When we speak to new clients, their first question is typically: “How much do you charge for a project like mine.” And at this stage, the answer is often some version of “It depends.” This can be frustrating, as online averages vary significantly, and many remodeling companies are hesitant to quote over the phone. 

The truth is, without knowing exactly what we’re building, it’s difficult to quote a project with confidence. That said, we know a simple range or average is critical for budgeting purposes. 

To help give you a better understanding of costs early on, we always ask to schedule a quick phone consultation. We’ll gather more details about the project, your home, and your vision — then turn that into a ballpark estimate based on our data from similar projects. 

Because reliable cost data can be hard to find, some homeowners can be surprised by an initial estimate. We’re here to help contextualize those numbers. If this is your first time hiring a general contractor, keep reading to learn what impacts the total cost of a home remodel. 

Comparing hard costs vs. soft costs 

First, let’s break down the types of remodeling costs into two major categories: “hard” and “soft” costs. Hard costs are the items that directly relate to the construction of a project: raw materials, systems, utilities, and finishes. Generally, hard costs are more tangible and therefore easier to estimate. The range of hard costs varies, but tend to be most expensive in the major cities along the West Coast. 

Meanwhile, soft costs are any costs that are not considered direct construction costs. This includes fees related to architectural and engineering work, permits, inspections, design services, taxes, and more. 

When comparing contractor bids, always review the scope to see what kinds of costs are included in (and excluded from) the bid. Contractors may choose to leave off some or all soft costs associated with a project. 

1. Size and scope of the project

The total cost of any home remodel or addition is most affected by the size of your space and the size of your project (call the project scope). Let’s unpack room size first.

Smaller kitchens and bathrooms have a limited number of ways they can be remodeled, so they won’t cost as much as those that are twice or three times the size.

For example, if you’re working with just 80 square feet of space, you won’t need as much flooring as the homeowner who needs to cover 200 square feet. You also won’t need as many cabinets, countertops, and appliances. So, even if you’re changing everything in the room — including light fixtures, wall coverings, etc — your overall costs won’t be as high as someone with a bigger room.

Cost also depends on how much you plan to change. Refreshing a kitchen with new cabinets and light fixtures is a relatively cheap project most homeowners manage themselves. If you plan to move structural walls with plumbing and electrical work, your budget will need to account for the additional skills, permits, and labor required to do this work.

2. Material costs

Some materials vary widely; others are more static. Consider your raw building materials: concrete, lumber, plumbing, etc. These are required for any construction project and aren’t usually negotiable. The cost will depend on how much you need and will fluctuate based on the state of the market. For example, lumber prices alone have surged 80% between April and June this year due to the impacts of COVID. 

Then, there are “selections” — various finishes and fixtures that are much more flexible. If we’re remodeling a kitchen, you or your designer will make dozens of choices around the type of flooring, cabinets, lighting, appliances, drawer pulls, and more. Every decision comes with an endless number of budget, mid-range, and luxury options. Sticking to the choices within your price range can be challenging, but it’s the best way to manage your overall budget. 

Pro tip: To get a better sense of how quality impacts cost, we recommend looking at the Remodeling.com 2020 Cost vs. Value Report. You can see cost averages for mid-range and upscale projects in your area.

3. Labor

A recent survey by the National Kitchen and Bath Association found that almost two-thirds of the respondents said they had difficulties hiring skilled workers in the previous year, and nearly 70% felt the problem had gotten worse since 2016. Simply put, the same type of work costs much more than it did even five years ago due to a nationwide shortage of skilled labor

At Pro, we’ve strategically built a strong network of subcontractors to choose from. These are professionals that we’ve thoroughly vetted or worked with on previous projects. Because we work with a large pool of talent, we’re able to make sure our pricing remains competitive.

4. Permits 

Unless otherwise specified, construction permits are not included in a remodeling quote, and aren’t factored into the price per square foot cost of a project. They typically range between a few hundred dollars for simple projects, to thousands for large-scale projects. The cost of your permit is based on several factors: 

  • The size and complexity of your project
  • The value of the work you are doing
  • Additional permits required for your project
  • How long it takes inspectors to review your application and plans as well as the construction site

The value of the project dictates the cost of permits. You’ll often find permit pricing tiers based on the value of work. Application and inspection fees for a custom home can cost twice as much as those with a registered plan. (The difference is $4,000 vs. $2,500 in Seattle’s King County.)

The sheer size of the project also comes into play: the more square feet to be inspected, the larger the bill. These are general guidelines — permitting fees, much like permitting requirements, vary between municipalities.

5. Construction site conditions 

Older homes often need extra work to repair damage, replace aging systems, and bring other features up to date. In newer homes, it’s easier to access plumbing, wiring, and vents, so you’ll pay less in labor costs. You’re also not likely to need to redo entire systems in newer homes. 

Based on the year your home was built, we anticipate the type of extra work involved. This might require replacing old knob-and-tube electrical wiring and galvanized pipes, or safely removing asbestos or lead paint. 

Our best advice: Compare multiple bids

And remember to compare more than just the total. Once you understand exactly where your money is going and why, it’s easier to decide where to invest and where to save.

When you work with Pro.com, we help do the tough work for you. Once we understand your vision, we’ll continue to work with you to define the scope, materials, and schedule. From there, we’re able to refine our pricing and lock in your itemized quote. 

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Up next: Learn the in’s and out’s of project financing. Most clients use a mix of their savings and some type of loan — a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or a cash-out refinance. To see what you’re monthly payment might look like, plug your remodeling budget into our mortgage calculator.