A gut renovation is a great way to get exactly what you want when you buy a home. But such a big project can be daunting. Here are some curveballs to expect when you do a gut renovation. 

While it’s great to buy a home that’s move-in ready, there’s also a lot to love about buying a fixer-upper and rebuilding it to fit your style and lifestyle. The idea of gutting a house is daunting, but as long as you expect the unexpected when it comes to costs and timelines, you have the right attitude to see a project this big through. With a realistic budget, preparation, and a lot of patience, a gut renovation will be worth it when you get your custom home designed specifically for you. Here are nine things you should be ready for so you don’t end up with too many surprises along the way.

1. Outdated wiring

The electricity is one of the most important systems in your house. Not only is faulty wiring a safety and fire hazard, it can increase your electric bill and cause power outages. A lot of older homes still have outdated knob-and-tube wires or asbestos insulation. These need to be replaced by a professional, and can be expensive. Keep in mind that electrical work is never a place to cut corners or try to DIY unless you’re a trained professional. 
Rewiring Average Cost*: $3,200 – $7,600

2. Outdated plumbing

9 unexpected costs when you do a gut renovation
Plumbing is up there with wiring when it comes to the most important parts of your home. If the house is old enough that you had to rewire it, chances are the plumbing will need to be replaced as well. While faulty plumbing is less of a safety issue than wiring, blocked or leaky pipes will quickly spiral into a massive, costly issue. And old piping can leach toxic chemicals into your drinking water, which is a safety issue. 

Repiping Average Cost: $3,100 – $5,500

3. Mold

Once you start tearing into the walls, hidden issues like mold will surface, so it’s smart to always wear a mask with a respirator when you start doing demolition work. Depending on the type of mold and how severe it’s become, it can just be a nuisance or a serious health hazard. 
Mold Remediation Average Cost: $15 – $30 per sq.ft.

4. Old or missing insulation

What you don’t find can be just as surprising as what you do find when you do a gut renovation. Some older homes simply weren’t insulated when they were built and you’ll need to insulate them from scratch. On the other hand, if the insulation is old or—worst case scenario—made from asbestos, you’ll need to pay for it to be professionally removed. Depending on the type of insulation you want to add (spray foam, radiant, blown-in, etc.) the cost will vary. 
Insulation Average Cost: $1.50 – $3 per sq.ft. (not counting insulation removal)
Asbestos Insulation Removal Average Cost: $20 – $65 per sq.ft.

5. Getting the new house up to code

Building codes are constantly evolving, and you’ll need to make sure your renovations adhere to the latest codes in your area. Ensuring that your construction is up to code might mean spending more than you expected on some of your upgrades. 
Average Cost: Varies

6. Permitting

You need to file all your construction plans and blueprints with your city or county and apply for permits before you begin any work. This especially applies if you’re making any changes to the electrical, plumbing, or anything structural.
Construction Permit Average Cost: 0.5% – 2% of total construction cost

7. Inspections

At different phases of your project, you’ll need to ensure that the work was done right and everything is up to code. This requires an inspector to come and look at the existing work and give the green light that the next phase can continue. Skipping this important step can mean having to tear down and redo work, so make sure you know when your city or county requires these inspections to happen and adhere to them. 
Home Inspection Average Cost: $325

8. Waste removal

9 unexpected costs when you do a gut renovation
You’ll undoubtedly have a lot of building material debris when you gut a house. Bulk waste can’t simply go out with your normal trash. Depending on the size of your project, you may need to rent a dumpster, hire a waste removal service, or just haul trash to a landfill yourself. Depending on which option you choose, the cost will vary.

Average Cost: Varies

9. Alternate housing

A big part of gutting a house is living in a construction zone for weeks or months at a time. You can choose to renovate the house in phases so you always have a dedicated living area. Alternately, you can gut the entire place and find a short-term rental until at least one area is livable. Either way, there will be logistical issues, such as ordering food when you don’t have a working kitchen, finding alternatives if you work from home, and possibly staying in a hotel for several nights when the noise and dust are too overwhelming.
Average Cost: Varies
*Average cost data from HomeGuide.com. Costs based on a 2,000-sq.ft. house unless otherwise specified.

Elizabeth Yun
Liz has been a writer and editor for over 15 years. Over the course of her career she has covered real estate, tech, health and wellness, and fitness for a variety of print and digital publications. Her writing has appeared in Men's Journal, Everyday Health, Muscle & Fitness, and HuffPost. She spends the majority of her free time rock climbing, making ceramics, experimenting with new cuisines, and exploring the outdoors.

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