Oh, by the way, what will my remodel cost?

What will my remodel cost? Simple enough of a question certainly, but the answer to that question is not so simple. For the remodel contractor or the designer this question is similar to asking a car salesman how much does a car cost without knowing the make, model, or features of that car.


What will it cost to remodel this house? The first of many questions that has to be answered first before a cost estimate can be achieved.

What will it cost to remodel this house? There are many questions that have to be answered before a cost estimate can be achieved. Taking the time to do this upfront will serve you and your project in the end.


Unfortunately, the only way to approach a reasonable answer to this question is to define what the remodel encompasses. The best way to do this is to have a lengthy conversation with your design professional to talk about what you want the remodel to achieve. Once you have a description of the work, then the designer can begin to do some preliminary design work to explore the design possibilities for your specific project.

Some questions that you may want to ask yourself to get started are:

  • What areas of the house do you want to change—the kitchen and the dining room, the master bath, or is it a whole house remodel?
  • Will you be staying within the existing footprint of the house? Best to do, if you can achieve your goals.
  • Will you be getting into the roof structure of the house? Better not, if you don’t have to.
  • Will you be changing out windows and doors? Vinyl, wood, clad?
  • Is there anything about the existing house that needs to be upgraded that is a big budget item like electrical, or new foundation, or a new heating system?
  • What are your expectations about interior finishes; as in what level of quality are you looking for? This is a really important question because the finish quality level can have such a broad range of costs. For example, a U-shaped kitchen can have plastic laminate counter tops for $1,000 or a relatively inexpensive granite selection for $4,000. What expectations do you have about the kitchen cabinets? Are they cherry or alder; are they stained and glazed? Some of these are upgrades, each of which may be an additional 10%.
  • Will you be doing any of the work yourselves, like demolition, clean-up or painting?
  • What is your budget? Of course the budget will determine the scope of work and the quality level that is achievable. The budget will also determine whether it is even worth the effort to explore certain design options if the budget cannot support the cost involved.

As you can see, it is only through a thorough exploration of these questions and many others that a project becomes defined and the scope of the project is established. Once that is done, the designer can set about his/her work to explore how best to satisfy the clients wants, needs and desires. Preliminary designs can then be developed as a way to explore what is possible within the parameters of the project.

Once there are preliminary designs that the client is happy with, a contractor could be consulted to supply initial pricing. This would be a ballpark price that could determine whether the project is feasible as defined. If not, then there would be further discussion about what stays within the scope of the project and what needs to be removed.

A nice detail of a craftsman bungalow that has been sensitively remodeled and updated that is both sympathetic and original.

A fine detail from a craftsman bungalow that has been sensitively remodeled and updated that is both sympathetic to the Craftsman style yet innovative.


Once the scope of the project has been re-defined, then the selected areas can be focused upon and developed further. Finish material options could be selected after this and construction drawings completed which would then be used by a contractor to arrive at a bid price for the project.

As you can see from this overview, there is no simple answer to the question of how much my remodel will cost? It is often a back and forth dance until you have the design that you are looking for at a price that works for you. More often than not there are compromises and aspects of the project that just don’t fit into the project because of budget constraints.

The whole process can be very exciting, and thrilling and sometimes it will be frustrating. In my experience especiallywith a recent project, success comes from having a strong and committed team—designer, homeowner and contractor—who are each committed to the project and seeing it through its many phases and permutations.

Here’s to a happy, successful and satisfying remodel experience!

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