Remodel Series: Part 2 | Scope Creep

This is the second in a series of posts intended to shed light on the often mysterious (and seldom exposed) process of remodeling a home. My wife and I recently bought a place in my hometown, Mercer Island, and we’re in the middle of our project now! I hope these posts will prove useful to anyone considering a remodel of similar scale and will lend insight into the challenges and decisions we’ve faced during our project.

You can get the background and read the first post here!

This is the first admonition you get from anyone who has remodeled a home: it will take twice as long and cost twice as much as you expect. And they’re right. As we discussed our project goals in more detail and began demolition, the project’s scope started to grow. I originally assumed that our budget would safely accommodate things like:

  • Interior doors (previously old, hollow core doors)
  • New light fixtures
  • Tankless water heater
  • 10 new windows
  • Repairing a cracked ridge beam in the attic
  • Gas fireplace insert
  • Garage door
  • Landscaping
  • Driveway
  • Sand / stain back deck

Diving into specifics with our contractor revealed a number of items that I assumed were minor (and cheap). But nothing is minor (or cheap) when you’re remodeling an old home. And once you begin demo, you learn about the unseen, un-sexy areas of your home that need attention, time and money.

Demo exposed a few costly issues:

  • Structural concerns in the attic (ridge beam was worse than anticipated) and in the load-bearing wall in the kitchen
  • Poor electrical wiring throughout the house
  • Undersized plumbing to both bathrooms

The same week, the electricians discovered that the electrical panel would need replacement and, while repairing the cracked ridge beam in the attic, the contractors ended up creating a 10-foot crack in our old roof!

That same week I walked up to the house while plumbers were there and found much of our old plumbing sitting on the front lawn by the garbage container. It turned out, there was hardly any system in the home worth keeping.

The good news was that we finally got to see the space opened up! You have to use your imagination, of course.


Once we learned about the unsafe systems in the home and identified some unforeseen issues following demolition, we had to make some trade-offs. To make room in our budget for these important repairs, we eliminated exterior work from the project (driveway, garage door, deck, etc.) and decided to push those to a future phase two. This allows us to move into a finished house and know we won’t have to do any more work inside the home.

And then the garage door broke…

In the next post, I’ll be talking about the exciting world of cabinets!