How long does a complete remodel take?

wnymomJuly 26, 2009

As I get ready to select a contractor, I have numerous questions, which I will post separately if you all don't mind. This is our first major remodel, so I have a lot to learn before I proceed.

My first question is how long does a complete remodel generally take? I have had two different quotes for a complete gut/remodel of an 8x7 hall bathroom.

The first contractor told me 7 days. He would start when all materials are delivered, and would basically do in one day what contractor 2 would do in a week. (I know that's not necessarily a good thing).

The second contractor told me 5 weeks and gave me a complete breakdown: week 1:complete demo & set up with light framing, week 2: roughing of all plumbing & electrical; week 3:insulation sheetrock and taping; week 4:tile and finish carpentry; week 5:painting and shower door install.

Contractor #2 also added in allowances for fixtures/cabinets/granite/tile, shower door in his total price. How does that work? Do I have to buy everthing through him or can I shop to get better prices elsewhere?

Contractor #2 also told me he would be running new plumbing from the basement up to the bathroom. Contractor #1 told me he will change the plumbing in the bathroom only and inspect the rest of the plumbing after the gut, and additional plumbing work would be done only if needed. My house was built in 1920 and I'm sure has either the original pipes or perhaps pipes from the 1950's - I'm not sure.

Thanks in advance for your advice.

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You really can't possibly believe contractor #1 can do a complete overhaul of your bathroom in one week do you? Even if you know he can't, just him telling you that would be reason enough to run the other direction :o And he'd only replace the pipes (in 90 year old house) IF they needed it? I think you'll be very very disappointed in contractor #1. I would think any decent contractor would allow you to buy your own fixtures but maybe not. He might turn down the job if you don't get them thru him. More than likely he's making a profit.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 12:04AM
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We just did a small hall bathway (actually smaller than yours) which was gutted to the studs. Our job took about 6 weeks, which included two weeks just for the tile (new floor and custom shower enclosure). We had to relocate some plumbing (our house is 50 years old).

We had a number of estimates (I think 6?) and none quoted less then several weeks to a month. We supplied all of our fixtures but went through a local plumbing supply house that all the contractors knew and worked with, which turned out to be helpful when a few things had to be returned/exchanged. None of the contractors cared if I got the materials and supplied them. Most had their own subs for everything, including tiling (we ultimately used one who didn't and who was willing to use our excellent tile guy, which is part of why we chose him). Be sure you ask about the subs and in the case of tile work, be sure you see actual work the tiler has done.

Also, ask about permits -- who is pulling them, you or the contractor (and make sure SOMEONE is!) Our town requires a building permit and then separate plumbing and electrical permits; we pulled the building permit for this remodel (though when we did our kitchen, a larger project, several years ago, the contractor pulled all the permits), and the subs (electric and plumbing) pulled their own.

Hope this helps? (Our bath was 35 square feet total.)

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 8:16AM
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Our GC told us 2-3 weeks each for our small bathrooms. We are doing two bathrooms - one at a time. Our house was built in the 70's so we didn't have to do that much plumbing. We just finished week 1, we did the demo ourselves over a weekend. They have completed the plumbing changes, electrical, sheetrock and cement board and placed the shower pan. This week will be tiling. Our GC has ordered things where he can get a better price, but we have also bought some things ourselves. He doesn't seem to care one way or the other. I would definitely be cautious of someone who thinks it can be done in a week. It seems that quality might suffer.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 9:10AM
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Wow - thank you for validating what contractor #2 said. I guess I had basically eliminated the first contractor already and was trying to justify going with #2. He is very expensive, but has done several neighbors' houses & they all love him and his work. I've seen his work and it's top notch. I know if I go with him everything will be done beautifully and correctly, although my bank account will take a hit.

We have had 3 estimates. The first two told me it would take about a week to 10 days, so when I was told 5 weeks, I was shocked - but now I know that is the correct time for a thorough job.

Thanks everyone.

