it happens in a store, sometimes at the gas station. It happens once in a while
when Im picking my daughter up at school. It always happens at parties. As soon as
someone finds out that I am a contractor, I get asked. It usually goes like this: "So
you do home remodeling, what would it cost to remodel my home?"
My favorite answer is actually a question of my
own: "What does it cost to eat dinner in a restaurant?"
The answer, to both questions, is "It
depends." If we are talking about dinner, it could be $3.99 at Robertos or $399
at the Hotel Del. It depends on the food, the environment, and a million other details. If
we are talking about remodeling, it depends on whether you want a simple extension of your
family room, or an entire second story master suite complete with fireplace and luxurious
bathroom. The bottom line is that what it costs depends on what you want.
The next question is usually some variation on
"How long would it take to remodel my home?" Again, this is like asking how long
it takes to cook dinnerand the answer is the same: "It depends."
The actual construction time varies according to
the size of the projectof course remodeling a bathroom is going to take less time
than building a whole new second story. Sometimes simply getting to the start point seems
to take forever.
Most remodeling projects require City approval in
the form of a permit, and this process can be very lengthy. In the beach areas, you may
also have to get approval from the Coastal Commission, or if your home is on a canyon, you
may have restrictions because of endangered species living there. Researching and
resolving these issues must be done before anything is built. This adds time to the job,
and we have little control over how much.
Usually when I start explaining the permit process
and zoning regulations the question becomes "Why cant I do what I want with my
own home?" In terms of permits, I use the restaurant analogy: the Building Department
issues permits for building like the Health Department issues permits for food service.
The City wants to insure that structures are safe to occupy and resistant to hazards
common in the area (e.g., earthquakes, floods, etc.). Im sure you want that too-
after all you wouldnt want your neighbors house to burn up (and possibly cause
yours to burn too) because the electrical system was installed improperly.
In regard to zoning, I can only say that the
planning groups that determine zoning regulations and review any exemption requests are
made up of civic-minded folks that want the best for our City. You may not agree with all
their decisionsI dont always agree with them eitherbut you must agree
that its a difficult job to accommodate everyones needs and desires for their
When I meet someone who has already done a
remodeling project, their question is more likely to be "Why did my project cost more
than I thought or was told?" Of course, I cant say specifically why their
project cost more, unless I did the job.
In most cases though, what the homeowner has
forgotten was all the little upgrades they made along the way. For example, when we are
first discussing the project, the homeowner is looking for ways to save money, so when I
ask if they want a Jacuzzi tub instead of a plain one, many people will say no. Then once
we get into the job and they can see how nice their new bathroom will be, they change
their minds and decide to spend the money for the tub with whirlpool jets. Its not
unusual for a job to have several change orders, each one representing a
"little" thing that increases the price of the overall project.
My favorite question is this; "Could you come
out and give me a proposal for remodeling my house?" Although you might think the
answer to this one is always "yes!", I sometimes have to decline the
opportunity. Why? I have found the best way for a contractor to go broke and leave
homeowners with half-finished projects is to say "yes" to any and every job that
I know that in order to build a quality product
and have a happy homeowner, our projects need to be supervised effectively. My
superintendents cant do a very good job of that if they spend half their time
traveling from one job to the next. Thats why we sometimes have to say no to a job
that is in an area far from other projects currently underway.