Provided by: Vanessa A. Richardson, RMP, Cygnal Consulting

Home renovation is best described as a small invasion of your home fraught with worry of delay and soaring prices that culminates in change – hopefully for the better. My recent master bathroom renovation got me thinking about the risks involved with large home projects and how to achieve the best results. We received bids from many talented contractors – some large, some small. Their proposed scopes of work were similar, but estimates varied from $80k to $110K+ (including shower). We were not convinced our vision was understood. We also thought the budgets reflected a lot of overhead. My husband and I both have over 20 years of technical project management experience, he is a civil engineer, and I did a short stint in interior design; if we were having trouble, what did most people experience?! Highlighted are risks we encountered in our residential project and proposed mitigation.

Runaway Scope of Work / Getting What You Want. Dreaming of possibilities is exciting and fun. Before you start contacting contractors make a list of needs verses wants. We needed to remove the unsafe step into our bathroom. We also needed more storage space. I wanted the laundry upstairs, and I wanted Walker Zanger tile because it is to me what jewelry is to other women.

Finding a Contractor Nothing beats a personal reference. Family, friends, and neighbors are the best place to start. Contact at least three contractors. Be as clear as possible about your needs and wants at the get go. The design was mine. Details for which I didn’t have solutions, our contractor offered brilliant answers partially because he wasn’t taken up with deciding the entire design.

Decode the Estimate We found, particularly with larger contractors there were layers of management that resulted in higher costs. Ask who will be coming to your home, how often, and who will be doing the work. Contractor bids may include sales leads, “project managers”, “project supervisors”, and “trade leads” who provide management but perform little to none of the trade work. Not only are they additional costs, but they are additional communication nodes that increase the risk you may not get what you expected – your project becomes a large game of Telephone. We found a contractor who did the carpentry work himself and had a great team of subcontractors who performed the work.

Our projected ended south of $20k (excluding double shower, estimated at $12k). The result was a bathroom I never want to leave!