Price is a critical aspect of your renovation project. What will it cost to do the job you want? Alternatively, how far can you go on a set budget?
Determining the cost of a small project is usually fairly simple. On larger projects, it often happens as a series of discussions between you and a renovator as you develop the vision and fine-tune the plans for your home.
On some projects, it may be a good idea to hire someone to develop the design and the plans first as a separate job. Many renovators offer a full range of services, including design and plans development. Alternatively, you may choose to work with a designer or architect and then tender the actual work to renovators.
Experienced renovators can sometimes offer an educated opinion or price range on the spot, based on similar jobs they have done in the past - for instance, a per-square-foot estimate for additions or basement recreation rooms, or a rough cost estimate for upgrading your bathroom. This can be helpful upfront to make sure that there is a realistic fit between what you would like to do and the budget your have in mind. However, be aware that the cost of a project can vary greatly, depending on many factors, including the current condition of your home and the types of products you want to use.
For all intents and purposes, bids and estimates are the same, if written down - a renovator's offer to perform your renovation for a specified price, based on a detailed description of the work to be done. It will specify materials, products, labour, subtrades and so on, with accompanying costs. A written offer is legally binding and becomes part of the contract between you and the renovator, should you accept it.
Make sure that you provide each renovator with exactly the same information; otherwise you will not be able to compare bids. This information may include plans, ranging from simple sketches or diagrams to full construction drawings needed for projects that involve altering the structure of your home.
Specifications are detailed descriptions of the materials and products you want to be used in your project.
How many bids should you get? There are no hard and fast rules. On large projects, it is not uncommon for homeowners to interview several renovators, check their references and previous projects, and then choose one company to work with throughout the whole process, including developing plans and budgets as well as doing the actual work.
In the end it comes down to trust and confidence - trust that you have chosen the right renovator for the job, and confidence that you will get what you want.
Even the most experienced renovator cannot always predict the hidden challenges in your project. Dangerous electrical wiring from a previous renovation, rotted wood due to old leaks, lead flashing under the old roof shingles…these are just some of the problems that your renovator may uncover once the work gets underway.
Unpredictable problems can mean additional cost beyond the contract price. It may be a good idea to set aside a small portion of your budget as a contingency fund. Also talk with your renovator - what are their recommendations?