Craig Durosko is the founder of Sun Design, a design/build firm located in McLean and Burke, Va. He can be reached at

Part III: 25 Ways You Can Lose Money in Remodeling

Here are five more lessons I’ve learned from my 26 years in the remodeling business.

August 11, 2014
Craig Durosko, GMR, CR, CGP

As I transition through the phases of a remodeling project in this four-part article, there are a few things that rise to the top: not doing due diligence, missed details, and not having set clear expectations are often to blame for losing money on the job.

Here are five more lessons I’ve learned from my 26 years in the remodeling business.

13. Plumbing Verify which type of supply and drain lines are in the existing home. If the existing home has cast iron and copper, be clear on the material you will use in the remodel. Don’t assume converting to PVC or PEX is OK with the client. Adding a larger window above the kitchen sink? Don’t forget the cost of relocating the vent stack from the sink that is often next to the small window. If it is a bathroom project, have the designer provide a fixture layout for each wall in the bathroom. I have seen many bathrooms require tile removal because the valves were installed in the wrong place. Rerouting a toilet? Often, this is the most difficult project because of the 3-inch drain line required. You can’t just start drilling across 2x8 joists. Identify how the joists run in the existing house and how you are going to run the drain lines. I have replaced many joists because of a bad plan where a plumber has cut too much out of a joist. Don’t use a rag to plug a cut drain line, they can be lost down in the pipe and cost hundreds of dollars to snake out. Require rubber stops. Furniture style vanities are gaining popularity, but be aware if the plumbing will be exposed and if there is any expectation on which material the trap and supplies will be. Relocating drain lines in concrete? Be clear who is breaking up the concrete, and who is patching and removing debris. Working in an older house? Many have hot-water baseboard heat or radiators. These are often very expensive to modify and relocate. Be sure to include what needs to be done in your remodeled area.

14. Electrical Have a full electrical plan showing switch location, dimmers, etc. Verify demo of existing electrical is included. What about code requirements? Arc fault, GFI outlets, designated circuits, smoke detectors, upgrade of existing panels, and wiring of exiting appliances; verify all of these have been looked at by a licensed electrician. Which color are the switches and outlets, what is new, and are any of the existing devices in the remodeled space being replaced? Don’t forget: Low voltage fixtures are more expensive to install than line voltage because of the transformers. If the client is providing the fixtures, clearly state what is and isn’t included. Be sure to track and write change orders for any additional electrical requested by the client or required because of existing conditions or code requirements. Adding additional HVAC units? Be sure to allow for the electrical requirements for the indoor and outdoor units. Bath fans? Who is providing, installing, and venting? LED lighting is more expensive than incandescent, so be clear on the type of lights being installed.

15. Drywall Which areas require fire-code drywall? Adjacent and over garages, under stairwells, etc. Don’t forget the patching required in other areas of the house for the electrical or plumbing to get their runs to the remodeled areas. Removing drywall from a ceiling? Don’t forget the cost of the blown-in insulation in an attic; you will have to replace it.

16. Painting If you are not including paint, be sure to clarify who is filling the nail holes and caulking the trim. Be sure all the trim work, closets, shelving, etc., is included in the scope. How about priming and how many coats? What about dark colors or color changes on walls, usually an extra expense? Be clear if the client has not picked colors yet. Verify the painting includes touch-up after flooring and cabinet installation. Clarify if the floors will be installed prior to painting. Confirm all color choices with the client. What about nail pops in other areas of the house you did not remodel? Who is responsible?

17. Interior trim Double check the door orders—the swing, the door style, the jamb thickness, hinge color to match the door knobs, door stops, casing type, and the door material. Any pocket doors? Verify the sizes when replacing existing doors. Pocket doors can take three times as long to install than a swing door, so add additional labor for the installation. Make sure there is nothing that needs to be attached to the wall that contains the pocket door; towel bars, grab bars, shelving or installed light switches. Stain grade doors? Is the jamb stain or paint grade? Specify the style and get pricing on all the parts and installation of any handrails. Verify if there are any custom built-ins: who is supplying, installing, and finishing and if they are painted or stained. Be sure anything custom is detailed; detailed crown, detailed columns, etc. Specify if all the trims are standard “store bought” or custom. Stain grade trim? Which material was estimated? Estimating Poplar trims and having the carpenter order Cherry can ruin a budget quickly.

Next month, I will continue with a few more lessons learned. Do you have your own lessons to share from the jobsite? Add to the conversation at PR

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