One of the biggest unknowns for many homeowners is how to estimate home repair costs. Depending on who writes the estimate, it can be confusing and very difficult to understand exactly what is included and what is the actual amount of money you’ll be expected to pay. I can’t teach you, in one page, to be a professional estimator. It takes years of experience and is a constant learning process. My goal here is to provide you with a basic understanding of the methods used by estimators in for determining costs. It all starts with quantities. How much of each particular product or service do you need?
Breaking Down Repair Cost Measurements
Most things in construction are measured in linear feet, square feet, and square yards. Many of you may already know this.If so, feel free to skip ahead. But, I’m starting from the very beginning for those that may be completely unfamiliar with these terms. Linear feet is the most simple. If you pull your tape measure from one end of a straight wall to the other and it measures: 10 ft 6 in, then you have 10’6″ linear feet of wall. Finish carpenters use linear feet to measure trim, base boards, and cabinets. For example: If you were remodeling your kitchen and replacing the cabinets, you would measure the length of each individual cabinet to determine that you need 18 linear feet (lf) of lower cabinets and 22 (lf) of upper cabinets.
The next type of measurement I’m going to talk about is square feet. This probably the most often used measurement in construction and it’s pretty simple. basically, were multiplying 2 separate measurements. If you wanted to find the square footage of a bedroom floor for example, you would multiply the width of the room by the length. If the room is 12 ft wide and 15 ft long: 15×12=180 square feet. If you need the square footage of a wall in the same room, you would simply multiply length x height. Square feet measurements are used for the majority of household repairs including: painting, drywall flooring, counter tops, and many more. Square yards is another measurement used in cost estimating, primarily for carpet and other flooring. To find the square yardage of an area, you would divide the square feet by 9. So if a room was 10 ft x 9 ft (90 SQ FT) divide by 9 and you’ve got 10 square yards. Measuring for carpet is a little more complicated than finding the square yardage of a room. For more info on that check out our flooring page.
Defining the Scope of Work for Home Repairs
Now that we understand the measurement process a little better, let move on to preparing the Estimate. It all starts with the scope of work. Let’s say we’re going to remodel the kitchen. Make a line item listing each home repair.
- Replace Cabinets- 18 lf lower, 22 lf upper
- Paint Ceiling and Walls- 192 sf ceiling, 240 sf walls,
- Remove Linoleum Flooring- 156 sf
- Install Ceramic Tile Floor- 156 sf
- Install Granite Counter Tops- 36 sf
- Install Ceramic Tile Back Splash- 27 sf
- Install (6) recessed light in ceiling
- Install New Appliances- Built-in Double Oven, Glass Cook Top, Vent Hood, Dishwasher
- Install New Sink and Faucet
- Stain and Finish Cabinets
Building the Cost Estimate
The simplest method for determining the cost of your project is to have general contractors bid the entire project. Try and line up at least 3 GC’s to give you quotes on the project. Schedule different appointment times for each of them. You don’t want them all there together, but casually mention that you are expecting other bids. Hopefully this will make them more competitive. The following tips may be helpful in the interview process.
- If you have any questions or would like their input on the project, prepare a list and use it with all bidders. We do this to make sure the process is equal.
- Decide on a time frame for when you would like their Estimate.(A week to 10 days should be enough time). This will show you something about their ability to do things promptly and meet deadlines.
- If you want the contractor to include all of the labor and materials in their bids, you need to specify certain items like appliances and flooring to insure you get the quality you want. An experienced, qualified contractor would ask you these questions own their own.
- Ask them to include an estimated time (# of days or weeks) that it will take to complete the project.
- Tell them you will need a list of the subcontractors they will be using.(so you can check them out and get lien releases to make sure they have been paid).
After you have completed the interview process, just sit back and wait for the bids. When you receive them, compare them closely to make sure they are equal. Look for exceptions or exclusions in the fine print. Some people may leave out items that were in your scope. This may be OK, you just need to know up front. If you are satisfied with the number of bids you’ve received, select the Cost Estimate you believe suits you best and move forward. If you are unable to get multiple bids, keep reading and you’ll find tips on how to determine if the prices are fair.