Some remodeling projects in your Seattle-area home may seem simple on the surface, but you’ll want to make sure you’re not simply covering up bigger problems that will surface later.

Share story

Q: Is it worth spending much less to update our home’s aesthetic, or is it best to go all in to update and fix some of the major issues we’ve been avoiding?

A: One of the more common reasons homeowners give for wanting to remodel is that they just don’t like how something looks. And while that’s an absolutely valid reason for remodeling, the sad truth is that sometimes what they see isn’t as bad as what lies below the surface.

We’ve all seen images of icebergs and know the truth behind those pictures: What’s below the surface is a bigger problem than what’s visible above!

When it comes to remodeling and renovation projects, that truth is unfortunately played out over and over. It’s one reason why remodeling projects sometimes go over the initial estimate.

It’s not always a simple financial issue. Focusing on something as simple as the deck surface is easy. But maybe your deck requires something more than merely a new coat of stain. For instance, you may have a board or two that feels “soft.” Or maybe there’s a squeak that drives you crazy. You might be tempted to just remove existing deck boards and replace the ones that are bothering you. But will that solve the problem? It could be that you need to repair a damaged joist.

And what about that deck railing that wobbles a bit? Is it something a few screws can tighten up, or is there a more significant structural issue at play? And by the way: Will you need a permit to undertake the repairs you have in mind?

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that every little issue is hiding some dangerous problem. But safety (and your enjoyment of your home) is something you need to take seriously. And if you live in an older home, you can face additional challenges due to changes in building codes and increased wear and tear on materials. A qualified professional can review your situation and advise you as to whether you need significant repairs — or if a simple and inexpensive fix will take care of your issues.

You don’t have to live your life looking for “icebergs” hidden beneath the surface of your home. But it’s good to have a professional remodeler in your corner who knows whether you’re facing a real iceberg or just an ice cube that can be easily dealt with.

Brooks Powell is the general manager of  Powell Homes and Renovations and a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, and HomeWork is the MBA’s weekly column. If you have a home  improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBA’s more than 2,800 members, write to