Asking a home remodeler how much a home remodeling project will cost is like going to a dealership and asking how much a car on the lot will cost. When buying a car, cost depends on the manufacturer, warranty, and options. With home remodeling, every project is unique due to location, size, scope, and the finishes and fixtures desired.
The experience, expertise, and business relationships that a remodeling contractor has will also play a role in determining the upfront estimate, as well as the total cost of a home renovation project.
Here are some of the major factors that impact the cost of a home remodeling project:
Geographic location impacts construction costs both structurally and in architectural design because of building style. For example, in California, there is seismic activity which dictates structural design as compared to Chicago, where roofing systems must be built to withstand heavy snow loads. Architecturally, stucco is less expensive than wood siding and composition shingle roofing is more economical than tile.
The square footage of a home addition or remodeled area directly impacts cost in many ways. Obviously with a larger the area, more materials and labor are needed to complete the work. Size can also impact structural requirements like footings and support beams.
However, it should be noted that basing remodeling costs solely on square footage is a bad idea. Cost estimates based only on square footage fail to account for the types of rooms being renovated (bathrooms vs. kitchens, or living rooms vs. basements, for example), the materials being used, the professional providing the estimate and doing the work.
The scope of each project is unique and based on the individual homeowner’s needs and taste. Also, building a room addition on a concrete slab is more economical than on a raised wood floor, just like a single-story addition is less costly than a second-story addition. Production and tract homes versus custom homes differ in cost because of building type and caliber of materials.
Finishes & Fixtures
Besides structural, finishes and fixtures are the largest contributor to cost. Line items like plumbing fixtures, appliances, flooring, hard surfaces (stone, granite etc.), cabinetry, and carpentry impact costs dramatically. Below are a few steps that homeowners can take to help determine finish and fixture costs up front.
Establish what brand, type, and quality of plumbing fixtures, appliances and finishes you want. You can start by looking online and getting some approximate costs. Then go out and kick the tires at your local plumbing supplier, home center, etc.
Ask your home remodeling contractor to either define the allowances in the contract for fixtures and finishes, or exclude them entirely. Items like plumbing fixtures and allowances can just as well be left out to avoid contractor markup and the manufactures warranties will cover you. Cabinets, countertops, tile work, etc. should be part of your contractor’s scope of work (SOW), so it’s under his/her warranty.
Make sure your contractor’s SOW includes installation of all finishes, fixtures, and appliances - whether you provide them or not. There might be special electrical wiring, plumbing, un-boxing, lifting/moving, etc. that requires the help of a professional.
Remodeler Experience & Expertise
A solo general contractor is likely to provide a lower project bid than a large remodeling firm, but be cautious - there can be a lot hiding behind that low bid. Very low bids can be an indication that a contractor isn’t fully licensed, doesn’t understand the complete size and scope of your project, or simply isn’t experienced enough to tackle the job. In these instances, additional costs for materials, change orders, and time overruns are common, and ultimately drive up the cost of your remodeling project.
Working with a reputable design-build contractor can provide better cost estimates in a variety of ways. Because there’s a single point of content for the customer in the design-build process, this leads to less confusion, fewer mistakes, and a greater level of control over cost estimates, budget, and project timeline.
The only way to accurately quote a project is to develop a design plan and scope. There are design-build contractors who offer free design and quotes. The old adage, “you get what you pay for” applies here. You shouldn’t rely on the accuracy of a free design to estimate the cost of your remodeling project. Instead, it’s well worth paying $1,000 - $5,000 to have a reputable firm work with you to design a project that meets your needs and your budget. Part of cost estimation process is to offer a few different priced-out design schemes and help you meld them into one that you will love. In the long run, this will help eliminate potential cost overruns and ensure your project runs smoothly during construction.