Spaces for Life

The ReTouch Home Improvement blog



Spaces for Life: 5 Unwritten rules of construction cost that you need to know

By Lance McCarthy

love Amazon. Type in something you want. Anything. Malcolm Gladwell book. Hot pockets. Dog diapers. Options instantly appear. Scroll and click. Wait two days. Open box. Done, and still in your pajamas. Magic! Easy. Predictable. Painless. Unfortunately there are things that should not be acquired on Amazon. A doctor for example. Or a friend. Or a spouse. (Actually, there are probably websites that let you do all those, and I’m tempted to make up some funny website names for them…but I won’t) They won’t work because they are relationships. Relationships don’t fit as nicely into databases.

I would submit that as contrary as it seems, construction projects are more of a relationship than a commodity. They include commodities, but the projects themselves are not. The success or failure of the projects have more to do with the “who” than the “what”.

In marriage, medicine and remodeling, The who is more important than the what. That’s one of my cardinal rules of construction costs.

Here are the rest of them.

  1. The black swan.  Every once in awhile someone stumbles across a Matisse in a garage sale, and it makes a great news story.  We hear reports of things that are cheap and awesome, but they are “black swans”, or exceptions to the rule.  The rule is that you get what you pay for.  I’m tempted to think I can break this rule when buying a laptop or a steak, but it consistently proves true–in technology and in life.
  1.  The answer is always yes, the question is what are you willing to sacrifice to get to that yes. A remodeling project is about deciding which “yes’es” are most important.  The There are an infinite number of options in a remodeling project, but a finite budget, which means a lot of “no’s” to get to a “yes” (meaning I can afford this).
  1.  All men are NOT created equal.  All lawyers are not equal; all craftsmen are not equal.  I have a trim carpenter that charges $1.25 per square foot, a second that charges double that, and a third that charges double that.  They are each worth what I am paying them, and each is a perfect choice for certain projects.
  1.  A thumb is not an inch.   The phrase “rule of thumb” is thought to originate with medieval carpenters using their thumb instead of a ruler to measure something.  Some things never change.  Discussing project costs is dangerous for the same reason, because they are describing the average.  We did a kitchen last year for $24,000, and one for $104,000.  Very different kitchens for very different clients, and both clients were pleased with the result.

Those are my rules. Snappy titles for things your grandmother has probably told you. As unsexy as they are, I have learned that they are usually true.

Those are my rules. Snappy titles for things your grandmother probably told you. As unsexy as they are, I have learned that they are usually true. Now, go find that 50% off Groupon we have going on right now on $100,000 kitchens!

  1. Seriously?  That was a joke.  Don’t watch for the Groupon.  Did you listen to anything I just said?

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