A Gut Job Is A Good Job

The definition of “remodeling” is truly a spectrum, from making minor touch-ups to tearing down walls. Often, the budget will drive the degree of the renovation, as will the necessity of the situation. However, starting with a gut job is always the best first step for the best results. Creating this blank canvas is crucial to building perfection. A total gut may seem extreme, especially if your house is not “that old,” but it is worth it. Let me tell you why!

Gut for Electrical

Inevitably, a remodel will include some electrical upgrades. However, you may think those upgrades involve only swapping out a few fixtures. When renovating, it is the best time to assess the bones of the electrical and take advantage of the opportunity to update the outdated. But what exactly do I mean by “outdated?” It goes way beyond knob and tube, trust me.

The age of your electrical plays a massive factor in its condition. Poorly insulated, frayed wires must be updated once discovered by Harris Renovations. Under no circumstances will we marry new electrical to dangerous, exposed electrical – we are liable at that point. The wiring can become exposed for numerous reasons, whether gnawed by mice, damaged by mishappened nails, or simple age disintegration. The image below is a perfect example of frayed, deteriorated wire discovered during a gut job.

Still Talking About Electrical

Depending on the age of your home, your electrical may be aluminum wiring, not copper. Many homes built in the 1960s and ’70s and some in the ’90s are wired with aluminum. The industry considers aluminum wiring a safety hazard because wiring connections are prone to loosen over time due to the propensity for the material to expand and contract.

Here are some good questions to ask yourself when assessing the need to update the electrical in your house:

  1. Do breakers trip regularly?
  2. Do you ever feel tingling when you touch a wall switch, appliance, or receptacle?
  3. Are there lights that dim or flicker? This may only happen when you run the dishwasher or washing machine.
  4. Is there a burning smell from a particular appliance or in a specific room?
  5. Do you have any discolored outlets/switch plates or any that are warm to the touch?
  6. Do you have ungrounded outlets in your house? These would be outlets that only accept two-prong plugs.
  7. Is there a lack of GFCI outlets in the kitchen and bathrooms?
  8. Was your house built more than forty years ago?

More Reasons to Gut for Electrical!

Let’s talk about the electric panel. Yikes! If your electric panel is 100-amp, you probably do not have enough amperage to power your home. Harris Renovations works with the best electrician to advise and upgrade electric panels. This upgrade is necessary simply due to the technology of today’s appliances and devices. Our culture consumes more energy, and a 100-amp panel will be overworked, resulting in tripped breakers, flickering lights, and potentially worse.

In addition to the technical aspects, you must consider the design side of the electrical matter. If you are renovating a kitchen, I can guarantee we will add recessed lights to your space and additional outlets over your counter. Your bathroom will likely have a recessed light and an outlet or two or more. It is common for us to squeeze in additional electrical work while the walls are open. Oh, how homeowners love additional outlets.

How do these conditions justify a gut job? Can’t these updates be made without removing all the drywall? We have made these updates without gutting the room and regretted it every time. The time and labor spent cutting only sections of the drywall, crawling back and forth through attic spaces (assuming there is an attic space), tediously fishing wire, and patching the drywall back together are worth it. Had we done a gut job from the beginning, the project would have gone faster, been less expensive, and looked better.

With the walls and ceiling completely open, Harris Renovations runs every wire new. Every box is placed in the exact location it should be. No old wires are left behind. The rough-in electrical is seamless, ensuring the finish electrical will be flawless.

Gut for Plumbing

Nearly every home is filled with CPVC plumbing destined for cracking and deterioration. Harris Renovations stays current with best practices, upgrading our clients to PEX, new shut-off valves, and other state-of-the-art plumbing. With a gut job, these updates can happen.

Plumbing upgrades are particularly crucial in a bathroom remodel. Without gutting, major pipes are stuck in the walls that should be replaced. Because we are huge proponents of Delta fixtures, we only use Delta Universal Valves. We must get behind the wall to place these valves. Doing so gives you the best showering experience in your new bathroom.

Likewise, a kitchen requires the same attention to its plumbing. Drains to the kitchen faucet always need extensive rebuilding, which involves access behind the walls and under the floors.

