One of the most common fears of remodeling is a project snowballing out of control.

Project Snowball

Although this home underwent a major remodel, this particular room only received new paint, hardwood floors, baseboards, can lights and a fireplace insert. Thanks to a thorough planning process, all of these items were included in the original bid.

It is true that when remodeling there will always be unforeseen items that will impact the budget.

Most situations can be anticipated by working with architects and contractors experienced in the remodeling process, but surprises can be lurking behind sheetrock or plaster.

Factoring into your budget a contingency fund (we recommend 5 percent to 10 percent of your projected project cost as a reasonable amount) is critical to minimize stress during the construction stage and to make sure that the last phases of your project (window coverings, furniture, landscaping, etc.) are able to be completed.

So why do people run out of money before they run out of project?

A remodeling project snowballs for several reasons:

The first reason is the homeowner gets a case of the “while we are at its.”

It obviously changes the dynamic of the budget when what starts out as a simple kitchen remodel turns into a whole house overhaul.

While it is tempting to move into different parts of the house “while you are at it,” each decision needs to be made in light of your total project budget.

Unless money is no object, funds spent up front are generally not available later on in the process.

Planning really does pay off.

The more specific you are in what you want in the planning and design phase, the more accurate your drawings (and therefore your bid) will be and the more efficiently the work can be completed.

Your contractor plans the sequence of your project. He schedules subcontractors to come in at specific times to do their portion of the work.

If you decide you want an additional light fixture after the electrician has wired the rest of the project, it is going to cost you more money for that light, as well as more time to complete the project.

The attitude of “we’ll just figure it out as we go along” is a sure recipe for snowballing and will undoubtedly cost you both time and money.

Incomplete drawings leave holes in the plans that will lead to costly change orders. It is not uncommon to hear of situations where homeowners bid their project without complete drawings and specifications, with the consequence of tens of thousands of dollars in change orders being equally common.

Sometimes a project snowballs through no fault of the homeowner.

There are times a contractor underestimates the bid, so when the work actually begins, the real cost of the project is thousands of dollars more than the original bid.

This can be avoided by carefully selecting a contractor. However, even good contractors can sometimes miss the mark on an estimate.

Architects, or other project consultants, offer bid review services. Having a professional help you review and compare contractor bids can help you save money and avoid accepting bids that don’t reflect the true cost of the work.

While a low bid can be enticing, we enable clients to look at the bigger picture. One client wanted to proceed with a bid that seemed attractive until we identified $30,000 worth of work missing from the bid — not such a bargain in the long run!

Overall, planning ahead and working with professionals that help you anticipate the true cost of what you want will help you to avoid a project getting away from you.

Most people underestimate what their project will cost to build. Sitting down with an architect at the beginning of your project and talking real numbers may be a little disappointing when you find out the reality of the cost to remodel.

Many homeowners find that what they want to do to their house is not in line with what they can afford or what makes sense in terms of investing in their home or neighborhood. The good news is that architects are able to see your house and situation from a different perspective and can come up with design alternatives.

Even if you can’t do what you originally wanted to do with your house, an architect can help you design something great that fits into your budget and will change your life for the better.

Architects Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the founders of Renovation Design Group,, a local design firm specializing in home remodels.

Renovation Solutions: Avoid the remodeling project snowball