on about how often renovations cost more than expected. Seeing how all of our projects to date have wound up costing between $30,000 and $40,000 more than initially estimated.
If you have no experience in home remodeling, you're almost guaranteed to spend more than expected. And that's okay. You simply may not understand how much it costs to complete particular renovation tasks.
Before getting started, there are a few things you can do to help your project stay on budget.
Thoroughly review your renovation plan and document every little thing you plan on doing.
Do not bulk tasks into one large item. For example: "Kitchen Remodel."
Break everything down into small, bite-sized tasks. For example: "Replace upper and lower kitchen cabinets. Replace the kitchen sink. Replace kitchen lighting fixtures with 16 inch LED track lights."
Plan out every single item you plan on purchasing along with its price so you can get an estimated total material cost.
If you're hiring a contractor, make sure you get EVERYTHING signed and in writing! And I mean everything. The start date, the end date, the cost of labor broken down as we discussed above, and outline any penalties or bonuses for finishing on time or late.
It will help you a great deal with estimating material costs to spend a few hours at Lowe's or home depot. Take time to familiarize yourself with your options and price points for what you want to purchase.
Write down the SKU and price of everything you want to buy and install and pass the list on to your contractor.
Contractors may underbid a job upfront, then say they ran into unforeseen issues while working.
Here's an example of how underbidding would work.
You ask the contractor to bid the cost of installing the kitchen floor tile.
The contractor quotes you at $1,000
The contractor starts working, but mid-project tells you it's going to cost an extra $500 for whatever the reason.
You now end up paying a total of $1,500 Instead of the original bid of $1,000.
Contractors may use this tactic to win an initial bid if they know you have other contractors looking at the job.
The best way we've found to avoid this is to learn the construction costs in your area, so you know how much a fair bid is. Then lock your numbers into a contract with a preset amount of contingency. 10% - 20% contingency should keep you safe.
It's okay time give contractors wiggle room, but not too much!
2. Severe Delays
Have you heard the story about how one of our home remodeling projects was supposed to take 8 weeks, but it wound up taking a year and a half? No? It goes something like this:
One of our home remodeling projects was supposed to take 8 weeks, but it wound up taking a year and a half. If you think I'm joking or exaggerating, I'm not.
Long story short. Everything on this list happened to us, and I can now share this article, so the same thing doesn't happen to you.
To prevent delays, you really have to be on top of your contractor. Make sure you clearly define the expected completion date and get it signed and in writing. Hold your contractor accountable by applying a financial penalty if they miss the deadline within a certain grace period.
You should also put in the contract that you have the right to hire a new contractor of your choice to finish the job if they fail to complete the job on time.
It's also imperative to pre-plan the project as accurately as possible. The more organized you are, the better.
3. Contractors Not Showing Up On Time
As I'm sure you can see, a lot of these issues have to do with contractors. It's not uncommon for contractors to come rolling in late to the job.
Listen, we all run a little late sometimes, and there's no harm in that, but I'm talking about chronic tardiness. The type of delays where you're supposed to be onsite at 9:00, but you don't get there until 11:30 am.
We've seen this level of chronic lateness on at least one of our projects. Our contractor had bought a new business, which led to them putting us on the back burner.
What can you do in this situation? First, have a talk to see if you can rectify the problem. Hopefully, they will start coming in on time, but if not, you have to let them go.
As long as you've included in your contract that it can be canceled on the grounds of excessive lateness, you should be within your rights.
Find someone else to complete the job and keep moving forward.
4. Contractors Outright Quitting Mid Job
Yup, more contractor related problems. Although it may happen, a contractor quitting mid-job is rare. Either way, you should be prepared for it.
All you can really do here is have a few contractors on backup you can call right away to finish the job.
It's always good to have multiple contractors lined up in case you run into one of the issues we've discussed so far. Trust me, having a backup will save you a lot of headaches and will give you peace of mind.
5. Extra Materials Will Be Needed
I can promise you with 99.9% certainty you will spend more on materials than you expect.
Thought you needed 10 pieces of sheetrock? You'll need 20.
The vanity you wanted is $250? After you buy it, you'll find out it's the wrong size, and you need the $500 one.
