5 Quick Tips for Estimating Remodeling Project Costs

Lake Sherwood Master Suite


That first meeting and Forecasting Costs

I expand on all of these in my online interior design courses but here is a brief overview

When first meeting a client, rather than provide a multitude of ideas for them as you walk around the property....It is far more prudent to discuss:

1) The Project and what the client's expectations are (timing, costs, level of quality vs. pricing, how the space/property will be used, what is wrong/right)

2)  How you work.  This is your protocol and whether it's a small job or a huge job - it should always be the same.  

3) Provide some input but if it's not a design consult and then it's not about giving out design ideas. The client knows you via your portfolio and possibly word of mouth.

4) Providing referrals if necessary, testimonials.  Usually, they already know about you if they have contacted you.

5) Discuss a budget

Project Costs and Forecasting Numbers

My firm charges a few ways, hourly and flat rates.  For remodeling projects, my clients most often prefer I provide a flat rate to create the list below:

-Present overall design concepts and boards

-Create set of plans of the design concepts (existing, demo, proposed etc)

-Resource and specify FF&E (Finishes, fixtures, and equipment)

-Deliver Design Packet to client for contractor bids with all details provided

What does that cost they ask?  How do I get to that number?

One of two ways.   

The first and most typical is hours.  Because I have been in business for over 20 years, I know how long it takes to do the above list.  There are assistants involved, drafting involved, research....it takes time.

The good thing for the client is we get it done probably 5-10 times faster and with more accuracy than the client ever could. Clients spend too much money making errors.I have seen it over and over again....When they call me at that point it's "HELP!!"    So the cost is valid and justified.

The second is a way I have devised for me to check my numbers and also to support my fee to the client.  My fee may not be as much as this number but this is a good "rule of thumb"

I find the current value per square foot of the area.  To simplify let me give an example:

  1.  Updated houses in the area sell for 500k for a 2200 sq.ft house  Divide 2200 into 500K to get 227.00 per square foot. 
  2.  The client wants half of the house remodeled  1100 x 227.00 = 249,700.00  now multiply by 20%  and the answer comes to just under 50k
  3.  That is what they might spend within the area for upgrades. HOWEVER, if it's a kitchen or bathroom or there are custom upgrades it will be higher.   
  4. I then calculate 20% of that number to get 9900.00   That is my high number.(planning out more expensive spaces in the project)  
  5. I can decide if my hours and the particular project requirements support this number but usually, it falls between 10-20% of the cost of the remodel.  

Being able to provide an explanation to how you get to the costs is important.

Laguna Beach Retreat

There Are Many Factors Involved.

Experience will be your best tool as you look at a space and estimate.  Be sure to let the client know you are not providing a set number but "ballparking' what the remodel budget might be so they are not too far off.  EACH PROJECT IS UNIQUE AND SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT.  

Home design TV shows are great to watch but with the sponsorship that is provided behind the scenes- they are able to provide a lot for so little.  Viewers are shown a very low price for so much completed work and then are stunned at the real costs for their own homes.

Most of my clients are savvy business people and know what the costs are.  They appreciate my ability to talk the numbers right away and provide an equation of how I get to that number.

Furnishings, window treatments, and all the pretty things?  Easily 20% of total project cost plus your fee.  

Let me repeat.  There are factors involved - the level of quality, use, custom or really inexpensive....it factors in.  But this is a place to start.

I hope this was helpful!

Elizabeth Ribons, ASID, CID

Better by Design Academy is a site for the design entrepreneur, design enthusiast, design explorer, and designer starting out .  With real experience and tips that you didn't learn in design school, this is a resource you can be part of and through experience provides how to be an interior designer.  Join the group and get updates, info, promo's and events.  Click link below to join.  It's Free and so is the gift.

Join the group








So the cost is valid and justified.