The First Key to Controlling Your Remodeling Costs

When it comes to remodeling or construction projects, it is crucial to set clear and realistic goals. If your goals are not clear, then your budget won’t be clear either. Having a clear budget is arguably the most important key of controlling your construction costs. It’s hard to hit a moving target and you certainly cannot hit one that’s out of range. You can’t budget for a moving target either and it is literally impossible to meet a budget that’s out of range.

Suppose you were to load the family into the car and start driving off to your vacation destination. And let’s assume you had to make the round trip without refilling your gas tank. But what if you could only travel three hundred miles on a single tank? Don’t you think it would be a very good idea to make sure your destination is within that range? If not, you will destined to fail; doomed from the start to run out of gas long before you can ever get there and back. It’s simple math. If your vacation destination is 200 miles away, you’ll end up stranded on the highway a hundred miles from home.

The solution to this simple problem is easy. Either budget more money for gas, or change your destination to somewhere closer so you complete your journey while on your budget of a single thankful. This is exactly what you must do when planning your house and your construction budget.

If you don’t have a good, clear idea of where you are heading with your remodeling project, you are likely to find your budget “running out of gas” before you’re finished. You will end up telling your own tale of woe at cocktail parties for years to come. You may be entertaining…but broke.

Don’t let that happen to you. Plan thoroughly. Do your homework. Figure out exactly what you need and want in your new house or project, and then stick to it. Don’t make your remodel project and the cost of its construction a moving target. Lay out your guidelines and stick to them.

The first step you should take is to write out a program—a term architects use for a list of rooms and spaces the new addition should include, along with any renovations to the existing house. Start with a simple list, and let it gradually grow by adding other ancillary spaces you’ll need—such as closets, powder rooms, and hallways. Maybe you don’t need as much space as you think you do. Look for ways to get dual usage out of a single space. You don’t want to build any more square footage than you really need. Every square foot you don’t build equates to significant dollars saved.

Once you have listed all the spaces you want, assign them target sizes. Use current rooms or model homes to help gauge the sizes you desire. List the rooms in two ways: a larger size and a smaller size. The smaller size should be just big enough to be functional. It can fit the necessary furniture and allows movement, however cramped, around it. This is the minimum size. The other size you assign is the maximum. It would be spacious and comfortable with additional space between the furniture so that walking around would never feel crowded or cramped.

Be thorough when you write your program. Take several days to assess and evaluate…and the reassess and reevaluate…before coming to a conclusion as to the size of your rooms. Calculate and add up the square footage (length x width) of all the rooms. Then multiply your total by 1.15. This adds a proper cushion to account for wall thickness and any inefficiency in layout. The result is a realistic square footage of you addition.

To calculate your budget, get a good feel of the price per square foot of a similar project in your area. Talk to builders and research the Internet. This process is called “due diligence.” It is important to keep your number realistic. Do not fall into an optimism trap. Don’t count on your project being the exception to the rule; that it will come up less than similar projects. This kind of thinking will almost guarantee coming in over budget. The more you can learn about the cost of construction of other projects in your area, the more accurate your estimate will be. The estimated cost of construction is equal to the square footage times the price per square foot.

Once you’ve written your program and calculated out your target construction budget, you’ll have an accurate idea of where you are going. Refer back to this information and target frequently during the planning process and during construction. The more often you can remind yourself of what your target is, the more likely you are to hit it. This is a classic concept in every technique and philosophy for achieving goals. The more times you think of your desired outcome, the more likely it is to happen. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. In the world of house design, home building, and remodeling, keeping your goal ever-present in your mind will keep you from veering off into the land of blown budgets.