Two questions I get often is “How much should I budget for my home renovation?” or “How much do you charge per Square Foot?” Being in this business for over 30 years I can tell you Sq Ft prices are only ballpark numbers. There are many factors that go into a home renovation but using “Price Per Square Foot” can give you a rough sense of costs. This article will hopefully demystify the costs of renovating your home and make you feel more confident when speaking to a contractor.
To explain why costs could vary so greatly, let’s apply the Sq Ft principle to buying a car. You could buy a Honda Civic or a Ferrari. Both are very close in size (or Sq Ft) but one costs $30k and the other is $400k. Why? Because the Ferrari is custom with higher-end finishes. The same goes for homes. You can have a 1,000 Sq Ft dormer with basic finishes and pay a lower price. Or you can upgrade that same dormer and add 2 additional baths, large gables, arch top windows, a Portico, upgraded siding and roofing, and oak floors throughout.
That’s why each job needs to be broken down individually to meet the client’s needs and budget. We are always happy to provide a ballpark Sq Ft price over the phone, but in order to really give you the right price we need to 1) see the home 2) discuss your needs and 3) tailor your home to meet your criteria. That being said I wrote out a simple plan to help anyone budget for their next home renovation using a Sq Ft method.
Before we jump into pricing, here’s a helpful list of questions you should also ask yourself as you start your home renovation journey. It will help you better understand ballpark costs and help your contractor design your perfect dream home (that fits within your budget).
- What are my “must-haves” (e.g., grand foyer, open floor plan, large master on-suite, etc.)
- How much additional space do I need (e.g., is my family growing)?
- How many additional bedrooms or bathrooms do I need?
- What type of finishes do I want to include (e.g., high-end appliances, custom trim/millwork, marble tile in the shower, etc.)
- What will make our life easier (e.g., adding a mudroom, laundry on the second floor, etc.)
Square Foot Pricing, As A Ballpark Guide
A ballpark budget of a full home remodel in Nassau/Suffolk counties ranges from $185-$300 per square foot. This range includes all building materials (excluding items like appliances and paint) and depends on a few things:
- Type of home your remodeling
- Style and finishes you choose
This range is also averaged across “wet” (baths and kitchens), and “dry” (living rooms, bedrooms, offices, etc) spaces. In a typical cost breakdown of a “Gut” renovation you can assume:
- “Dry” spaces average $50-$80 per square foot
- “Wet” spaces could be between $300-$450 per square foot
Another factor to consider is if you are planning to “gut” your whole home or “re-do” existing areas. The term “gut renovation” is often used informally for any project where all of the visible surfaces in a room are replaced. But technically, in a gut renovation, interior walls are stripped down to the studs and framing or knocked out entirely. When gut renovating a whole home, this could add other items to consider like the home’s current conditions, alteration requirements, spatial challenges, etc.
A gut renovation will start at the higher end of the square foot (psf) range, while a renovation in which you re-do the space (within the existing walls) will be on the lower end. For example, a 875sqft 1st floor replacement renovation will come in around the $40,000-$45,000 range, while a gut renovation will likely exceed $70,000. The difference in cost can be a variety of factors such as replacing walls, installing new piping and wiring systems, etc.
What’s Included In The Cost Per Square Foot
No matter what you’re planning, here’s a basic list of items that should be included when your contractor estimates your cost per square foot:
- Basic demolition, dumpsters, cart away debris, site prep work
- Framing: the skeletal, load-bearing structure to which the interior walls and other systems are attached
- Basic layout of exterior windows and doors
- Insulation/Drywall and Spackle for paint ready walls
- Floors ready for carpet and/or wood floors
- Basic tile install for baths with basic tile allowance
- Wiring, including basic to code outlets and switches with minimum recessed lighting
- Basic Plumbing
- Basic Primed Trim package and hollow core interior doors
What’s NOT Included In The Cost Per Square Foot
You’ll notice the list above doesn’t include items like:
- Kitchen Appliances, Cabinets and Counter tops
- HVAC or Boiler
- Visible materials such as tile, plumbing fixtures, flooring, millwork, paint, lighting fixtures, AV/electronics
Why? Because the price of these items can significantly affect the price of your renovation (remember the Civic versus Ferrari). Pending the quality and type of finish, everything listed above are added in above the Sq Ft price of the project.
What Can I Afford: Cost Per Square Foot Ranges
$150–$185 psf range
- Materials are generally prefabricated or stock items
- Finishes are available at common retail outlets
- Lighting will be standard but solid basics, while hardware can be as low a few dollars apiece
- Solid wood floors, but they may be shorter and narrower planks made of less expensive woods
- At this price range you should be confident in the work quality. If a contractor promises you he/she can complete a project for under $150 psf, you might get subpar labor and obvious shortcuts
$200–$250 psf range
- Some customization on details such as joints, millwork, and hardware
- Cabinets in this price range are custom or semi-custom and can include built-ins
- Natural stone or desirable man-made counter tops (Cambria Quartz)
- Solid, wide-planked hardwood flooring
- Projects at this price point are usually gut renovations with added additions to the home increasing square footage
$300+ psf range
- More extensive customization, fine finishes, and luxurious materials such as glass or marble tile, wider plank floors, natural stone, and bespoke millwork details that complement the architecture of the home
- Other high-end finishes like custom door casements and extensive lighting details
- Renovations at this price point usually require structural work (combining apartments or moving walls), adding Steel I-beams, adding staircases, shifting gas and plumbing and electrical rewiring
- Renovations that are fully custom with very high-end finishes and bathrooms for every bedroom and large kitchen can easily run over $400 psf
Budget Tips For Your Home Renovation
Once you’ve accounted for each line item in your budget, allocate an additional 10-15% as a cushion. Projects can sometimes go over budget for two main reasons. 1) unforeseen circumstances (termite or water damage) that can’t be seen until demo is done OR 2) you choose to upgrade items during construction (trim or molding).
As you’re trying to come up with a plan to match your budget, here are some tips.
- Mix high and low finishes: You don’t always need to choose costly finishes. For example, you may choose a handmade tile for the kitchen back splash while sticking to a more affordable off-the-shelf option for the second bath. Make a custom statement where it will really get noticed.
- Don’t skimp on plumbing and electrical infrastructure: While these aspects probably won’t garner any compliments at your dinner party, you still need licensed and qualified experts for these jobs. If you don’t, there may be pricey problems to deal with in the long run.
- Focus on kitchens and baths: Spend your money here! These rooms also have the most resale value potential.
- Consult experts upfront: Involving experts early may help you save money by mapping out a clear plan and avoid future issues. Set aside 15 to 20 percent of your budget for this professional. Architects can charge a flat fee or a percentage of the total project. Another option is to hire a design/build firm. At Noah Construction, we combine design, construction and budgeting services within one fee and contract. With our services you know upfront what you’re design looks like plus have it all priced and budgeted from the start.
We know calculating home renovation costs can be tricky and we hope this breakdown was helpful. At Noah Construction we specialize in helping our clients design and build their dream homes across Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island.
Not sure how to start your renovation? Call us today, we’re happy to schedule a free consultation.