Craig Durosko: Part II: 25 Ways You Can Lose Money in Remodeling

Continuing my theme from last month, here are five more lessons I’ve learned from my 26 years in the remodeling business.

May 28, 2014
Craig Durosko: Part II: 25 ways you can lose money in remodeling

Craig Durosko, GMR, CR, CGP

Remodeling has some unique challenges compared to new construction. For example, blending the old and new structure including the design, construction, and any defects of the existing structure along with the code changes required from when it was originally built. Then add the client’s expectations to each of these items. Don’t forget the client may want to live in the home while you remodel.

Continuing my theme from last month, here are five more lessons I’ve learned from my 26 years in the remodeling business.

8. Roofing, skylights, gutters, and downspouts Which type of flashing is to be used on the roof: copper or  black aluminum? Have the client confirm all the selections. Minimize any discrepancy on what was estimated and what the actual cost is by having the trade do the takeoff. Be clear on additional cost for rotted plywood. What size are the gutters and downspouts: standard or oversize? What color are they? Any leaf guards? Who is burying the drain lines or making the connections to the existing buried drains? Blending old and new? You can’t just extend seamless gutters; you will need to replace the entire run. Skylights? Who is providing the flashing? Does your roofer charge extra for the installation?

9. Doors and windows Matching existing windows? Double check the exterior color match if vinyl or pre-finished, and the exterior and interior trim details. Do the existing windows have grilles? Are the grilles between the glass true, divided lite, or are they snap in interior grilles? Do the existing windows have full or half screens? Clarify operation type and size. Review door swings. Thick walls? Don’t forget the extension jambs. Double-check the sizes for replacements. Check for code issues, including egress in basements, and tempered glass near showers, tubs, hallways, stairs, and adjacent doors. If you miss any of these items, you might be re-ordering them.

10. Decking With the introduction and demand for synthetic decking and railing products there is more room than ever to make costly mistakes. If using any synthetic products, verify each is code compliant in your area. See if your municipality will require additional engineering for the product. Even if the product is ICC approved, you may need to pay for a private engineer to specify and approve the attachment of the product. Print out the manufacturer guidelines and attach to the drawings. If there is any kind of warranty or failure, it is the first thing referenced and it ensures a good installation. Verify the framing is viable for the product; synthetic decking can’t span the same as wood. Have someone review your takeoff. If the rail sections run in excess of $100 and decking boards are $50, it does not take long to eat up any profit. How are you attaching the decking? Specify if you are using nails, screws, or hidden fasteners.

11. Siding and exterior trim Be clear on fascia, soffit, rake boards, vents, siding, house wrap, window trims, window flashings, and corner boards. Each area must be detailed, communicated to the installer, and agreed upon by the client. Be clear on matching versus similar to existing. Siding can fade over the years, how are you blending? We have removed siding from a garage to blend repairs to the back of a house and then re-sided the garage to make the repairs blend better. Bring that type of communication up early in the design. What is going to be wood trim versus synthetic? Is it primed or painted? Synthetic can be three times the initial cost of wood. Don’t forget the overhangs, porch ceilings, beam wraps, and columns in the estimate. Using a man-made product like Hardie Siding? Be sure the installation guidelines are followed and specified in the plans. Keep the clearances required or the warranty will be void.

12. HVAC Remodeling a kitchen? Don’t forget needing make-up air if the hood is over 400 cfm. How will the hood will be vented and how you will provide make-up air? Investigate HVAC supply lines when a demolition is required. I have seen supplies for a third floor run up the middle wall we wanted to demolish and we had to run a new trunk line. Do your homework up front. What about the bath fan ducting that is not to code? If you are replacing a bath fan, confirm the size of the duct and ensure it vents to the exterior of the home. See how you will vent to the exterior; some houses have slate or cedar roofing and you may want to go through an exterior wall instead. Will any temporary measures be needed? Don’t just close off the supply lines and returns in the remodeled area; you could cause damage to the unit and it could lead to frozen pipes in the wintertime. Remodeling a basement? Most of the unfinished basements won’t have return air vents and the supply vents may be cut in the main trunk line. Block off any vents cut into the trunk lines. Add supply ducts and run them to the exterior walls and add returns on all finished levels. Gas appliances? Be sure to add high/low vents to ventilate the room. Be sure to exclude any hidden code violations. We have opened up many ceilings to find a plumber—or someone acting like one—drilled holes or notched joists requiring engineering and replacing or adding braces to bring it up to code.

Do you have your own lessons learned from the jobsite? Add to the conversation at PR
Craig Durosko is the founder of Sun Design, a design/build firm located in McLean and Burke, Va. He can be reached at


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