Remodeling Estimates: What’s Behind the Numbers?


Unlike the great and powerful “Oz” behind the curtain, the reasoning behind the numbers in a remodeling estimate is usually clear.  After the initial consultation, a good custom builder will return with a comprehensive project estimate that reflects the input you provided.  It will show he had a good understanding of your conversation.  

When you hire a contractor, you are hiring a whole group of people, not just that individual guy who came to your home for the consultation.  He has a whole list of subcontractors and contractor employees who will be doing the framing, drywall, electric, plumbing and finishing work.  If he connected you with a designer or architect, you’ll be engaging those people, too.  All of these costs should be included in the estimate, either as “allowances” or as firm costs.  When you review the estimate, make sure you feel like the contractor listened to you.  Did he address your ideas and incorporate his own?  Or did he tell you what you should have?  You want to hire someone who truly understands your vision and will work with you to make it a reality.  

Look at the exclusions list.  Normally there will be things that are excluded, like the cost of special fixtures or items you said you’d do yourself.  Know that materials are often marked up by the builder – because he buys in quantity for all of his jobs, the price is usually much lower and this is an opportunity for him to make some profit in return.  Be sure you agree with what’s included and excluded in the estimate. 

Most of all, remember that you get what you pay for.  If you are shopping solely on price, you may not get the service you desire or the attention to detail.  A good contractor charges for his time, and in return, you get time, client service and detailed work – all leading to a great outcome.


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