By Lance McCarthy
Last week we talked about how much an addition or large remodeling project could cost. Trying to do that in 500 words or less is a little like trying to Twitter a Faulkner novel (that’s a shout out to all you literate suburbanites!)
I wanted to follow that brief and oversimplified chat with a bit more information that could be helpful if you are planning a big project.
We had discussed using cost per square foot for different types of projects, then talked about getting some rough cost ranges for various parts of a house. Those are great tools, but quickly become limited in their application. A little like using a paint brush as a hammer.
There are so many factors that influence the cost of a large project, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Everything from what type of chimney cap is used to the quality of the trim paint. A typical line item proposal that we put together on a large project will be 5-7 pages of lines, each one with a cost (and a decision). With all those factors swirling around, where do you begin?
I have referred to “Big Rocks” before. Those are the 3 or 4 most important goals of a project–the elements that really define what you are wanting to accomplish. Here, I will use the same term to refer to the decisions in a project that have the biggest budget impact. The good news here is that usually there are only a handful of decisions that really move the needle drastically. Get those decisions right, and you are likely to get the whole project right.
Lance’s Budget Big Rocks:
- Exterior siding. This is mostly due to sheer volume. One of our current projects has a whopping 5000 square feet of exterior siding, so the choice between a $5 per square foot option and a $12 per square foot option has huge ramifications.
- Foundation. A project that requires a new foundation automatically adds a big chunk. Anywhere from $10,000-50,000 depending on the size.
- Windows. A typical large project can have 20-50 windows, and they could range from $200 (for a vinyl window) to $1000 (for a higher grade clad window).
- Cabinets/Countertop. Cabinets can range from below $200 per linear foot (for an IKEA grade cabinet) to $800 per linear foot (for a high quality custom cabinet full of features)
- Who. I know I’ve said this a lot, but the size and makeup of the company you select is really important. Not only of the contractor, but also of the subcontractors. This can impact budget dramatically. Just remember, discounts can be costly.
- Money is a sticky subject. Most people are taught from an early age that money is not polite to talk about, and this can lead to a lot of problems on projects. Speak about budget early and often to ensure your project’s success.
- The costs I am speaking of above are “First” costs (meaning what a project will cost as it is happening) They are ignoring “True” costs (meaning how much a project will cost over the lifetime it is used). Disregard this distinction at your own peril!
- One size doesn’t fit all! It is very important to get a clear sense of what your priorities are in a large project, then work hard to make decisions that are consistent with those priorities.