Demolition, amount of work, a home’s condition, and alternate living arrangements all affect gut renovation costs

A home during a gut renovation with walls removed and foundation exposed

Gutting a home requires a different level of owner commitment than a smaller renovation project. Here, Sweeten provides some guidance on points to consider when planning a major project like this.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

What is a gut renovation?

Gut renovating a home is more than an extensive remodel. It means taking the walls down to the studs, removing existing interior doors and trim, cabinets, sinks, and exposing the structure of the home. It often includes replacing windows and exterior doors, the roof, and replacing most or all plumbing and electrical. Gutting also involves removing materials before you remodel.

Calculating gut renovation costs

Sweeten provides city-specific renovation cost guides, but keep in mind that material costs and timelines have shifted. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, prices for materials and labor have jumped, drastically in some cases and in some locales. Subsequently, it’s a good idea to add 20% to the materials budget and talk with your contractor about timing, materials, and budget.

Pro tip: Do not wait. The pandemic has caused a backlog in the supply of materials in many sectors. For homeowners interested in renovating, it’s smart to schedule and sign with a contractor to lock in your material prices. You’ll also want to book a start date on the contractor’s schedule. If you do wait, prices will probably continue to go up and your material order will be at the back of a long queue.

The project scope: Must-haves & Nice-to-haves

When making a gut renovation budget, it’s important to create a list of “must-haves.” These are elements that are definitely required for the project. Afterward, make a second wishlist of “nice-to-haves.” This includes all of the changes you’d like to see but may be willing to forgo as you consider your budget.

It’s also crucial to be realistic about the condition of your home, as gut renovation costs can vary considerably by the condition of the structure. Updating the mechanical systems like the electrical panel and old plumbing can range from straightforward in a dated foursquare to challenging in a home located in a historic district.

What are the existing conditions of the home?

Ask your contractor about worst-case scenarios given your home’s age and history. Consider the budget contingency that will give you peace of mind when your project kicks off. Your contractor can’t price out every possible surprise, but you should feel confident that you have a partner who will help you problem-solve when challenges come up.

Homeowners undertaking serious gut remodels should build in an extra cash reserve for issues that come up along the way. This definitely includes issues that come up once the walls are broken into! In this case, add more than 15% into your budget for a gut remodel.

The most expensive rooms to gut renovate

Bathrooms contain the most plumbing and fixtures per square foot. Because of this, they tend to be the most expensive spaces in the house per square foot. Kitchens are next-most expensive, followed by the other living spaces.

Should you leave or stay during a renovation?

Yet another important factor: deciding where you’ll live during the project. Nearly anything is possible, so you probably can remain in the house during the project. However, staying elsewhere is preferable for most people because you’ll almost certainly have to deal with surprises. You might see a need for structural reinforcement, or you’ll come across mold or asbestos, and decide then that you should reside elsewhere for a while. Also, if you do choose to stay during the project, you’ll need to make sure that you’re legally allowed to do so, too. Your city’s building department is the place to inquire.

Just remember that if you decide to stay in the home during the project to save money, you’ll still incur costs, and they could be substantial. Financial costs include delaying the project because you (or your things) are in the way. Non-financial costs could include a strain on daily family routines such as finding alternatives for when a kitchen or shower is being renovated. All those can result in financial costs, too.

Your contractor will guide you through the cost for permits and regulations associated with your project, such as placing dumpsters. If your home is in a homeowner’s association, they will also have requirements you’ll need to meet.

Demolition & Gut renovation costs

The demolition part of gutting a home is mostly labor and disposal costs, so it’s not really that expensive. However, removing plumbing pipes and drains and so on takes time. Outsourcing the demo or doing it as a DIY project doesn’t really save much money. For safety and hazard concerns, Sweeten recommends leaving demolition to the professionals.

Note: that moving walls is not included in these costs. Moving load-bearing walls requires consulting with a structural engineer, and that could be $500—$1,000. Whenever you change walls around, you’ll need to build temporary support walls, so there’s another cost to add!

Also, you may discover hazards like asbestos, lead paint, and mold. If you do, a pro will evaluate how extensive the problem is. These hazards are not DIY-friendly. In some places, you’re not legally permitted to deal with these dangerous materials, especially asbestos, which can only be handled by a professional.

The general contractor and subcontractors

Managing an extensive construction project like a gut renovation is challenging. As such, you’ll benefit greatly from working with an experienced general contractor. A general contractor (GC) usually has steady and long-standing connections to many subcontractors, so communication often goes smoothly. They will orchestrate and schedule architects, engineers, plumbers, electricians, and other skilled labor.

rchitects and gut renovations

Architects specialize in bringing ideas to fruition, and they must communicate with homeowners at a high level. An architect must have a crystal-clear vision of how to transform the current home into the space you dream of. Getting the input of the architect as early in the process as possible will be invaluable in helping you mentally walk through the steps in advance. Fortunately, Many Sweeten design-build firms have in-house architectural services. Also, some Sweeten contractors can refer an architect if the project needs one.

Starting a gut renovation

Gut renovating a home is a major project. Having an understanding of the process with the guidance of the right general contractor and team sets you on a path for a smoother renovation. And a step closer to your dream home.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten

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