How to Figure the Cost of Remodeling

Write specific lists of upgrades to help calculate renovation costs.

Write specific lists of upgrades to help calculate renovation costs.

Unless you’re a contractor or experienced with DIY projects, you’ll need to work with a remodeling professional to get an accurate cost for renovating a room or your entire home. Even if you’re not good with a hammer and paintbrush, you can get a pretty good estimate of home renovation costs using some advice from your real estate agent, a tape measure and a bit of Internet research. Planning you remodel in advance will help you determine how much you might need to spend upgrading your bathroom or kitchen and if you’ll get a payback when you sell your house.

Meet with a real estate agent to discuss what types of upgrades will help you sell your home quickly and for more money. Let the agent know if you are making the upgrades for yourself, to enjoy while you live in the house, or if you are specifically looking to remodel to help sell your home.

Write a list of the specific improvements you want to make in each room. For example, in your kitchen, you might want to redo the floor, add new countertops, replace or reface the cabinets, paint or wallpaper the walls, or add new appliances.

List the alternate options for each renovation you want to make. For example, you can install new kitchen cabinets or reface them and add new hardware. You can do a tub-to-shower conversion or reglaze your existing configuration. You can carpet or lay a wood floor in your bedroom.

Write a list of the materials and appliances you will need for a DIY renovation, if that’s your plan. Measure the room you will be remodeling to help determine the number of cans of paint, wallpaper rolls, tile, carpet or flooring you’ll need, or to help a contractor create an estimate. Calculate the square footage of areas you will be tiling, carpeting, painting, papering or glazing.

Visit websites or home centers that sell the products you want to determine the cost of materials you’ll need for a DIY project. Choose the exact appliances, fixtures, tiles, carpet, paint or wallpaper you want. Include the tools necessary for installing items, such as paintbrushes, paint tray, wrenches or a stepladder.

Use online remodeling calculators to determine the approximate cost of installing flooring, tile, paint and wallpaper in your area. Look for calculators that include labor costs if you are planning on using a contractor.

Calculate the amount of paint you’ll need based on the type of surface you’ll be painting and your level of experience. Budget for 1 gallon of primer for every 175 to 200 square feet of drywall or substrate you will paint, and 1 gallon of finishing paint for every 300 to 350 square feet. Budget for the larger amount of paint if you are a novice painter. If you are wallpapering, figure that a standard roll of wallpaper covers approximately 30 square feet.

Photograph each area of the house you want to remodel to share with a contractor, if you will be hiring one. Take full shots of the room, as well as isolated shots and close-ups of specific areas or components you want remodeled.

Contact one or more contractors and give them a detailed list of your project’s parameters, including your flooring, tile, countertop, appliance, paint, stain, counter and wallpaper choices, complete with model or order numbers. A contractor may be able to buy your specific materials at a discount. Detail the type of work you want done, such as refacing cabinets, resurfacing bathroom components or sanding and staining floors. Give the contractor the exact area measurements for each part of the project. Ask for the cost of any permits the project will require. Inquire as to whether you can do any of the preproject work yourself, such as removing wallpaper, cabinet doors or carpeting, and how that will affect the budget. Ask about alternatives to the projects you are considering and the costs.

Contact your local water authority and your electricity or gas supplier to ask about rebates and tax credits for which you will qualify when you make home upgrades. Ask about water heater replacement rebates and state or local tax credits for energy efficient windows, roofs and water-saving toilets. Download form 5695, titled Residential Energy Credits, from the IRS website to determine which of your upgrades qualify for a tax deduction, which might include geothermal heat pumps, solar panels and water heaters, small wind energy systems and fuel cells.

Items you will need

  • Online remodeling calculators

Tip

  • Add 10 to 15 percent to the cost of both DIY and contractor projects to provide a cushion. Once work begins, you may find problems behind walls, under existing flooring or in other areas that require additional work.

About the Author

Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.

Photo Credits

  • David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images