This is a general question about estimating costs that a contractor might charge for a job.

I have a large renovation project that I am considering. This project is clearly beyond my abilities. Before I start calling contractors for estimates I want to come up with an approximate estimate on my own.

Is there anything like a common worksheet, standard hourly rate, or comparison shopping tool that might help me?

I am intentionally not describing my project as I am seeking a general tool, guide, or process rather than something for just this job.

My goal is to find out if this is a $1000 job, a $5000 job, or a $15000 job so that I can have my finances somewhat in order before I get professional estimates. I do not want to waste my time or a contractors time if the job is an order of magnitude more expensive than I think it is!

  • What's the job? – iLikeDirt Nov 2 '15 at 20:39
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    Honestly, I think that getting a quote from a contractor is a pretty good "tool" for the job. I wouldn't worry about wasting their time unless this is all just hypothetical and you have no intention of ever using them for work. You could always offer to pay for the appointment... I think any online calculator or source will have very limited accuracy. – JPhi1618 Nov 2 '15 at 21:48
  • @JPhi1618 good advice. I do want this job done, but its a renovation rather than a repair. Compensation for the estimate would ease my mind a bit, I'd basically be paying for a professional opinion to set my budget goals then at some point in the future actually doing the job. – Freiheit Nov 3 '15 at 14:00
  • The job in question is removing a 16' load bearing wall between a family room and living room to make a great room. My goal here was to not learn how to estimate out that specific job. There will be other jobs and having some way to determine a very rough cost would be helpful to know for the future. – Freiheit Nov 3 '15 at 14:02
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    You've probably figured out that prices vary by geography. And this job is light on materials but heavy on labor, so is an outlier where "rules of thumb" are concerned. However, the elements of your job will be the same anywhere, and you can guess at the cost of each element. Engineering the beam. Permits from the AHJ. Demolition (possibly including moving/terminating electrical). Hauling. Temporary support. Installing the beam. Drywall fixing/interior finishes. Paint. Fix the flooring. Clean up. Most sensible people would use a licensed/insured contractor for this job, so overhead goes up. – Aloysius Defenestrate Nov 3 '15 at 14:31

Estimating isn't an exact science and it is only accurate when you know exactly what materials are needed and the number of man hours needed to complete the job. The most accurate estimates are determined by itemizing all the material cost and amounts, man-hours and labor rates, costs for subcontractors and finally overhead and profit. The material costs can be figured by seeing a blue print or knowing what is to be done. You may have a more difficult time knowing what to calculate for overhead and profit. So depending on were you reside and the contractor it would be safe to assume a mark-up of 20-40% of the total costs for material and labor.

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