Estimating home improvement costs can be a complicated undertaking for homeowners because it is very easy to overlook a number of costs, especially the costs that are not included in the contractor’s quote. Most homeowners also need to set a remodeling budget based on estimating home improvement costs before they talk to a contractor.

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If you are thinking about a home remodel or addition, and you need to set a budget for your project so you can plan and design it, you will want to know all of the items or expenses you need to include when estimating your home improvement costs. So, here are some of the things you need to consider and some ways to get a more accurate early cost estimate.

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First, what should be included when estimating home improvement costs? Here are the essentials:

  • Design costs – architect, home designer, general contractor, or you?

  • Construction drawings costs – architect, contractor, draftsman?

  • Permits and Inspections – what will be needed, what is the cost?

  • Additional Insurance

  • Cost of your time, particularly if you manage the project or do some of the work

  • Cost of hotel if you must be out of your home for some period of time

  • Repairs needed before work can begin

  • Materials

  • Labor

  • Decorator costs – will you use a professional interior decorator?

To get a working estimate for your project, you will want to consider which of these costs are or are not included in the estimate generated by a remodeling cost calculator or by a cost-per-square-foot calculation. Let’s consider these options.

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Calculating cost per square foot for your remodel can give you a working estimate that will be of some help in setting your budget. If you can get a cost-per-square-foot for the specific project you are planning, such as a bathroom, a kitchen or a den, your estimate will be more accurate. You will also want to find out the average cost in your location. These costs can vary from one location to another. Then calculate the size of the finished room you are planning (length x width = area). This tells you the number of square feet in your project. Then multiply that number by the cost per square foot in your region for the type of project you are doing.

Another way to get a rough preliminary estimate is to use an online calculator. There are many calculators available on various web sites. We recommend the one at There are two reasons for this recommendation. The first is that like other calculators, this one will give you an instant estimate based on your project, the quality of the work and your location. The second reason to choose this calculator is that the calculators also taken into consideration the amount of work you will do on the project. This can make a big difference when estimating home improvement costs.

Once you have this preliminary estimate, you should add 20% for upgrades and surprises. Then add insurance costs, cost of your time, hotel costs, and repairs you know will be necessary before the project can begin.

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With this kind of estimate, you should be ready to set a budget and start looking for ways to trim the cost without sacrificing quality. Once you have a budget, you will be ready to start talking with contractors. Your interviews should always focus on your budget, how to do the project within your budget, and the quality of the materials and workmanship you expect. Always use a request for quote form and provide all the details you can, such as type of wood for cabinets, model numbers for fixtures, quality and grade of materials, etc. Also be specific about the quality of the work you expect and remember to be specific even about the number of coats of paint you expect.

Each contractor you interview will then be able to give you a reasonably accurate quote of final cost. You will then be ready to compare estimates, make adjustments, consider each contractor, and make a choice.

Estimating home improvement costs is not as difficult as it sounds at first. Just take the time to do your homework, get reliable basic figures and use a method of calculating the costs that you think will result in the most accurate and reliable estimate for your specific project.

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