As an interior designer and general contractor, I often get asked this challenging question. It usually comes from a friend or referral who is casually thinking about remodeling. It’s like asking me what the weather will be a month from Tuesday. I can generalize, but with so many variables there’s never a simple answer. My impulse response is always “how much do you want to spend?” For it’s a “which comes first… the chicken or egg?” kind of situation; my estimate or your budget?
However, a good designer or contractor knows how to estimate based on their experience. With the project square footage, location, general style and grade of materials to be used, we can give you a number that either encourages or discourages you to renovate. Better yet, a great designer or contractor can help you take your budget and make a design work in your favor.
Unfortunately, with the average project, budgets are exceeded in both labor and material costs. Whether a $1,000 powder room or a $100,000 addition, it’s bound to be off a bit, but why? Some more common reasons:
- Construction change orders (you decide you want a wall moved 5 feet from the original design/contract/quote). Most often this is a result of poor initial design or indecision.
- Unforeseen water or mold damage, structural problems or hidden flaws seen only after demolition.
- Contractors or designers under price or under bid in order to secure a job.
- No margin built in for demolition, waste disposal, transportation, delivery, taxes, permits, insurance, loan interest, cleanup etc. (This is why the contractor’s bid was so low)
- Building codes that require adding smoke detectors when upgrading unrelated parts of the house or adding extra means of egress when converting uninhabited spaces to habitable.
- Unreliable contractors or subcontractors who don’t perform and which need replacing.
- Cost of delays when neighbors aren’t consulted (when appropriate) and subsequently impede your process.
- Poor project management when materials are not delivered on time or sub contractors poorly scheduled causing one trade to wait for another before work proceeds.
Materials are the other major variable. For most items, installation cost is roughly the same whether it is a $1 tile or a $100 tile. That’s not as true for custom work. But no matter how economical or expensive a toilet, sink and bathtub are, they should all cost “roughly” the same to install. The homeowner definitely has more control of their budget with their material choices.
So with all these potential budget troubles, how do you mitigate them?
- Be an active participant from the beginning to the end of your project.
- Know what you want, make timely decisions and push others to do so too.
- Hire reputable people and check for up to date licenses, insurance and several references.
- Sign a contract that you’ve thoroughly read and change or add to reflect your specific needs.
- Hire an interior designer! (Later, I’ll post more on how to hire and work with a designer)
Interior designers can most certainly help you best allocate your dollars while helping to ensure the success of your project. Generally, designer fees are affordable and are a reasonable percentage of the overall budget. And the money, time and headaches we can save our clients are almost always worth the fee.
So even after all of this, potential clients still want to know “how much will it cost?” Well, since most clients like to shop around for ideas and already know the basic prices of the materials, a good rule of thumb is to double that for the total cost. Beyond that I need to breakout the spreadsheets.