How to Avoid the 5 Most Costly Home Improvement Disasters

November 28, 2016
Posted: Xpert Team
Categories: Blog


The joy of home improvements and the pride in doing it yourself are great when the job goes as planned and turns out just as you imagined.  Many times, through poor planning, lack of skill or tools, or inferior materials the job doesn’t turn out exactly as we imagined.  Stay clear of these obstacles or call the Xperts for your next home improvement project and get the job done right the first time.  Getting hurt or causing a flood or fire is a sure way to experience a home improvement disaster.  Here are some other overlooked items:


If you’re not sure if the improvement (or repair) requires a permit, call the town or County building department and ask; better still is to get it in writing from town officials.  Nothing is worse than having to tear down the improvement due to not having a permit.  To add insult to injury, you will likely have to get a demolishing permit and can be fined.  No one wants to waste hard work and the materials and have nothing to show for it.

Currituck County, NC Rules for Building Permits

The North Carolina State Building Code states, “No person, firm or corporation shall erect, construct, enlarge, install, alter, repair, move, improve, remove, convert or demolish any building, structure, or service system without first obtaining a permit for such from the inspections department having jurisdiction.” 

  • Single family dwellings 
  • Manufactured homes (modulars, mobile homes)
  • Additions 
  • Accessory structures (garages, carports, sheds, pools, hot tubs, piers, platforms, beach access ways, etc.)
  • Bulkheads
  • Chimney/Woodstove
  • Alterations in excess of $5,000 and/or any work classified as structural or load bearing

Dare County, NC General Rules for Building Permits:

  • All new construction requires a building permit. Any remodeling job over $15,000 in costs, affecting load-bearing walls or increasing the dimensional footprint also requires a permit.
  • Replacement of shingles on a roof does not require a building permit unless the plywood underneath the shingles also is being replaced.
  • Any plumbing, electrical or mechanical work requires a building permit regardless of the cost of the job.
  • Fences do not require a building permit unless they exceed 6′ in height.
  • Pre-constructed storage buildings do not require a building permit unless the size is over 12 x 12, in which case a permit must be obtained. Permits are required for storage buildings that are constructed on-site.


Removing a Load Bearing Wall

Before removing a wall, consult with an engineer or expert to determine if it is load bearing and if you need to add a supporting beam.  The wrong time to find out a wall is load bearing is after you have already demolished it and have no supporting structure.  This happened in my family home when I was growing up due to my Father listening to my Uncle.  Luckily, a beam was found and added with two posts before any structural failure occurred.

The roof structure and second floor structure of the home determines where load-bearing points are typically located.  Most exterior walls will bear some load of a house, while interior load-bearing walls are usually parallel to the roof ridge of the home, and tend to run perpendicular to the floor joists.  In addition, any wall, on all floors, directly above or parallel to a basement beam, should be considered by a layman as load bearing.  Stair well openings are usually load-bearing points.

If you are removing the wall, you also need to know what is behind the wall that also needs to be moved or re-routed.  The wrong time to plan for moving heat ducts, plumbing and electrical is after you have already removed the wall and are committed to the project.  Plan for all contingencies before beginning the project.  Relocating drains or other hidden items may make the project impractical.

Gutting Everything

Demolition can be fun and a way to exorcise some demons.  Don’t let the demo process get away from you if you are still living in the house.  Have a plan before you start.  Complete a single project before moving onto the next project.  Living in a gutted house without the budget to repair is a sure way to lose money and your mind.

If you are not living in the house and are completely remodeling the whole house, as in the case of severe flooding, then gutting everything may be necessary.  This can be a viable alternative to leveling the house and can save money at rebuilding by avoiding impact fees.  Just make sure the new design is compatible to the existing structure and that the existing structure is sound. This is a large under taking and will require the skills of experts somewhere during the course of the remodel.  Know your limits and get expert help where you have a shortage of skills.  Gutting versus leveling can save about $35k to $40k.

Too Trendy

Investing in a costly improvement for a trendy idea will be sure to disappoint when trends change.  Save trendy ideas and items to use as accents that can be easily changed as styles change.  Wall to wall carpeting in today’s hottest color is bound to be regrettable a year down the road when next year’s color rises to the top.  Instead, purchase pillows or accessories in a popular color and design permanent improvements with a neutral pallet in mind.

A friend recently purchased a 1970’s house complete with harvest gold shag and avocado appliances.  While things go out of style and rotate back in, my friend couldn’t live with the retro look and immediately starting upgrading with timeless improvements.  Flooring and appliances are some of the first things to go.

Not Going Green

Consider the cost of green and energy saving materials when you are planning your project.  Sometimes, even if the materials cost a bit more the savings payback over the life of the project make it less costly in the long run. 

From permits to home automation Xpert Home Services has you covered.  Before you embark on your next home improvement project, speak to the Xperts or call 252-226-9742 to get the job done safely, professionally and at the best cost.  After all, your home should reflect your style, your loves and your life and be authentically you; but that doesn’t mean you have to DIY.