Construction specs: taking the guesswork out of remodeling

Posted by Jeffrey Anderson ~ October 9, 2013

Remodeling jobs that involve contractors - especially big jobs like finishing a basement, adding a garage, or finally tackling a kitchen remodel - need every detail mapped out so you can get an accurate price. Architects' drawings usually show enough of the basic design and engineering details to get a building permit, but what about everything else the job entails?

Construction specs allow you to compare apples to apples

Just about every decent sized remodeling project has a lot of details that usually aren't shown on the architect's drawings. You know exactly how the improvement should look when completed, but what about the contractors bidding the job? They may be good at framing or hanging Sheetrock - but mindreading, not so much.

Owners often take the guesswork out of commercial projects by providing specification books to each contractor bidding the job. The specification books, or construction specs as they're often called, ensure that the contractors are pricing what the owners and architect have envisioned. Since each contractor is using the same specs to provide their estimate, when you go to look at the competing bids, you know you'll be comparing apples to apples.

Most home remodeling projects aren't large enough to warrant hiring an architect to put together an official spec book. However, taking a little time to jot down important details goes a long way toward ending up with the exact home remodel you have in mind. Here are a few items contractors pricing your project may need to know:

  • Finished basement -- Do you want solid interior doors to reduce noise transmission or will hollow core suffice? You should also consider the style of doors you want. Should they be six-panel like the rest of the home or do you want to set the basement apart by using flush doors? And finally, don't forget about hardware. You may remember to pick out doorknobs, but do you need privacy locks?
  • Garage addition - What type of finish do you want on the interior of the garage? Will taped Sheetrock be enough or do you want the walls to be skimmed and sanded with two coats of paint applied? If it has a walkway door, should it be solid to provide security or would you rather have a door with lites (glass) that can brighten up the interior of the space?
  • Kitchen remodel - You probably know to talk to bidding contractors about the make and style of cabinets you want, but what about the hardware? There are numerous configurations and types of materials to choose from and some can have a significant impact on your price. Also consider kind of sink you'd like. Whether it's drop-in or undermount can make a big difference in the kitchen's appearance and could affect countertop costs.

If you're concerned you may be leaving out details, the architect or draftsperson doing your drawings may be able to help. You can also plan to sit down with the first contractor you meet with to prepare a list of specs that everyone then uses to price the job,

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