Homebuying 10 Hidden Costs of Renovating Your Home

Last year, home renovations increased 73%, resulting in improved living spaces—and a lot of sticker shock.

By Alisa Wolfson Illustration: Franziska
PUBLISHED 09/25/2023 | 6 MINUTES

Unfortunately, renovations are often accompanied by hidden costs that many homeowners don’t take into account—especially now. “Home remodeling and construction work is in very high demand, meaning the project may well take longer and cost more than was originally projected,” says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate. We talked to experts to find out what the most common—and costly—surprises are and how to work around them.

Upgrading Your Electrical Panel

Often, existing electrical panels don’t have enough space or amps to handle modern technology, experts say, though many homeowners don’t realize this. “To upgrade, it could cost you $6,000 to $8,000 for a larger panel that could accommodate something like pool equipment, outdoor heaters or additional technology and televisions,” says Tracey Price, owner of American Growers Company, a landscape design and construction firm based in Los Angeles.


Building permits for projects like simple kitchen and bathroom remodels can cost upwards of $3,000 and beyond depending on your area, according to Angi, a contractor platform. And that doesn’t include any of the actual work being done—that’s just the cost of applying for a permit to be able to begin demolition and a remodel.

Moving Walls

Anytime you open the walls of an old home, you may not like what you find, explains realtor and developer Chris Feil of The Feil Group. “Next thing you know, that simple wall renovation becomes a whole team in beekeeper suits doing asbestos removal,” says Feil. 

Updating Gas Lines

When remodeling, your contractor may find that your gas line is not up to snuff. “Many post-war construction-era homes have existing steel gas lines. These pipes have now rotted and rusted, meaning a switch to the corrugated, stainless-steel tubing is in order,” says Price. This switch can cost anywhere between $15,000 and $50,000, depending on the length of run.

Verifying Property Lines

Hire a good and trusted home inspector if you’re looking to do heavy renovations, says licensed real estate broker Pej Barlavi. “Be prepared to pay more and get a full inspection done that will include identifying property lines to determine if yours or another property is encroaching on another property or vice versa. The cost of correcting this if there is a structure that needs to be removed or fixed can be very costly,” says Barlavi. While inspection prices vary greatly from state to state, Barlavi says the average inspection runs about $400, and to do a very detailed one that includes plot lines and encroachments can run between $1,000 and $1,500.

Repairing Sewer Lines

“Many older homes have well-established trees with roots that have invaded their sewer mains,” says Price—something that a contractor may find during a remodel. “Our goal is to save the tree, reroute the sewer connection and prevent the intrusion from happening again.” But this operation requires extensive trenching and root barriers to guide the roots away from crucial plumbing. And the cost to replace the main can range between $10,000 and $12,000, according to Price.

Making Old Match New

“You want to redo the kitchen but the new flooring in the kitchen doesn’t match the flooring in the living room. Pretty soon you’re replacing all the floors. Then you notice you replaced the kitchen window, but it doesn’t match the rest of the windows, and before you know it, your house is gutted, and that $50,000 kitchen renovation is now looking more like $250,000,” says Feil.

Sleeping or Dining Elsewhere

Some renovations are so loud, dusty and messy that you have to stay somewhere else for a night or more, says NerdWallet’s mortgage expert Holden Lewis. “A professional might be able to sand and refinish your wood floors in a day or two, but the dust and fumes would give you a headache. You’ll be better off staying elsewhere, and a kitchen renovation, for example, might result in a few days of having to dine out,” says Lewis.

COVID-19 Related Surcharge and Timing Issues

“With materials being more expensive, delays in shipping due to COVID-19 and busy contractors, add another 20% to 30% to the price the contractor gives you as a projected buffer. Issues will always come up that cost more and extend the project, so try to factor that in beforehand,” says Feil.


When you remodel a home, your old decor might not do. “Be sure to factor in shipping and assembly costs, especially for larger furniture items. If you’re not handy, outsourcing assembly help to TaskRabbit or a handyman can start to add up if you’re doing a whole room or house,” says interior designer Erin Fetherston. Other things to think about, says Fetherston, are hidden items required for functionality like rug pads, connectors for sectionals, foot pads for furniture legs and installation costs for electrical— “especially if you want to add wall sconces or overhead fixtures where wiring doesn’t exist,” adds Fetherston.

Millie content is licensed from Dotdash Meredith, publisher of Millie, Real Simple, InStyle, Investopedia, The Balance and more.

Alisa Wolfson is a freelance writer whose work has been published by Marketwatch, Business Insider, the New York Post and more. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two daughters and their rescue dog, Gus.


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