Thought you could use the stainless steel appliances you already have? Think again! They will all stop working mid-project.
I'm not saying the above situations are guaranteed to happen as written, but something along those lines almost certainly will.
The best way to combat going over budget on materials is to really nail down your pre-planning. Take as much time as you need to document everything you anticipate buying for the renovations entirely.
Don't just say, "We're replacing the kitchen cabinets."
You need to say, "We're replacing the top and bottom kitchen cabinets with all-new 36-inch and 24-inch cabinets. A 38-inch sink basin, one lazy Suzan, and 24 new pieces of hardware."
8 36 inch cabinets at $50 each
8 24 inch cabinets at $45 each
1 Lazy Susan at $75
1 38 inch sink basin at $100
24 silver hardware pieces at $2.50 each
Then total it out. The more granular you get with your material costs, the better.
Last but not least, make sure you add a contingency to your material total. You should add at least 10%. If your total estimated material cost is $1,000, add a 10% contingency and say your total material cost will be $1,100.
You always want to give yourself some extra room because you will need it.
6. The Weather Won't Cooperate
Luckily, the weather isn't too much of a problem in the Bay Area. We're blessed with beautiful weather 8 - 9 months out of the year. However, if you're planning a home renovation during the winter months, you'll have to battle the elements.
Fridged temperatures can get in the way of exterior work.
Heatwaves in the summer can prevent exterior work.
Rain can prevent you from doing exterior work, like painting and landscaping.
Cold weather can affect how quickly interior paint and sheetrock mud drys.
Winter months typically provide the most disruptions due to weather.
7. Deliveries Will Be Wrong or Delayed
One time we ordered granite kitchen countertops that were supposed to be delivered and installed. The whole process was supposed to take 6 weeks.
Believe it or not, we got a phone call about how the truck delivering our countertops was involved in an accident. Of course, our countertops were among the few that broke.
We had to wait for weeks for our countertops to be re-cut and delivered.
When you're purchasing a lot of materials, you're bound to have logistical issues come up.
Be prepared by staying organized and double-checking your material pickups and deliveries.
8. Dealing With Codes And Inspections
When renovating a house, you're going to have to deal with the city codes department when taking on specific tasks.
You don't need to pull permits if you want to do a simple paint job or swap out some vanities, but you will need them for more significant upgrades.
Structural and functional renovations are likely to need a permit. Every municipality is different and has its own rules. We recommend playing it safe. You can call up your local codes department and ask what you need permits for.
The codes department is responsible for granting you permits and making sure all the work you do is up to the current code.
The city wants to make sure everything is done right. Tearing out and replacing electrical and plumbing systems is no joke. If done incorrectly, lives could be put at risk.
Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do to prevent delays with the codes department. They will move at their own speed.
The best you can do is:
Schedule your inspections as soon as you're ready for them.
Make sure all work meets local codes, or they will tell you to fix it, and you'll have to schedule another inspection.
Budget in extra time if holidays are coming up. The codes department will probably be closed.
Don't stress out about having to work with the city. Remember, they are there to make sure everything is completed correctly and safely.
9. Remodeling One Thing Will Break Something Else
This one is frustrating, but it'll come up, so be prepared. During your renovation project, you'll run into a situation where you go to remodel something, and it breaks something else.
An example of this is when we went to remove a small, 6-inch wall jutting out between the master bathroom shower and toilet. After we removed the wall, we found out there was an air duct running through it.
Having to reroute this air duct was the first unforeseen issue on the project that jacked up our cost.
Another example is when we wanted to replace a gross basement toilet. This should have been a piece of cake, but nope, it was a massive headache. After we removed it, we found out the plumbing was incorrect and would not support the new toilet.
Now we had to buy and install a new toilet in addition to some expensive plumbing.
Sadly, there really isn't much you can do about this type of problem, and that's why we budget in at least 10% contingency to the total project cost.
10. Fearful Buyers
After completing a remodel, you must be sure to save all of your receipts, invoices, and documentation received for the project. By documentation, I'm referring to documents that show proof of passed city inspections.
When buyers see a house has been remodeled, their first instinct is going to be:
"What work was done, and was it done correctly?"
Can you blame them?
