You’ll want to add an amount to cover totally unforeseen events. The contractor could break into a wall only to discover that there’s a lot of plumbing behind it, requiring the costly services of a plumber. Or, in the process of adding a garden window, you learn the model you were counting on has just been discontinued and you can only get a different, far more expensive window. Or you find that although you planned on living in the house during the renovation, you simply can’t stand the dust and mess and decide to move to a motel for a week.
Expect the unexpected. If you do, you won’t be unprepared when it occurs. My suggestion is that you add in 10 percent of the total cost here.
When all is said and done, the general contractor’s initial guesstimate often is not much higher than the costs of materials and installation of individual parts when you act as the general contractor. This is frequently because the general contractor can get deals that you can’t. Indeed, many general contractors who specialize in remodeling are actually cabinet makers, tilers, and so on, so their cost of materials is very low. Also, they hire installers on a regular basis and may get lower prices. It’s something to consider if you’re thinking about saving money and doing the contracting work yourself.
Again, you can save money by doing it yourself. At least $5000 is attributed to installer’s costs. Do it yourself and you’ll save this amount. However, keep in mind that the cost for installation in this example is less than 20 percent of the total cost. You won’t really save that much. (Where you can save big is if you do any electrical and plumbing work yourself.)
Also note that the charges for changes and for the unexpected must be added to both the materials costs and the general contractor’s costs.
How Do I Make a Go-Ahead Decision?
Once you get rough costs, you’ll have some idea of what your first project will entail. There may be an enormous range of prices. For example, your kitchen project could range from $6000-if you just restain the cabinets, put inexpensive tile on the countertop and linoleum on the floor, and do it yourself-to $40,000 for new cabinets, a stone countertop, and a wood floor, all done professionally.
Now it’s time to bite the bullet and make your first reversible decision. (I call it reversible because you’re still guesstimating.) You don’t know exactly what all the expenses will be, although you have ballpark figures. So you can stand back and ask yourself, “Can I afford that?”
You’re at the “what if stage. When you’re just getting started, nothing’s written in stone. You’re just trying out different ideas, costs, and results to see how they feel. You’re not committed in any way to follow through on any of it. That’s why it’s very important to be open and to entertain as many alternatives as possible.