Suukko knew about the mice, but didn't know how much damage they had caused, or how much additional time and money it would take to fix what they had done. Her mouse damage was a concealed condition a problem that came up in the middle of the project that caused her to spend more money than she had budgeted, just one hidden cost of remodeling.
When a contractor gives a bid for the work you want done, the estimate is based on your plans, your wish list and the existing conditions that can be see. He may suspect problems behind a wall but he can't be sure until he begins demolition, which means he can't tell you what the fix will cost until the problem is exposed.
Typically a concealed condition will be from damage caused by rodents, insects or water. Like Suukko who knew she had mice, keep an eye out for the signs left by small animals; droppings, chewed electrical wire under your stove top and even strange noises coming from inside the walls. Termites, carpenter ants and other insects that infest wood, more common in the south, will leave little piles of sawdust. And if you see a dead insect that looks strange, take that as a potential sign of trouble and call an exterminator before you start any new work.
Water damage, often accompanied by mold, mildew and rot can mean replacing the drywall behind your cabinets. In worst-case situations, rot can effect insulation in the stud cavities and even the wooden studs themselves. None of these things will necessarily be obvious when you talk price with a contractor or installer. So set aside a contingency fund to pay for them.
The cost of fixing these concealed problems is itemized in what contractors call a change order. This is a bill for work not included in the original bid, but must be done. Change orders list the costs for the extra materials needed and the additional time required to fix unforeseen problems. In Suukko's case the materials consisted of rolled aluminum applied over the drywall, the only material her contractor could think of that mice couldn't chew through.
Concealed conditions that pop up during a project are literally the hidden costs of remodeling. But they aren't the only ones. The costs of changing your mind once the project is underway can be significant. To reduce these additional costs, be sure to take the time during the planning stages to decide what you really want and then stick to your decisions. When you change your mind, you change the bid specifications and this will result in a change order bill from the contractor.
Another hidden cost is what you might have to pay to repair damage done by your contractor or installer elsewhere in your house or to your neighbors' property. A liability claim, because someone gets hurt as a result of something your contractor did or didn't do, can also be costly. Avoid this hidden cost by making sure whoever you hire is appropriately licensed and has paid-up insurance to cover accidental damage or injury.