Murphy's Law: What (Almost) Always Goes Wrong In Remodeling Projects

As a general contractor and project manager, I offer the following examples of common instances where things unexpectedly happen.

Posted by Laura Foster-Bobroff | Nov 17, 2011
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istock/Leah FriedbergRemodeling projects are a nightmare – at least that’s what most people think after completing one (or two) and dealing with a contractor. Poor workmanship issues aside, there are things that go wrong with even the most carefully organized and implemented projects.

The classic adage known as “Murphy’s Law” states, “Wahtever can go wrong, will go wrong.” It applies to nearly every renovation. As a general contractor and project manager, I offer the following examples of common instances where things unexpectedly happen.

If you’re replacing a sink or faucet, expect a leak.

Why? Shut off valves are infrequently used, sometimes for several years at a time, with the result being that the internal washers can shrink and become brittle. The valve is shut off to stop water flow while new plumbing is installed, but when it’s turned back on, the washer degrades and starts a slow leak. Left unchecked, it can become a larger problem. If it’s been years since you replaced a faucet, have the contractor change the valve for good measure. Valves are inexpensive and labor time minimal and it saves you from having to call a plumber later.    

If you expect things to fit correctly, they won’t.

Hard truth: wood-frame buildings are subject to movement due to temperature changes, so even in new construction, you won’t find a perfectly straight wall or floor. A reputable contractor aims for perfect, and then taps into expert skills to minimize gaps and hide inconsistencies with tricks of the trade. Keep in mind, new cabinets may not fit perfectly in place of the old, and appliances end up being a tad too big or small. It all adds up to last minute changes, extending completion time.  Veteran carpenter Kevin Stevens said on Hometalk, a social network dedicated to home improvement, "Plan for the unexpected.

Keep an open mind and be willing to adjust your plan when unexpected things come up...they will."

If you expect materials to be delivered on time and in top notch condition, think again.

Exhaust fans fail to work, appliances are dented or scratched, flooring is mismatched or shortchanged, or something has been backordered. Although many mishaps can be attributed to shoddy customer service, some delays can’t be avoided. Main distribution warehouses located in other states can be affected by weather conditions, delaying truck deliveries. Also, suppliers do not open every carton of flooring and are unaware of materials that are defective. Your contractor won’t know this either, until the order is dropped off at the job site. While you can’t account for every mishap, some solutions are simple: Purchase appliances from larger distributors who will have several models available for immediate exchange. Do business with distributors and suppliers with reasonable return policies and order excess material (lumber, flooring, building materials, etc.).  What your contractor doesn’t use can be returned. If there is a restocking fee, consider it a trade-off for the aggravation you’d otherwise experience.    

If you think you’ve hired the best contractor for miles around who will pull off your remodel without a hitch, expect trouble.

Not necessarily big trouble, but even the most conscientious contractors occasionally run into issues and risks increase exponentially depending upon the size and complexity of the renovation.

If you think your job will be finished on time, it won't be.

Finally, if you’ve timed the completion of your remodeling project prior to a major holiday, a backyard wedding or other special occasion, major delays will have you tearing your hair out trying to work around it. For all of the above reasons, anticipate these delays and minimize stress by scheduling your renovation project in advance, allowing extra time for “Murphy’s Law” to work its magic. 

Laura Foster-Bobroff is a Networx - - writer. Get home & garden ideas like this - - on

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