Fees that could hit your home improvement budget

Paintbrushes and paint color cards

When you’re budgeting for your next home improvement project, don’t get caught off guard.

In addition to the basic material and labor costs you’re expecting, you may have to pay some or all of these fees, and they can add significantly to your bottom line.

Permits and inspections: Building permit fees can range from a minor nuisance to a prohibitive expense.

For example, many Orange County, Calif., businesses wishing to install roof-mounted solar panels face permit fees of more than $5,000, according to a Sierra Club survey. The Sierra Club states these fees exceed the reasonable costs associated with building inspections for solar panel projects, but some municipalities still haven’t budged.

Measuring: If you’re having anything installed that requires a measurement, such as flooring, cabinetry, doors, windows, blinds or decorative molding, some companies will charge a fee for this service.

It does take time for someone to drive out to your home and measure, and many installation projects require some level of measuring expertise to ensure a proper fit.

If the measuring fee seems reasonable, there’s no reason to be upset about paying it. Some companies will charge a measuring fee up front but deduct the cost from your final bill if you complete the project.

Delivery: Most of us have come to expect free shipping or delivery on just about everything from a $10 paperback to a $2,000 refrigerator. But any time you’re planning for a home upgrade, don’t assume that delivery will be free.

It definitely costs the manufacturer something to ship your new granite countertop and solid cherry cabinetry, so if you aren’t paying a separate delivery charge, assume it’s been built into the sticker price.

Environmental regulations: Because of an Environmental Protection Agency rule that went into effect in April 2010, “contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and schools built before 1978 must be certified and must follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.”

What does this mean for homeowners?

If you’re hiring someone else to work on your pre-1978 home, you may have to pay a fee to cover the contractor’s additional costs of complying with the regulations, such as installing vinyl sheeting around the work area when replacing a window. Regulations related to asbestos, energy efficiency and other issues can also add costs to your project.

Cleanup, haul away and disposal: These services are included in the price of many professional jobs, but they’re the type of thing you don’t think to ask about until you’re stuck with 2,000 square feet of old carpet and foam padding sitting on your front lawn. If you have to dispose of renovation trash yourself, you may have to pay to rent a dumpster or pay a disposal fee at the landfill.

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