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  • Writer's pictureAnthony M.

How Do You Start A Home Remodel?

Updated: Jan 16, 2018

An architect I worked with for several years would always say, "You should never start down the road until you know where your going. More often than not you will be heading in the wrong direction and waste time and energy before you get to where you need to be." The point he was trying to make, is that unless you know exactly what you want and where your going, it is of no benefit to you to start spending your time and resources in moving forward.

For many remodeling their home is like going to outer space. They have no idea of what the actual costs involved are. They are also confused as to what the laws and codes are required by their local jurisdiction. If you are like most, you have no idea where to even start. How much can you afford if there is no set standard?

The point of this blog post it to help you as the home owner know what steps are needed before you go down that road.

Below are...



Although this sounds like a no brain-er, it is important you know what your needs are versus what your wants are. For instance, one may NEED an extra bedroom because of gaining an additional family member in the home. But one may WANT to have ten foot ceilings and hardwood floors.

Write down your needs, whether on a piece of paper or in your cell phones note-pad (my preferred method). If it is a new home, be specific about how many bedrooms, garage size, how many bathrooms, rv parking, etc. These needs will be the backbone of your project.

Use your list of needs to create your list of wants. For instance, if it is a Master Bedroom you are planning on adding, write down all the things you would like that room to have (10' ceilings, hardwood floors, coffee bar, etc.). Do this for each of your needs. For each room, include what size you would like the room to be. This will be helpful later for figuring out how much your project will cost.


Although money can make almost anything happen, local building codes and your property's local limitations can quickly end your project before it has even started.

If you already have a property it is important that you work within the City/County Planning Guidelines. Each local jurisdiction uses a different set of rules to determine how much construction can happen on a lot. Some only allow up to 50% Lot Coverage, while others have calculations that seem so random you'll think it might be a joke. The point is, you NEED to speak with the Planning Department to determine what you can do with your lot.

Once you have determined that your project is within the Lot Coverage and F.A.R. (Floor Area Ratio) Requirements, and is within any pre-defined lot setbacks (the buffer around a property that you cannot build in), you are ready to start figuring out the big issue,... Can You Afford it???


Out of all the steps, this is probably the most controversial and one that will change over time. The reason is because construction costs and methods are constantly changing. In addition to that, the area where you live will have a great impact on the cost of construction. This is because of two main variables.


This is referring to the cost of materials. I'm sure you've heard of people being able to remodel their home for almost nothing at all, and others have paid immense amounts of money. Why do the costs seem so far apart? The cost of materials is usually the culprit.

Think of it this way: You can buy a brand new car with all the bells and whistles for under $12k. You can also buy a car with the same bells and whistles for over $30k. What is the difference? It usually has to do with the quality of parts and the quality of design and who made the product. The same is true for everything in your house. From your windows to your floors, your contractor will use either high quality or high valued products (cheaper). These will in the end effect the overall cost of construction.


There are some very skilled builders, carpenters, electricians and so on, that are very reasonably priced. Most skilled tradesman however are able to charge a little more because the quality of work that they provide. This however is true in the reverse. There are some very high priced, low skilled tradesman. So how do you know the difference?Word of mouth!

Word of mouth is the best reflection of a builders quality and price. It's true that a builder will only give you referrals that will give him a good recommendation, so where else do you look? Ask to speak with one of their CURRENT clients. This is good because the builder has no control on whether this is going to be a good referral or a bad one. If you make contact with one of their clients during construction, you will absolutely hear if there is any frustration by the home owner.

Read the reviews! Check out websites like,, and other sites that allow tradesmen to be reviewed by their customers. These sites offer a non-biased place where the home owner is free to rate his experience of his builder or designer.

Ok, so this still does not answer the question of price and whether you can afford to build your project. Below is a list of some of the things that you will need to pay for to get your remodel completed:




For the sake of this article we are going to skip the first two and concentrate on the Construction / Building Costs. You should already have your Need / Wish List, and should have already determined by speaking to the Planning Department how large of a project you can do. We are going to use this information to try to figure out the cost of your project and plug in a few numbers.

Determine the square footage of your project by multiplying the room dimensions. For instance, if you are adding a master bedroom that would be 12' x 12', you would multiply the dimensions to determine the size. (12' x 12' = 144 square feet) Do this for each room, including closets and restrooms to determine the total square feet. Add 10 percent for circulation (hallways, doorways), and this will give you a rough estimate of how large of an addition/alteration you will be doing. Be sure to include areas that may already be constructed such as a kitchen or bathroom. This is because the total altered square feet will be included in our calculation.

Example: 1,000 Square Foot Home w/ 3 bedroom and 1 Bath


Remodel Existing Kitchen (100 sf)

Add Bedroom & Bath (225 sf)

Open Up Living Room (250 sf)

Circulation 10% (57.5 sf)

Total: 632.5 sf

For the sake of estimating the total cost of construction, we are going to use some numbers based off of real projects in Northern California (Bay Area & Central Valley).

Cost of construction on a low end can be around $175.00 per square foot. High end construction on a recent project in a the Bay Area came out to around $350.00 per square foot. This means that the sample project above may come out to $110k on the low end, to $220k on the high end. Please keep in mind that there are so many construction cost variables, whether because of the skilled labor or the materials, that it is impossible to get this cost exact without going into a ton of detail.

From here, you can either increase the size of your project, or reduce the scope to something within budget.


By the time you've gone through these steps, you should have an idea whether your project is feasible. Planning or Cost will have either killed your project before it even started, or you realized that you can begin the trip that will be the journey to your new home.

I hope this article has helped you in starting down that road to your completed Home Remodel.

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