10 Renovations That Could Turn Your Home into a Money Pit

Written By
Paul Tracy
Updated January 16, 2021

The Wall Street Journal and others have reported that homeowners can expect to pay four times the purchase price in repairs, renovations and remodels over 30 years of ownership. Many of the luxury items coveted by homeowners end up costing them even more in the long run. Aside from the actual cost of these special amenities, there are legacy costs to consider, such as upkeep and repairs.

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So whether you're gearing up to buy a house or are just remodeling, taking a few minutes to calculate the lifelong costs of some of these amenities could end up saving you from costly maintenance down the road.
 

Skylights

While skylights offer natural light that can help cut down on utilities, they're notorious for one big problem: They leak. The flashing around the skylight can become damaged, corroded or can be poorly installed from the get-go. This can lead to unwanted water finding its way into your home, damaging ceilings, insulation, wiring and drywall.

If you're looking to purchase a home, your best bet is to have a certified inspector take a close look at the fixture for any gaps or corrosion. If there are any issues with the skylight -- such as old tar commonly used as a patch or insufficient flashing for an improper seal -- now's the time to request the repairs be made at the expense of the sellers. If you go ahead with the home purchase, be sure to inspect the unit every year or so to ensure the flashing tightly interlocks with the roof shingles. Fill any gaps that may have developed with minimally expanding foam for a quick and easy seal.

Flat Roofs

Modern homes may be a hot commodity in urban areas, but the flat roofs inherent in their design can be a nightmare to maintain. One thing you need to be careful of with this type of roof is debris that can clog drains and run-off pathways. Over time, trapped water can find its way into your home, damaging your ceiling, walls and possibly the structural integrity of your roof.

Clearing your gutters and run-off pathways is the easiest way to prevent any debris from collecting on your roof. Additionally, take a quick peek up top after a heavy rain to see if any water has collected. If there is standing water, now's a good time to investigate the cause. If your drains are free and clear, yet you still find standing water, you may have a structural flaw that requires a quality contractor to repair.
 

Swimming Pool

Sure, a swimming pool sounds nice, but when you factor in the true ownership costs, the limited time frame for enjoyment and the high cost of repairs, a trip to your local community pool begins to sound better and better.

Pools typically add around 7% to the price of a home, but you can end up spending thousands of dollars per year just to maintain it. When you factor in the cost of filling it up with water, chemicals, filtration, repairs and pool service, the drawbacks can quickly outweigh the benefits.

And don't forget the cost of having all of your friends over to your house every weekend to partake in your hard work -- being the "party place" can be a drain on your budget, household and peace of mind.
 

Outdoor Kitchen

One of the biggest benefits of having an outdoor kitchen is also its biggest drawback. Environmental factors can wreak havoc on outdoor appliances and cabinetry, and pests and rodents can suddenly set up shop in your storage areas.

Make sure you use materials appropriate for your region. Direct exposure to sunlight can quickly heat up your countertops, eventually leading to cracks and discoloration. Any sink material other than stainless steel is at risk of corrosion, so be sure this is the material of choice in your new outdoor property.

Also, be sure to disconnect any water lines in the winter to eliminate your risk of frozen lines or busted pipes. In most areas, electrical lines must be buried separately from gas lines according to building code, make sure your home inspection ensures that all aspects of the build and design are up to code -- because once you sign the papers, the responsibility is on you.
 

Wall-to-Wall Carpeting

While the general lifespan of carpet is eight to 10 years, it's oftentimes much shorter than that depending on the color and quality. Pets, kids, everyday wear and tear and sloppy party guests can accelerate your carpet's decline. And the cost to replace can run you hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the size of your home and your preference for quality.

What's more, several studies show that carpeting can be a stigma to allergies and asthma because it harbors airborne particles, allergens and dirt. If you're prone to allergies or suffer from asthma, area rugs might be the better way to go.

Plus, when it comes time to sell your home, the color and style of your carpet can be subjective -- the prospective buyers might not share your preference for carpet and could request you have it all removed. Getting rid of your carpeting and restoring the flooring beneath might be the best investment.
 

Square Footage

Oftentimes, a bigger house can mean bigger expenses. From increased utilities to extra furnishings, you're looking at expenses that go way beyond the bonus of simply having extra space to spread your wings.

Before you buy, ask your realtor for utility approximations or histories to get an idea of what you can expect to pay for heat and air conditioning in peak seasons. Also keep in mind that if you don't have the furniture to furnish a four bedroom, maybe a two bedroom is all you need right now to accommodate your household.

Manicured Lawn

The cost of a beautifully manicured lawn is more than just the price of installation; it takes money, water and manpower to keep up these good looks. From pests to fungus, pet waste to drought, there are a whole host of evils waiting to destroy your hard work.

Make sure you have the know-how and the interest to maintain the current level of your yard. And if you have no desire to do the dirty work, make sure you have the pockets to pay someone who does.
 

Decks

The problem with decks is as soon as they're completed, deterioration begins to set in. After two years, even a brand new deck can start to look tired. This means deck owners have to be diligent about applying sealants, cleaning and removing debris, and applying fresh coats of paint, if applicable.

If your schedule doesn't allow you to perform these maintenance chores yourself, you're looking at a cost to hire someone else to do the work. Keep these factors in mind when shopping for a house with an elaborate outdoor floor plan.
 

Elaborate Bathrooms

It's true that an upgraded bathroom is a major selling point for a home, but there are a couple of things to consider when looking at a house with extra-special amenities.

First off, keep in mind the cost of repairs. Italian tile and top-of-the-line fixtures are nice, but are you committed to maintaining the look and feel if something should break? One of the most common bathroom repairs is grout failure, where water eventually penetrates the grout and finds its way into the tile backing. This can cause tiles to loosen and fall. Or worse, allow water to leak into the structural foundation of the shower. Hidden leaks can lead to mold growth and wood rot. Your best form of prevention is to seal your grout every six months or so.

Second, if the rest of the house doesn't match the style or design level of the bathroom, you need to do some price checking on what it would take to upgrade the rest of the house to follow suit. If you're looking at a small fortune to remodel, you might want to re-think your decision to buy this particular house.
 

Floor-to-Ceiling Windows

While floor-to-ceiling windows can make a small room feel bigger, they're not without a few major drawbacks. The added sunlight can make the room feel like a greenhouse, potentially wreaking havoc on your utility bill. Plus, the additional light can fade furnishings and leave uneven sun streaks on furniture and rugs.

If window coverings or tinting aren't included with the house, you'll be well-served to look into the cost of covering those oversized openings and deducting that expense from your offer. The last thing you'll want are unwanted UV rays -- or voyeuristic neighbors -- creeping into your personal space.

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