3 unexpected expenses that rocked our home budget

Written by: Nicola Brown
August 3, 2021
3 unexpected expenses that rocked our home budget

After a year-and-a-half of searching and losing out in bidding wars, getting the keys to our new home felt like winning the lottery—minus the seeing our life's savings go towards a down payment and getting set for regular mortgage payments, of course.

We knew there’d be work to do on the house. It’s 120 years old and it’s got good bones, but nobody buys an old house expecting never to have to fix something. Or a lot of somethings.

While we had the expected expenses of needing to update the kitchen, re-stain the deck, and get a backup battery for the sump pump planned out, there were plenty of unexpected expenses that stretched our budget dangerously thin.

REPLACING THE ROOF

According to the home inspection before we bought the house, the roof was described as being in OK condition. We assumed we could probably get another 5 years out of it at least. But when the roofers came to do the neighbour’s house and got a close look at ours, the story changed significantly. In fact, our roof needed replacing immediately. It was well beyond the end of its life with missing shingles and bare wood clearly visible. Not good!

Now we’ve taken out the drywall and some of the insulation on the third floor, the full extent of the roof’s condition is dire. It is peppered with small holes where rainwater is leaking in and we can see that no waterproofing was laid underneath the shingles. They’re just sitting directly on top of the wooden planks. It’s a disaster, to put it succinctly. We now have roofers lined up to fix it in the next two weeks.

We knew before we bought never to trust a home inspection provided by a buyer, but the sheer level of negligence by these so-called inspectors was surprising even to us.

Cost to replace the roof: $11,000 + tax

RE-ROUTING THE PLUMBING

A few years before we bought the house, the previous owners renovated the basement, lowering it to make a decent head height and putting in a sump pump and backflow valve to prevent flooding in a rather flood-prone area. Sounds great, right? 

Had we not decided to do a renovation on the house shortly after we bought, we never would have discovered that the toilet in the basement had been plumbed in on the wrong side of the backflow valve, rendering it completely useless. It means that city sewage could have overflowed through the toilet, flooding the basement in the event of a stormwater backup. 

Needless to say, we had no choice but to dig a giant trench through the concrete floor and into the utility room to get the waste pipe on the right side of the backflow valve.

Even when appearances suggest that a new home has been updated properly, you can never be sure of how the work was done and whether or not it was done right. This is why I always advise people never to buy a house that’s been flipped to sell.

Cost to re-route the plumbing: $3,000 + tax

REPLACING MAIN WASTE STACK

We should have seen this one coming. When we opened up the kitchen wall just below the second floor bathroom we discovered a veritable antique: a cast iron main waste stack running the full height of the house from the basement up through the top of the roof.

It’s 120 years old and the average lifespan of cast iron pipes is 75-100 years. So needless to say it was completely rusted through and it’s actually a miracle it hadn’t completely ruptured yet, sending you-know-what all over the place.

We chose PVC, a type of plastic, to replace the cast iron. This option is cheaper, durable, and easier to install than cast iron. 

Cost to replace the main waste stack: $3,000 + tax

We learned that even when you think you’ve done your due diligence and accounted for all the costs you might have in owning a new home, you should always budget more for unexpected expenses and emergencies that arise along the way.

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