Updating the plumbing in a remodel without doing a gut job is like trying to plumb without using your hands.

Gut to Uncover Damage

Damage lurking behind your walls and under your flooring is nothing you want to believe exists. But ignoring potential problems is never a good idea. In a gut job, we have uncovered damage from termites, rodents, and water rot.

And, yes, we have uncovered a stash of razor blades.

A renovation is the time to gut and start with a blank canvas. If you do not ensure you’re starting on a perfect canvas, you may paint a beautiful picture on a very unstable background. Do you want to set your new tub on a subfloor that may be hiding a leak? A leak that will only soften and ruin the new tub’s subfloor in a year or two. Are you ready to install your new custom wood cabinets along a wall that may be housing termites? Termites that will only make their way into your new wood cabinets.

We caught the damage just in time in this bay window below. Their custom bench would have been lunch for the termites that had done all this damage to the interior of their walls.

Gut to Replace Insulation

Really? Tear out all my walls and ceiling to re-insulate? Yes. Mind you, you’re tackling all these other benefits, but this positive cannot be overlooked! Everyone knows that the insulation in their home is crucial to the cost of utility bills and the comfort of the home’s temperature. Do not assume that your insulation is good, regardless of age.

Have you ever had a leaky window? Those drafty, leaky windows – what a pain! But you’ve replaced those with energy-efficient windows, right? Guess what? The whole time they were leaking, the insulation below those windows was probably getting wet and completely ruined. Truth.

That blown-in insulation in your attic… how deep is it? Is it equivalent to R-30? Do you have 2×6 exterior walls with R-13 insulation between the studs? That would be a no-no. Do you know-know? Even if you had all these bases covered at one time, when was that? Updating insulation during a renovation is just intelligent. And it is one of the least expensive portions of the whole project!

Gut… Because You Never Know

We have seen and repaired our fair share of work performed by subpar contractors. As “young” as your home may be, you do not know the quality of work put into constructing your home. Sadly, the most expensive houses are often built by the lowest-bidding subcontractors. It’s been jaw-dropping to see million-dollar homes built in exclusive subdivisions barely built above track-home standards.

Do you know if an experienced general contractor built your home? Many homes are built with the homeowner acting as the general contractor. Harris Renovations fully respects every homeowner’s right to build their own home, but we encourage that homeowner to have construction knowledge and experience before embarking on that journey. If you don’t know the history of your home’s construction, then a gut job is definitely a good idea.

Even if the original contractor did a fantastic job, what have previous homeowner’s done since? Please! Give me a brick wall to bang my head on for every homeowner who has called me because they have already started their remodel and just need our “help” for one thing. I am genuinely as polite as possible when I explain to them that we do not work in conjunction with the homeowner. Why? Because they are not trained contractors. If they were, they wouldn’t be calling us. They would be our competitors.

Here’s some work of a homeowner who REALLY thought they could wire up their vanity light fixture…

You should not trust the work of ANY tweaking or modification a homeowner has done. So what if Mr. Previous-Resident changed one outlet? Right? Wrong! Are the hot and neutral wires reversed? Is the ground connected? Or did he even bother including a ground to be connected? Multiply that by the number of outlets he changed. Hmmm. Multiply that by ALL the projects they took on in the house. Double-hmmm. Yes, I’ll have a gut job, please!

What Does Your Gut Tell You?

I encourage you to assess your investment and the results you want. Think about the space and what purpose you want it to serve. Is it worth skipping the gut and doing a band-aid job? Is it worth missing the chance to make the bones of the room right? Do you want to repeat this remodel in a few years because damage went unchecked? I am willing to bet the logical answer to all these questions is no.

If you’re still not sure, call me. I am happy to discuss your concerns and schedule an initial appointment. I can’t wait to hear from you!


Picture of Wendy Harris

Wendy Harris

Wendy Harris thrives on greasing the wheels that make the engine run. She loves all things customer service and lives for the logistics of business. Though she may never swing a hammer, she is passionate about every project that Harris Renovations takes on. She considers her clients to be her friends, and she believes this industry is personal. If it is important to the client, then it is important to her.

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