What is the most pressing question we get asked when meeting with a potential client for the first time?
What is this project going to cost?
Of course, the answer depends on all kinds of factors, but here is where we begin. We measure the horizontal square footage of any and all the space our client intends to touch with the project. This includes major construction zones (for example, the gut and remodel of a kitchen or bath), but also includes areas where there will be only minor cosmetic changes (a room where the floors will be resanded and finished or will only be repainted). Any space that is to be built, remodeled, or changed in ANY WAY – from basement to attic – should be included. Many clients make the mistake of skipping the rooms where only minor work will be done, and only include the big-ticket areas. This will result in an estimate which is too low. In our market, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, we take the overall area calculation and multiply the total square footage by $200 to arrive at a preliminary estimate.
Naturally, this number is only a starting point. If your project is very small, say, the conversion of a small closet to a powder room or adding a front entry coat closet, the above method will produce an estimate which will be too low. It will also likely be low if the project will require the expertise of multiple subcontractors such as plumbers, electricians, or craftspeople (think: kitchen, bathroom, home theater, etc.), or if the finishes will be expensive (Brazilian mahogany casework, imported handmade tile, professional grade appliances, etc.). If the project is much larger, or doesn’t involve any plumbing or heating/cooling work, this initial estimate could be high. Depending on information we get from our clients and our assessment of the existing house, we start with the initial $200/per square foot number and tweak it based on our years of experience designing and building. However, it’s a good enough number for homeowners to do some initial brainstorming and realistic planning.