Reduced Square Footage Doesn’t Equal Reduced Costs

When it comes to renovating a small area, will it be less expensive?

There is a huge misconception that it will be less expensive to renovate a “small” space. Almost every client that calls us with a bathroom, or a kitchen project will say the words “it’s a small space, so costs should be low.” However, low square footage doesn’t equate to being less expensive. Our pricing model is not necessarily based on your square footage. Regardless of your square footage, you still have the same labor involved to remove a tub and vanity or tile a shower whether the bathroom is 100 or 400 square feet.

Where you may have cost savings based on square footage, is on the material side, like with buying less flooring. However, when it comes to installation, we will still have the same labor associated with the install.

Chicago Bathroom Remodeling

When it comes to bathroom remodels, even though the space may be small, why is it not less expensive to renovate?

Renovation costs for a bathroom don’t fluctuate based on the square footage of the space. They will fluctuate based on the components – is there a toilet, tub, separate shower, vanity, etc. Pricing for a powder room, guest bathroom, and master bathroom will vary because the components are different. A powder room contains just a toilet and a single sink. A guest bath typically has a toilet, vanity, and tub shower combo or walk-in shower. Your master bath will most likely include a double sink vanity, toilet, soaking tub, and separate walk-in shower.

Progressively your cost will increase from a powder room to a master bathroom. Some clients may consider replacing the tile in their bathroom and/or shower enclosure as “simple,” when it’s not. What they may not realize is professionals have to remove your tub, vanity, or toilet to do the work and clients don’t understand that it adds to your labor cost. Labor isn’t exclusive to solely removing your existing floor and replacing it with new tile. There is a whole domino effect.

If you think about a 400 square foot master bathroom vs a 200 square foot master bathroom – they have the exact same components. Both are going to have a shower, vanity, tub, and toilet.

In a bathroom, what are some of the more expensive projects?

A common bathroom update that clients tend to not consider as a more expensive alteration is converting a tub shower combo into a walk-in shower. There is a lot of labor involved starting with demo and re-framing the entire space. Even though the plumbing lines remain, you’re removing a tub, reframing the enclosure, building the shower base, and then there is the expense of the tile. And even though the plumbing is there you still need to make adjustments to accommodate the new shower.

What about renovations on a powder room?

A powder room is simpler because it is only a toilet and a sink so costs will be much lower. You are typically aren’t working in a large space so the client isn’t considering a change in layout in a powder room. Powder room renovations are typically replacing existing fixtures.

Does this same concept apply to kitchen remodels regardless of square footage?

The same concept applies because you have identical components, regardless of if you want to renovate a small galley kitchen or a large open kitchen. You will have some savings on the material side for a smaller kitchen because you will need less cabinetry and less flooring, but labor is labor.

Be ready to discuss what components in your kitchen you want to keep. If you only want to switch out your sink, fixtures, countertop, and backsplash – and want to keep your appliances, cabinetry, and have smaller upgrades – you’ll keep your costs low.

A client also should consider the work they want to be done and the trades that would be involved in handling that work. For example, if you want to relocate your dishwasher, sink, and move your microwave to the kitchen island, you will drive your costs higher because electrical and plumbing are expensive trades and big cost drivers.

Even if you don’t know exactly where you want to put things in your kitchen, you should come to a contractor knowing what you plan to move or rearrange and know what you want to keep or replace. Have a list of your needs and wants. Our job is to help you achieve your vision and educate you on what’s possible within the constraints of your space and investment.

If someone has received quotes from other contractors, what do you discuss with them?

Arete is here to educate clients – especially if they have already received quotes from other contractors. Our pricing tends to be more mid to high range, so if you have already received a couple of quotes, it’s important to ask if another contractor (s) included allowances for material such as tile or countertop, or did they price out actual costs based on their specific material selections?

We price material based on the client’s actual selection. If a client receives a quote with an allowance, it is highly likely you will get hit with a change order later on. Some contractors use allowances as a way to offer a lower price upfront to entice the client to sign, and later through change orders, they will recoup the difference.

Currently, giving quotes with allowances is tricky, with everything that’s happening with material manufacturing and supply. It’s not uncommon for suppliers to unexpectedly send price increases up to 25% on material costs they originally quoted. Material supply is a very delicate situation right now.

What is a change order fee?

A change order is any work above and beyond the initial contract you signed. Typically change orders come from unexpected findings after the demo is completed. It is impossible to forecast what will be found behind the walls. There are things you just won’t know or see until walls have been opened up. A change order can also come from the client changing their mind. You may have initially planned for a standard walk-in shower, but the client then decides they want to add a shampoo niche. The additional cost to build the shampoo niche would result in a change order.

How important is it to have a budget?

I always like to get some sort of budget from a client. I know a lot of people are hesitant to give that, but it’s important because – even if we’re not the contractor you select, Arete tries to provide you with alternatives. I believe most people have a realistic budget. You can always do your renovation within your budget, but it’s all about how you do it.

If you only want to spend $5,000 on a bathroom remodel, then you’re probably going to have to buy all the material on your own. You’ll have to be your own general contractor for the majority of the work, and bring in an electrician and plumber for the trade work.

It all comes down to how hands-on you want to be. Do you want to be the GC, project manager, and designer or do you prefer to just hand over your wants and needs and have one company manage all aspects from start to finish? Both options come at a different price.

Chicago bathroom remodel

What about renovating an existing bathroom floor into a heated floor?

Heated floors are really tricky because there is no room for error. There is lots of testing that goes into it because as soon as you get that tile down, you have to make sure the floor heat is still operational and not leaking, otherwise you’re ripping the floor back up for any repairs.

Heated floors are very tedious down to the length of nails you use on the subfloor. You need to be very careful of nail placement so you don’t puncture any pipes.

HGTV and the DIY YouTube channels make it difficult for remodel businesses because it looks so easy on TV. At Arete, we would rather bring the client to our job sites that are in process, or recently finished, to show them proper examples. If you’re thinking of a remodel, we suggest clients talk to our prior clients that had a similar project. Contact us here or call us at 773-610-4551 to discuss your potential project with our Chicago home remodeling experts.