This is the biggest question on every homeowner’s mind, and we know it’s a subject that can feel confusing and stressful. There are a few reasons for this:
- You get different bids from different contractors and aren’t sure what kind of value each one offers.
- You don’t know your contractor very well, and you discover that their work isn’t as efficient or reliable as you’d expected.
- Some contracts don’t offer firm prices, meaning your costs can easily get out of control.
At Mantis, we want to help you feel peace of mind about the cost of your project. We use thorough planning, honest pricing, and transparent communications to help your costs feel as reliable and trustworthy as possible. This article will help you understand the factors that go into your costs, so you know what to expect throughout the design-build process.
Ultimately, it’s up to you how much your project will cost. We can design for any budget: we’ve built bathrooms that cost $20,000, $40,000, and $80,000. We’ve helped clients freshen up their kitchens for as little as $30,000, and done elaborate and gorgeous kitchens for $100,000+.
We’ll be honest and transparent about our end of the process so you can feel informed and relaxed about your end. In every part of the process, our goals are to:
- help you feel educated and empowered to make the decisions that are right for you
- find the greatest value for your money
- advocate for your best interests at every turn.
You should always feel like the cost of the project is in your hands.
Phase One: Define
The first part of the process involves exploring and defining your project. You’ll offer a rough budget and ideas of what you’re looking for. As the designers, we help guide you by offering lots of options to consider. Together, we create a very rough assembly of ideas and desires.
We keep the budget in mind during this process, but we also encourage you to play around with the possibilities, knowing that we’ll find a happy balance at the end of this discovery process.
There are a few other aspects we take into account, such as the relationship between the cost of a project and the value of your home or neighborhood, to make sure you’re well informed and making the best choices about the investment you’re making.
Phase Two: Design
We get to work drawing up a preliminary set of plans and concepts to address your goals and wishes, along with a detailed cost report for your review.
Phase Three: Refine and Plan
We review the preliminary plans and costs together. Nearly every client we work with has a set budget range for their project. Sometimes the budget matches up nicely with the wish list and sometimes it doesn’t. No matter the situation, we always work hard to find creative solutions to help your available funds stretch as far as possible. If you want to scale back on the cost of the project, we’ll help you find affordable alternatives to bring things into balance. There are many gorgeous and high-quality details and products that can still provide you with a new and lovely space. We’ll draw on our extensive experience to help you understand why one element might be worth paying more for, while another element can be scaled back without long-term consequences.
During this phase, you’ll also do some reflecting on what’s important to you. You might decide that the luxurious steam shower you thought you wanted isn’t that important to you after all, and that a simple shower design would be perfectly fine. Or you might decide that you’ll find great value and joy in a heated floor system, and it’ll be worth the extra cost. It’s entirely in your hands.
This refining process happens on all projects. We’ve found that the freedom to explore options is vital to the client’s overall satisfaction and the success of their project. It’s like exploring car models and options before deciding which one to buy.
We’ll help you refine the details in this phase until we find balance among your wants, needs, and budget, and then draw up detailed final plans and a cost report for your review.
We do bill by the hour for the design process, but we’re very conscious about not wasting time on unnecessary design aspects. We aim to be as efficient with your funds as possible and to ensure that your project feels like a good value overall.
By the end of this phase, the budget and scope of work has been set, and we’re ready to move on to the building phase.
Phase Four: Build
We’ve arrived at the building phase. There are two common ways to structure a contract for building:
- Cost-plus contract
- Firm contract
A cost-plus contract is flexible and open in terms of the details and budget. It can be a useful option if your project is more fluid and undefined, and you want to get going on building before working out all the details. The downside is that it’s easy for costs to exceed your available budget, because many important details or preferences weren’t clearly defined in the initial plans.
For most projects, we’ve found that this type of contract can be really stressful for the client—especially if you’re working with a set budget. A company using a cost-plus contract will commonly ball-park the estimate because they don’t have to be as thorough about the project details yet—often leading to cost overruns later in the project. It’s easy for a project that was estimated at $100,000 to end up costing $130,000, even before the client decides on any upgrades or changes of their own.
Mantis offers firm contracts, which means that the budget is set at a certain amount and won’t change except for the conditions listed below. This means that we have to be thorough and diligent about drawing up the plan before construction begins.
With firm numbers, there are three ways that the budget can shift:
- Unforeseen conditions: such as discovering asbestos in the ceiling, or opening up a wall and discovering that carpenter ants have eaten the studs.
- Client change orders: the result of the client wanting to do something differently, like upgrading the bathtub or getting a different fixture. Change orders can shift the budget higher or lower, resulting in either credits or additional fees.
- Building inspector requirements: the inspector requires additional work that wasn’t in the original plans.
We encourage clients to set aside a contingency budget of 15-20% to allow for these factors. We do make allowances in the budget for selections that haven’t been finalized yet, so the project can get moving, but we minimize surprises with a clear scope of work and costs correctly accounted for.
Note that a cost-plus bid is often lower than a firm bid, even though the final cost of the project may end up being the same or even higher. It’s worth doing your own investigations into project bids, and making sure you know what you’re getting.
“But, Mantis, you haven’t really answered the question.” We know. We wish we could use a magic calculator to give you a precise number, but the reality is that the cost of your project is a process of discovery that takes time and focus. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming, though: we’re here to help guide you through the process and to make it as smooth and trustworthy as possible.
Please let us know if you have any questions! One of our aims is to help clients feel more empowered and informed about the process of remodeling or building your home, and we welcome your questions and feedback.