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Remodeling 101

Remodeling can be both an exciting and frustrating experience. Here are some experiences and lessons learned from a recent remodeling project.

When faced with the options of moving my business from my house or enlarging my home, I opted for the latter. This decision was not purely motivated by business needs: in addition to the needed storage space, I will have a private office and a workshop area for art projects and household repairs. I am hoping that it will encourage an increase in my own productivity since it's difficult for me to write when there's a lot of background noise. Whenever I meet with clients at my home and my staff is there, I take my clients out to the patio (or the dining room table when it's chilly outside) so we can have privacy. A private office will be much more appropriate. Of course, we can always take the laptop computer and sit on the patio when it's gorgeous outside.


Contracts and extreme attention to detail are paramount. We were prepared with a basic list of what we wanted, but it wasn't enough. We talked with three contractors and got three very different quotes. We chose a contractor in July. We knew the quality of this person's work as a custom home builder, and his reputation for honesty. His fee was based on a percentage of the actual costs: parts and the labor (except for his direct labor). We felt confident that we wouldn't be taken for a ride.

Our teeth started grinding when it wasn't until late September before the plans were drawn and the permits approved. We had heard that you should always expect to pay more than the estimate, and thought we were being smart by budgeting a 20 percent overage. As it turns out, the job is costing about 50 percent over the estimate. The problem in the estimate was that the contractor was basing the cost of certain aspects on cost per square foot when building a home. Unfortunately, there are many construction costs that are fixed regardless of the size of the job (e.g., equipment rental), which increases the cost per square foot for smaller projects.

Regardless of how well you've planned, there are always little things that happen in the remodeling process. It's amazing how many ideas and options we've thought of since this project commenced. For instance, once the floor was poured and the framing started, we realized that there would still be room for me to park my car on the side. So we added a side door. We also considered putting up a carport (Covered parking! Ooooh!), but a quality carport extension would cost at least $2,000, and we are already well over budget. The other financial consideration is all the other things to purchase once the remodeling is complete (e.g., window treatments, rugs, furniture). It adds up quickly!


Here are some of the things we learned.

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Last updated: April 25, 2011
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