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Common Remodeling Problems That Pop Up During Renovations

Issues often pop up during kitchen, bathroom and whole home remodeling projects. According to Erin Carlyle for Houzz, one of the reasons homeowners exceed their budget is because “the project turned out to be more complex.” The U.S. Houzz & Home survey found that only 36% of homeowners met their remodeling project budget in 2020. Some of the most common remodeling problems include faulty plumbing, outdated electrical wiring, rotten wood, water damage and building code violations. Homeowners who choose to DIY their remodels rather than seeking the advice of a good contractor or renovation firm face these renovation headaches alone. Inexperienced DIY-ers might not be familiar with permitting, inspection and/or building code requirements. They might not know which materials to use or which safety gear to wear. A remodeling project that might have taken just a few weeks with professional help could drag on for months -- or even years. In addition to an extended timeline, lack of guidance could also mean increased home renovation costs. Some of the problems that arise during a remodel are minor and can be addressed by the homeowner. Others require the assistance of a licensed contractor, plumber or electrician. Homeowners who try to solve issues with their plumbing and/or electrical systems on their own could endanger themselves, their families and their friends. Working with a professional not only ensures a renovation project is safe but also that it is legal. In this post, we consider a few of the most common remodeling problems homeowners face. We also offer helpful tips to homeowners hoping to stay on budget and within their timeline.

Are Home Remodels Worth It?

Measuring CabinetsStudies have shown that remodeling projects often leave homeowners more satisfied with their properties than they were before the renovations. This is true even when homeowners struggle to stay on budget or overcome unexpected challenges. Marian McPherson explains in her article “Love it or list it? Survey finds most owners want to stay put after a remodel” for Inman. McPherson acknowledges that “home renovations are no easy task, often causing plenty of strife as homeowners [handle] unforeseen project hiccups.” However, McPherson writes that the “headaches and sleepless nights seem to be well worth it" as long as homeowners do not have unrealistic expectations.

Referencing the National Association of Realtors’ 2019 Remodeling Impact Report, McPherson elaborates. She notes that “74 percent of homeowners ‘have a greater desire’ to stay in their homes after a remodeling project.” Another 65% of those surveyed “said they experienced ‘increased enjoyment’ and 77 percent felt ‘a major sense of accomplishment.’”

Not only do renovations boost homeowner satisfaction by improving functionality, accessibility and aesthetic appeal. Many also increase property value, helping homeowners add to their equity and sell for more. Issues are bound to arise during the course of a home remodeling project. However, working with a design-build firm prevents these problems from blowing your budget, damaging your property or complicating a future sale. We explain this in further detail below.

Five Common Problems That Pop Up During Home Remodels

#1 Water Damage

Water damage in a wallFirst in our list of common issues encountered during home renovation projects is water damage. Unfortunately, water damage can occur for any number of reasons. More common in older homes, water seepage has the potential to derail your renovation project. It could also threaten the health of your home and its structural integrity. Pooja Khanna Tyagi explains in her article “What Are the Biggest Challenges in Renovating an Old House?” for Houzz.

Tyagi notes that water can seep in through poorly sealed windows and doors, “the roof, the walls and from leaky plumbing lines.” If various entry points were not sealed during the construction process – as in many old houses – water seepage is more likely to occur. Depending on your home’s building materials, water seepage could cause wood rot, pest infestations and the growth of either mold or mildew. Over time, a small leak could cause pipes to rust or the foundation to crack. Chances are, a professional remodeler will discover and fix these problems as they finish the basement, build an addition or remodel your bathroom.

#2 Faulty Electrical Wiring

Wiring messDiscovering problems with a home’s electrical system is also common during remodeling projects. Again, faulty wiring is more common in older homes than in new construction. Your home might have an over-wired panel with too many circuits, cheap aluminum wiring or ungrounded receptacles. Any of these problems could cause a house fire if left unaddressed.

Any issues with your home’s electrical system must be addressed during the remodel if they pose a safety hazard. Josh Garskof elaborates in his article “10 Electrical Wiring Problems Solved” for This Old House. According to Garskof, “code requires you to update wiring” in any rooms that are being “gut-renovated.” Having the good sense to work with a practiced remodeler and licensed electrician who are on the same page protects your family and property.


#3 Poor Workmanship During a Previous Renovation Project

If your home is a few decades old, chances are the previous owners conducted a couple renovations of their own. They might have done the work themselves or hired general contractors for the job. Either way, you and your remodeler could uncover some shoddy workmanship that must be fixed before your project may proceed. Chronicling their experience in an article for The Washington Post, homeowners Jay Timmons and Rick Olson explain.

According to Michele Lerner, Timmons and Olson suffered through a three-year renovation as unexpected issues popped up over and over again. The saga began when they happened upon “a burst pipe that had been installed by their first contractor” without proper installation. Olson tells Lerner that the resultant water damage “wiped out about one-third of the renovation that had already been completed.” This damage was so severe because “‘original contractors had not taken appropriate steps to protect the house when they took off the roof.’” Olson and Timmons were forced to move their young family into an apartment until the problem was resolved.

#4 Code Violations

Similar to the third problem on this list, building code violations could also delay progress on a home renovation project. Again, this is most common in older homes. Building materials and methods that were legal decades ago have since been outlawed due to health, safety and environmental concerns.

If present in your home, your remodeler will need to remove asbestos, lead and certain insulation materials before completing your project. They might also need to replace electrical wiring, plumbing and other items that were originally installed years ago with new appliances or systems. Working with a local design-build firm is especially important in these cases. This is because building code violations could muddy your property’s title and complicate a future sale.

#5 Outdated or Insufficient Plumbing

Outdated plumbingLast on our list of common remodeling problems is insufficient or outdated plumbing. Dena Landon notes which plumbing issues could pop up in her article “Good Bones or Money Pit? How to Buy the Right Older Home for You” for Homelight. According to Landon, owners of older homes might come across galvanized pipes, polybutylene pipes and old valves. Of course, age is not the only element that affects the condition of a home’s plumbing. Inclement weather – especially freezing temperatures – could also damage plumbing.

In addition to old valves, frozen fixtures and galvanized pipes, your plumbing system might not be sufficient for the new size of your home. Either way, you might need to replace or repair your home’s plumbing before proceeding. Landon notes that “it can cost an average of $2,500 to $15,000 to replace all of a home’s plumbing.” Working with the right contractor or remodeler ensures this part of your project is cost-effective.

Hiring a Professional Remodeler Makes Dealing with Unexpected Issues Easier

Professional remodelerWhether you are remodeling an investment property or your primary residence, working with a design-build remodeling firm is vital. In an article for Architectural Digest, Megan O'Neill identifies "not hiring a designer from the start" as one of "biggest design mistakes homeowners make." As O’Neill explains, remodelers have “experience with construction, materials, and sources” that keeps projects on track and within budget. They also have relationships with electricians, plumbers and other subcontractors with which homeowners simply cannot compete.

Because they have valuable working relationships with your remodeler, these subcontractors are more accountable. If the job is not done properly, the relationships these subcontractors have with your remodeler will suffer. In short, “good professional help is worth the money.”

The team at VanderBeken Remodel not only has decades of experience. Our team also has relationships with all the best local plumbers, electricians and other subcontractors. The experience, expertise and engagement of our team ensures each project leaps over every hurdle to protect the client’s timeline, budget and family.