For most of us, that’s the single most important question.

Whether buying a car or a cup of coffee, price is always an important issue. But a better question might be “What am I getting for that price?”

While most people can detect differences between an economy car and a Rolls Royce, they may not understand differences that are not so obvious. Such is the case with home remodeling prices.

What follows is a Consumer’s Guide to Understanding Home Improvement Cost Factors provided to you by Nordic Construction & Design.

$ 5 K
Avg. Minor Kitchen Remodel
50 %
Recouped Cost

What’s Your Budget?

Most homeowners have a budget in mind before consulting a contractor. But many people hide that number or price range and choose to play a guessing game instead. Since they know what number they are shooting for, homeowners ask a contractor to guess how close they can come to the hidden target. Should you give the prize to the winner based on chance? Most people can’t afford to gamble with their own money in that way. If you start working with a contractor based solely on the outcome of a guessing game, you may have just “won” the contractor who will cut every corner to give you the “cheapest” price.

Consider sharing your budget with any contractor you are seriously considering as early as possible. Disclosing your budget up front confirms to a contractor that you have seriously thought about how much you can afford or want to spend. Once a contractor knows your budget, he will be able to guide you in decisions that will allow your project to stay within your means. Otherwise, you may be wasting everyone’s time in developing an arbitrary design plan that you will never be able to afford.

If you are looking for a rough estimate, contractors can usually provide this by taking into consideration standard building costs, existing quality of construction and materials of your present home, and a general description of what you want. However, it is nearly impossible for a contractor to give you an accurate price before many detailed items have been discussed and agreed upon. Be wary of anyone who quotes a firm price prior to that stage.

Apples to Apples

If your decision to select a home remodeling contractor is based largely on price, you will likely choose the lowest priced bid to proceed. But how do you know if you are comparing “apples to apples”? In proposals you are considering, differences other than cost may not be readily apparent. Quality of building materials and workmanship, as well as fixtures and appliances may differ greatly from one proposal to the next. The lowest cost bid may seem to include everything you desire. But upon closer inspection, what are you really getting?

You Get What You Pay For

The old adage “you get what you pay for” is usually true. With all the choices in home remodeling today, costs vary according to many factors. In addition, terminology has been expanded to include many misleading adjectives that sound good but often can be misinterpreted. To name a few, the terms “basic”, “standard”, “builder’s model”, “upgraded”, “custom”, “deluxe” and “designer” may describe different things to different people. Does your assumption of these terms match the interpretation of each contractor you obtain a price from? With so many issues involved in comparing prices, let’s look at what you really need to know.

Choose Now or Pay Later

Items included in a contract price should be identified by manufacturer and model number. For example, is your new kitchen sink going to be the Kohler Executive Chef model, or something else? Any items you haven’t specifically selected may be designated by a contractor in a few different ways.

The contractor can designate a “standard” or “builder’s model” equivalent. Be sure you know what that means. If you decide later to substitute another model, know what that change will cost you. Contractors may also give you an “allowance” in the contract for any items not specified. Make sure you know what items have allowances, and their associated dollar amounts prior to signing a contract. Signing a contract prior to selecting everything can result in additional charges later if your allowance amounts are underestimated.

$ 21 K
Avg. Midrange Bath Addition
38 %
Recouped Cost

What Are You Getting?

Materials used in a project can also impact the overall cost. For example, new kitchen cabinets can be constructed using hardwoods, softwoods, melamine (vinyl-coated particle board), plywood, or any combination of those. Wood quality can differ from smooth graining to heavy graining, to no graining. Cabinet interiors can be solid wood or particle board, stained, painted, or coated. Cabinet doors can be solid wood, veneer, or paneled. Finishes can be stained, painted, coated, etc. Hardware costs can vary from less than a dollar to more than twenty dollars for each hinge or handle. These options may not be important to everyone. But realize that they all impact your price.

Read the Fine Print

Before signing, understand the terms and conditions of the contract. Be familiar with all of the provisions. Know what is specifically included and excluded. Make sure that all of the critical elements of your project are itemized. You are responsible for verifying the accuracy of model numbers and color codes included in the contract.

Ask Questions

As a consumer, your job is to understand as much as possible to be able to make informed decisions. To assist you with that task, a contractor should provide consultation and guidance. Ask questions. If you are unsure about a decision, ask a contractor about resources that may be available to assist you. Allow yourself enough time to make decisions you can live with.

When you’re ready, we’re here to help.

More Resources

Hold On To Your Hat!

Read some helpful tips of what to expect when you undergo a home construction project.

Cost vs. Value Report

Get your copy of the 2018 report featuring common home construction project costs and expected value recouped in your property as a result.