Allowances and Budgeting Can Be a Nightmare for Both Contractor and Client

There are two really frustrating issues that can (and usually do) surface during the course of a remodeling project. Inadequate allowances and/or not identifying and budgeting for all the items a client wants, can really turn a project sour. To anyone getting ready to plunge into a project or to those in the early stages of a project, take heed and insist that your architect/designer help you avoid these pitfalls. This second piece of advice might sting a little, but here it goes…take control of your own budget. If there is a line item allowance for a material and you select another material that is more expensive, that’s your choice as the homeowner. That does not become your contractor’s problem. This is one area where contractors and homeowners sometimes have issues, so avoid this altogether by paying attention that each purchase or expenditure falls within the set allowance for that item. It is, after all, your project and ultimately your check book. Now, to avoid the issue of an inadequate allowance by your contractor, you need to be very clear about what you want in the early stages of design and planning, so both of you are clear on what is expected. Material samples are a very important part of gaining clarity. When a material is chosen from a sample (be it flooring, cabinetry, tile, trim, whatever), budgeting is a piece of cake and no one gets hit with a surprise when it’s installed or when the bill comes. The other communication that needs to happen is a design. Cabinetry, for instance, needs to be planned in terms of layout, door style and finish and accessories installed inside. All of those details need to  be understood, and there’s no better way to communicate those details than with a set of approved drawings. It can be difficult for a contractor to create a budget, when the client isn’t extremely specific about what they want. I tend to budget “middle of the road” when figuring allowances for materials that are not specified, rather than going low just to get the job. I can closely predict what a particular house may dictate construction-wise, but I cannot possibly know what finishes an individual may want in their home. The vast amount of selections required with an even larger range of pricing for these items makes it nearly impossible to define a budget. Ultimately it is up to the homeowner to decide how much they want to spend and what finishes they would like in their home. Because I am also a designer, I help my clients make all those decisions.  Plan, plan, plan is the only way to have a project hit budget. And if you choose not to plan and wing it along the way, please do not blame the contractor. We would love to have detailed material lists, so we may price your...

Read More »

How important is a designer?

When you have a designer from the beginning, they can and will help to create a REALISTIC budget for a project. Many times in my ”designer” past I have been brought in when the homeowner and the contractor were frustrated with each other, because there was only $1,000.00 left in an allowance that should have been ten times that amount. The job is at a standstill because details were not discussed until the contractor needed them. It’s not really the fault of the contractor; it’s just reality. I also have to say that having every line item chosen at the drawing phase is a difficult task. The trick is to be a couple steps ahead of the timeline. Weekly meetings with the homeowner are helpful to keeping the project and budget on track. Find out what the next phase requires. Some materials need lead time. Many tile lines need 4 weeks or more to be ordered and shipped. Always leave a little extra time for problems. In my 12 years in this business I have yet to be on a job that didn’t evolve a bit from the original drawings. We cannot see into the future or know about that termite damage under the floors or the mistake the builder made 50 years ago that has been hidden until the demolition phase. We have to remain open to a bit of wiggle room and a lot of patience and understanding throughout the entire process. SO before you renovate have these 4 things in place… Architect (if needed) Designer + Contractor (preferably one person who wears both hats) Therapist (I counsel couples frequently during a...

Read More »