Hidden Costs of a DIY Home Remodel

A man ready to do a home renovation whispering to you about the secret costs of a DIY home remodel.

Gloves? Check. Safety goggles? Check. Hammer hanging off of your carpenter jeans? Check. You’re ready to fulfill your HGTV dreams and dive into a much-needed DIY home remodel project. You’re going DIY with this because A) it will save on the cost, and B) you’ll have fun doing it. You’ve carefully budgeted for your project, finalized your plan, and now it’s time to get this renovation party started! But a few hammer swings in and…that doesn’t look right…uh oh…

Even the most cautious and experienced home DIY remodel aficionados can be taken by surprise! Home renovations often reveal unexpected issues that have lurked out of sight for years. Even when literally hidden issues aren’t the problem, logistical considerations or a domino effect of necessary supporting repairs can take a chomp out of your remodeling budget and completely demolish your plans.

Ahead is a list of renovation roadblocks that might catch you by surprise:



Demo day is the best part! Wailing on walls with a hammer! Drop-kicking drop ceiling panels! You can take out your remodeling anxieties and frustrations on that hideous wallpaper that wasn’t even cool in 1995. But don’t get wrapped up in the excitement. When the dust settles, all of that junk has to go somewhere. Chances are you’re going to have much more than a few trash bags full of waste, and city ordinances place limitations on what can be picked up at your curbside. Debris removal can get complicated – involving large dumpster rental, time, and disposal fees.

Your costs will vary depending on how much of the clean-up you do yourself and the volume of material that needs to be dumped. This might be one step where hiring outside help is worth the expense (especially given that professionals will know the ins and outs of any particular dumping regulations in your area).



This depends a bit on the age of your house and the reliability of its builders. However, there is a good chance that you will run into an issue where modern home-building standards clash with what was acceptable when your house was constructed. These issues must be addressed for both legal and safety reasons. Common culprits are: electrical issues (which – for safety reasons – should always be handled by a licensed professional), notching or framing issues, especially around HVAC, ventilation of bathrooms and appliances, improper support of pipes and plumbing, missing or inadequate handrails (usually more of a problem in older homes), and weakened flashing around windows. As skilled as you might be, some of these code violations – particularly electrical and plumbing – will require some outside help, which negates the savings you expect from doing a DIY home remodel in the first place!

Code problems can take a chomp out of your budget, but ultimately, you gain the peace of mind knowing that your home is safer and that you won’t be facing any possible fines or future complications should you choose to sell your home. Handing this off to a professional might not have been in the plan, but it’s the best route and allows you to focus your efforts on the remodeling steps you are equipped (and excited!) to do.



If you’re in an older home, you may find yourself dealing with asbestos or lead issues. These common materials were discovered to be extremely hazardous to human health, and while removal and remediation has been taking place for decades, many buildings – especially older homes – are still contaminated. Rental properties in Cleveland, especially, are still rife with lead issues, but owners of individual homes should be diligent as well.

Solving a lead or asbestos problem requires hiring a specialty service and will cost you time as well as money. It may cut into your budget, so set aside funds for it ahead of time. It’s a necessary step that will also buy you some peace of mind in regard to your health.



Water is, unfortunately, one of those easy-to-miss and insistent problems that can derail your DIY progress. In some cases, you’ll know where the problem areas are (such as roof leaks that reveal themselves as messy ceiling stains). In other cases, water damage might take you completely by surprise. The extent of hidden water damage can vary a great deal. You might lose an hour or so replacing a bit of ceiling – or could face an extensive clean-up. Regardless of how expensive and involved the repairs are, eliminating the leak is the most important step – even if it pushes your timetable back. For water damage without an obvious source, it might be time to call on a plumber or roofing expert to lock down the leak and prevent you from having to make the same repairs twice.



This problem can accompany water damage, exacerbating an already derailed renovation. Besides being unsightly and unpleasant, mold spores can be a health concern – causing allergic reactions and nose/throat irritation – or even pose an infection risk to vulnerable family members. Mold is a problem you can handle yourself – though it often seeps inside walls and can require days of work. If you find it, you’ll need to remove damaged materials, kill the mold, clean the affected area, and repair sections of your home. Fortunately, cleaning items are pretty cheap, (water, detergent, and a bit of bleach), and safety materials aren’t an enormous chunk of your DIY home remodel budget, but it’s at least one more trip to the hardware store…



This is a similar complication to those raised by mold, water damage, and dangerous building materials. Opening up a wall or dealing with rafters offers an array of problems, and pest damage might be the most vexing. Small mammals and rodents making a mess and chewing or clawing at your home are bothersome but aren’t going to derail your project. Termites, on the other hand, might require more support than just an exterminator. If left unchecked, a termite infestation could be responsible for extensive damage that might even put your home’s stability in jeopardy. Take a termite threat seriously and have your home evaluated by a professional.



If you are looking at an extensive renovation, or if any of the complications we’ve highlighted above rear their ugly heads – chances are your home is going to look more like a construction site than a living space for a while. That’s hardly the ideal place to relax, recover, and clean up after a hard day of DIY! Extensive renos and days of remediation or hazard removal can force you, your family, and any pets out of the house itself for multiple days. If you don’t have friends or family with the capacity to put you up, you’re looking at nights in a hotel, doggie days in a kennel, and, if your kitchen is inaccessible, a lot of eating out. While it’s likely not a long-term inconvenience, those extra little costs will add up, so consider the possibility and be sure to budget for them!



Experts suggest tacking on 30% more than the estimated cost of the renovation to account for surprises. That’s sufficient for most renovations, but there’s always a chance you will hit a major snag – like any one of the snafus we’ve highlighted here or some other hidden home menace.

That’s where a home equity loan can save the day! If your renovation runs into trouble, or you just want the financial flexibility to make your HGTV fantasy into a reality without compromising on your vision, a home equity loan can empower you to chase your DIY dream.

As always, credit unions offer great rates on home equity loans and will sometimes highlight promotions. If you’re looking to start a DIY home remodel right now, FFCCU will pitch in a $100 home improvement gift card* once you get your loan. Get a head start on a home renovation that will, hopefully, not reveal any unexpected expenses!


*Terms and conditions apply. Promotion ends August 31, 2023.