Potential buyers may ask for proof that all work was done up to code. By saving all your invoices and documentation, you'll be able to put their minds at ease.
11. Materials You've Used Will Go Out of Stock
Oh boy, believe it or not, this can happen to you. You'll buy a bunch of tiles at the beginning of the project only to find out two months later you need ten more pieces. You run down to Lowe's only to find out the tile you're using has been discontinued.
What do you do?
Thankfully, as long as you're using a relatively popular material, you probably won't run into this. Stocking issues are rare unless you've bought something off a clearance rack or at a going out of business type sale.
If you think there's a chance you'll never see the material you're buying in stock again, be sure to purchase a little extra. You'll thank yourself later if you run into this situation.
12. Unforeseen Repairs Come Up During Demo
Unforeseen issues coming up during demo ties into paragraph 9. The demo stage is the first part of any home remodeling project. It's the process of clearing out the old and making room for the new.
An excellent example of this is a contractor quoting the cost to redo all the drywall. However, after removing the drywall, they find there has been some water damage that needs to be repaired.
Guess what, either you leave the water damage as-is (Not recommended), or you pay the contractor to fix it.
Mitigating unforeseen issues is another hard task to avoid. Some times you just have to get into the thick of it before a problem rears its head. Again, that's why we always add at least a 10% contingency to the total cost of our project.
The best shot you have at avoiding unforeseen issues is by hiring a professional inspector to come out and review the property. An inspector will point out every single possible issue they can find and provide you with a thorough report of things that need attention.
13. Over Renovating (If Selling Or Renting)
Over renovating your property is easy to do and can cost you a great deal of money. If you're doing home renovations to upgrade your lifestyle, but still plan on living in the home, then this doesn't apply to you.
If you're doing renovations to sell or rent the property, this 100% applies to you. Before starting your project, take a look at properties in your area that have recently sold.
Comps, as they're formally known, will show you what properties are selling for, renting for, and what amenities and finishes they have.
For example, let's say you want to sell your house after the renovations are complete. You go online and see that your neighbor's house sold last week for $250,000 and had all new kitchen cabinets, granite countertops, and black appliances.
Then you see another house a few doors down that had the same style kitchen with black appliances and sold for the same price.
Based on the comps, you know you can buy mid-tier black kitchen appliances instead of the more expensive stainless steel appliances and save some money.
The same principle holds true for all other aspects of your house.
Should you do a custom tile shower, or is an insert okay?
Should you do granite or Formica countertops?
Should you do tile flooring or laminate?
Instead of throwing the most expensive items in your house and hoping for the best, look at what comparable properties in your neighborhood are doing and follow suit.
14. Not Getting A Signed Contract If Using Contractors
We've spoken a lot about contractors in this article, and we've got one more thing to say about them.
Please, please, please, make sure you get everything signed and in writing. Every little detail needs to be:
And signed by all of the controlling parties in the renovation project
Having a signed contract will prevent all kinds of disputes. Or it will, at the very least, give you the power to pull out of your signed agreement and hire someone else if necessary.
There will be no disputes on price
No arguments on completion dates
No debates on if you have to charge a late penalty
Well, I shouldn't say disputes won't arise, but when they do, just point to the signed contract.
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Hopefully, you got a lot of useful information out of this article. You should be able to handle a whole home renovation project now with much more confidence.
Or, have you realized how much work a large scale remodeling project is and would prepare not to dive into one?
That's okay, it's tough work, and we understand that better than anyone here at Contenza Properties.
If you are considering a home renovation project to sell your house, but have decided it's too much work, you should Contact Contenza.
We're local Bay Area home buyers based in Union City, California, so we buy houses in any condition throughout the Bay Area for cash or terms.
We'll never ask you to do any:
Or pay any fees
Ready to get an offer you'll love? Submit your info below using our simple form to get started.
About the Author
Jordan Reid founded Contenza Properties in April of 2018 to help homeowners solve their real estate problems quickly.
Since then, Jordan has helped multiple homeowners facing difficult situations such as divorce, property liens, and unwanted property inheritance.
Jordan believes in putting people first, and numbers second, which helps him reach the best possible solutions for the homeowners he works with.