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How do you accurately estimate the cost of a remodel or addition for a DIY job of high quality?

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September 02 2009 - Greer
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If DIY means Do It Yourself:
1. Break the project into known and unknown scopes.
a. Known – for example 42 electrical outlets at $75 each, 5 doors at $200 each. These are items that you can see and there isn't any reason to believe that these costs may vary.  If you are uncomfortable doing electrical work or plumbing work these may be subcontracts that you get fixed bids on.  Again the point is NO CHANGE in the future.
b. Unknown – these are tasks that may change in scope.  For example, you are too lazy to pick out a light fixture, tile or plumbing fixtures now, or you want to make the choices later.  Establish an allowance budget for these items now.  Be realistic but don't sweat the details.
2. Confirm (price) the known scope – this can be accomplished by going to the store with a shopping list and pricing it or asking subcontractors to give you prices on their specific trades.
3. Make allowances for the unknown scope -  if you have to remove a wall it is very easy to estimate how long it will take to remove and replace the GWB.  It may not be easy to estimate how long it will take to repair the rot behind the wall but don't give up on the whole process as being too hard to estimate.  To repeat; estimate the knowns (fixed priced) and document them.  Make a guess at what you can't see.  It really burns me when subcontractors try and tell me that because it is a remodel they will only work on a T&M basis.  Do you mean to tell me that a plumber doesn't know how long it takes to rough in and set a sink or toilet?  OKI believe that those costs are known and it is the vast majority of their work.  When you pulled the wall apart, it turns out that he has to run 16' more copper to get around a column or spend a few more minutes notching a beam for the toilet.  OK, those are unknown, but how much did they cost?  What we've done is control the risk.  We've isolated the allowances and they are a very small part of the project.
4. Give yourself a contingency; the size depends on the size of the project.  Start out at 25%.  Do your estimate and revise your scope (eliminate or add back things you need or don't need) if you want to.  Revise the estimate and only use a 20% contingency.  Make some more decisions and get subcontractor quotes.  Do you feel comfortable going down to a 15% contingency?  Remember, no matter how detailed your estimate is, something will change and you will need (or want) a little more money than the "bid."
5. Use your estimate as a sounding board.  If a subcontractor says they need more money, get really specific: what is actually different than was estimated.  The more detailed the original estimate from the contractor, the easier this step is.  If it looks sketchy to begin with, the little red flag goes up.  If you over spent on plumbing fixtures, under spend on electrical fixtures….. You will find that the allowance budgets are far smaller that the known (fixed) budgets.  If you watch the allowances closely you won't go over budget.
6. If you live with a mate, tell them you love them on a daily basis, even if you are tired.  If you live alone, include a friend for support.
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September 03 2009
One option is to have a competant contractor get you a materials quote and you have a good starting point. Who knows he might get discounts on materials and share some of the cost savings with you.  Otherwise If you feel a good estimate was prepared and have no inclination to work with a contractor you could compensate the person for their professional help(the estimate). best of luck
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September 03 2009
What does DIY symbolize?
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September 03 2009
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Well, I have various levels of expertise with building.  Let me give some examples: 1) I did some electrical rewiring, lighting installation and sheet rocking to finish my garage.  I could have spent as much as $8000 to contract the work out, but it only cost me about $2500 in materials and some finish labor - how do I determine the real "value"?  2) I am building my own custom attached deck, which could cost as much as $15,000 to contract out, but will cost me about $5000 in materials, permits, etc. - what's the real "value" for Zillow?  3) I have a detached garage and want to enclose the section between house and garage adding 600 sq. ft.  I will be contracting for drying-in that area, but will be doing much of the mechanicals and finishing myself, except for heating/cooling.  To contract the whole job could be as much as $35,000, but should only cost me $14,000.

When adding additions in Zillow, one of the factors is what the job cost - do I use the estimated cost as if the whole job was contracted out?  Or do I use the actual cost?  I think the latter doesn't reveal the true "value" of the additions...
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September 03 2009
Can you give a little more information ?
Are you remodeling or adding on, or both.
What types of rooms are you working on ?
Kitchens and Baths are the most expensive, standard closets are the least expensive.

You will be doing the work yourself ?
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September 02 2009
 
Related Questions
How do you accurately estimate the cost of a remodel or addition for a DIY job of high quality?
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Latest answer by real estate mike
September 03 2009 | 5 answers
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