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How Much Will My Remodeling Project Cost?

Posted on: February 10, 2015

It’s a simple question that we get asked everyday. “I just need a ballpark figure, can you give me a general idea” or “It’s just a small space, can you give me an estimate?” I understand where these people are coming from – they want to make sure they are not wasting their time by pursuing a project that is beyond their means or they want to feel us out to see how we compare to other options in the market. It’s not like we have published prices for how much our projects cost and people need to know what they should expect. I understand why the question gets asked.

Unfortunately, the answer is never as simple as folks want it to be. The honest truth is we don’t know. You may not like that answer but that is the reality. I wish it was more transparent and not so complicated. It would be quick and easy to guess at it or just use an average cost of our past projects even though the cost of an average project may not deliver the actual features you want or need in your project. These methods rarely provide insightful information.

Asking how much your remodeling project costs is like asking, “How much will a new car cost?” It could be $18,000 just as easily as $180,000. The answer depends on some key pieces of information – make, model, options, etc. A home remodeling project is no different – a kitchen remodeling project might cost $20,000 or $120,000. A bathroom might cost $15,000 or $115,000 (yes, that would be an AWESOME bathroom!). A new backyard could be $5,000 or $50,000. Before it can be budgeted with any degree of accuracy, a home remodeling project – like any construction project – must first be developed with consideration for the actual services, products and processes that are going to be necessary to execute the project in its entirety.

I am going to share how a home remodeling project gets developed below but first I want to share an undeniable truth that every consumer should know about home remodeling:

Anyone who tells you how much a project is going to cost without at least scratching the surface of the topics listed below is hypothesizing, or in layman’s terms, making sh*t up. Don’t listen to them!

Here are some examples why these “free estimates” should not be relied upon: (1) square foot multipliers, i.e. $120 per square foot to remodel a space, don’t work in remodeling, (2) costs for different project types published on websites like homeadvisor.com and angieslist.com are often inaccurate and misleading because they fail to consider factors like geographic region, size of the project, quality of finish materials and site conditions (3) just because most 40 square foot bathroom remodels cost between $12,000 and $18,000 doesn’t mean that the 40 square foot bathroom remodel you want will automatically fall in that range.

So how should you come up with a budget for a home remodeling project? Start by trying to answer a few key questions about your project:

  • What is the core scope of work? This is the work that will be required to accomplish the primary goals of the project. Will you be altering the layout of the home by removing walls? Do you need to upgrade systems like electrical, HVAC or plumbing? Or is this a cosmetic remodel where everything stays in the same place and just gets replaced with new items. How much demolition will be required and will the rest of the house need to be protected to ensure it isn’t damaged during the project? Will a dumpster or portable toilet be required during the project? If you are installing a swimming pool will you need to relocate your septic system? All of these costs eventually hit your bottom line so it’s best to account for them early in the process.
  • Beyond the core scope of work, are there optional upgrades that you might want to add to the project? These are items that are not required to complete the project but might add value to your home or just make you happy when you use them everyday. In a bathroom this could be a rainshower with body-spray jets, a free standing tub or a frameless shower enclosure. In a kitchen it might be a pull out rack in your pantry, an integrated panel for your dishwasher and fridge or a touchless faucet. In exterior project it might be an accent band of pavers around the perimeter of your property, a water feature or mature tree to create immediate shade.
  • Given the scope of work, what are the quantities and quality level of the finish product materials that you will need to purchase for the project? The big items like cabinets, appliances and the primary tile are usually easy (and fun) to figure out. What’s harder (and more mundane) to capture are the smaller things such as light switches, door knobs, tile trims, towel bars and baseboards. While the individual cost of those items may be small relative to the size of the project you can be sure they will cost more than $0 and they will add up fast. Once you have determined exactly what you need you can designate a budget for each item and then come up with a total budget for all items. It’s important to be realistic about your budget allowances. If you want marble on your shower walls then a $2 / square foot allowance is not going to cut it. Sometimes you can work backward by designating your total allowance budget first and the backing out the budgets for each item so that they balance out.
  • What are the soft costs for the project? Soft costs include things like design fees for plans from an architect or interior designer or drawings from a professional engineer. You may also need to pay for permit fees plus the cost of permit administration. You might need a property survey if you do not have a recent one for the property. There may also be freight, handling & local delivery on certain items. Again, the point is that these things are not going to be free and if you leave them out you will not be getting an accurate picture of your budget.
  • What is your own time (and sanity) worth? You may decide you have the time, will, desire and patience to plan your project down to the last screw, coordinate the communications and schedules of your designer, tradesman and showroom dealers and then oversee the work, deliveries and inspections that happen (or don’t happen) each day over the course of a project. You will certainly save a few dollars by assuming these roles but many people find that no matter how organized they are, there are just too many moving parts, people and variables to stay on top of everything. Professional planning, project management and site supervision will prevent major headaches for you but it will add to the cost of your project. If you don’t plan on running your own project you need to factor this into your budget.
  • How will you pay for your project? Some people save enough money so they can cover the entire cost of a project at once. Others borrow, either from a bank or other type of lender, so they can pay for their project over time. When the terms are good, this is a sensible route people who want to invest wisely in their home but don’t have the cash on hand. If you plan on financing you need to consider the monthly payment you can afford and what type of payment plan will allow you to stay within that payment given the budget for your project.

It’s also common, and sometimes much easier, to specify a budget number that you want to stick with and try to determine if that budget will fulfill the requirements of project you want. Either way, the key to happiness is being sure to consider all potential costs associated with the project.

“But Chris! This seems kind of complicated. Do I really have to figure this out on my own?” Of course not – a professional remodeling company can help you do it. A brief discussion in your home about the project can usually uncover the answers to most or or all of these questions and produce a very realistic preliminary budget for the project. It may not be the final cost for the project but at least you will have a realistic starting point.

At Habify, our initial consultation is always free of charge and once we have collectively established a baseline budget, we offer a low cost pre-construction planning service to design and fully price the project. To learn more about our process go to www.habify.com.

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