CTlady, are you metro NY? Do you mind if I ask the total price range for your redo? I had budgeted $20,000 including fixture, etc., for this job, but contractor #2 will be more than that.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 11:52AM
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wnymom -- we are in southern Litchfield County, in Connecticut (so not Westchester in NY or Fairfield in CT). Our total came to about $18,000, which I thought was outrageous at first (and was certainly more than we'd expected) but all our bids came in about the same ballpark. We did go with high-end plumbing (Grohe and Toto) so I'm sure we could have cut costs if we hadn't done that. We had some additional construction (changing a regular door to a pocket door) but nothing major in terms of the actual space. We also spent more (I imagine) on the tiling job, but that is one thing I wanted done RIGHT the first time, so it was worth it to us to pay a little more. I love the way the bath turned out (though as hard as I try, I can't quite see where $20,000 went!!)

It is WELL worth the grief you will save to spend a bit more upfront and get it done right the first time around.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 3:31PM
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Time-wise, they are both at the extremes. In reality, it should take somewhere in the middle. But I have more faith in contractor #2 for a more realistic/gracious timeline than in contractor #1 for his slash and burn, in and out timeline.

Allowances: Be careful with the allowances! An allowance simply means that you haven't picked out specific materials, but he's including an "allowance" in the bid so that he can give you an overall $$$ for the job. The allowance should also just be a FINISHED MATERIAL allowance, not a FINISHED MATERIAL AND LABOR/INSTALLATION allowance. Meaning, you have a 100 sqft bathroom and a $500 allowance for bathroom flooring. That works out to $5 a sqft. That $5 should be for the cost of the tile only. The labor to install, the cost of the underlayment or menmbrane, etc, should be buried in the overall cost of the job. If you chose a tile that cost $7 a sqft, you went $2 a foot or $200 over your allowance. The contractor will bill you for the additional $200 at the end of the job. If you chose tile that is $4 a sqft, you should get a $100 credit at the end of the job because you can in under the allowance.

Be careful with allowances. $500 for "finished electrical/lighting" might sound fine until you realize you need two lights in your shower, a ceiling light in the bathroom, four sconces in the walls, a vent fan in the shower as well as another over the tub, and fancy wall dimmer/timer switches to control them all.

So try to break allowances down into specific things; flooring, countertops, wall coverings, lighting fixtures, vent fixtures, etc. And make sure that the shower glass allowance is JUST for the cost of the glass. Not the cost to install it too. If installation is included, then break out the labor cost in your head so when you get the final bill there are no surprises.

And for things like tile or hardwood flooring, break those down into square foot pricing. It makes it much easier to shop that way.

Your contractor might have an arrangement with a local supply house or two. You can shop there and "get his price" or you can shop on your own and buy things on your own. Just ask him if he has any additional mark-ups on things you get through him or things you get on your on.

It's always better to ask these questions now rather than later.

It's simply good business.


    Bookmark   July 28, 2009 at 3:05PM
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In defense of contractor 1, #2 must work at a turtle's pace or work 5 hours a day. A week for demo and framing and a week for insulation and drywall? For a room your size, those projects can both be done in a week total.

How different is your new layout? Are you drastically changing everything... moving the toilet across the room, etc., or just getting new goods, leaving the basics where they are?

given the fact that renovations and new building usually go over budget and are rarely on time anyway, I wouldn't write off number one. Maybe he plans on working 12 hour days or something....

    Bookmark   July 28, 2009 at 3:40PM
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Mine would have been done in three weeks if we hadn't had a long delay in the kitchen part. It's a tiny bathroom, but some of the walls are concrete, so there were some framing challenges. Demo took two days, framing a few more days, plumbing a day, electrical a day... tiling 2-3 days.

Funny how time estimates can vary so. I got quotes to paint my living room, kitchen, and bathroom. It's a big job because the living room ceiling and two small walls in the dinette need to be skim-coated. One painter estimated he could do the whole job in a weekend - skim coat, primer, and two coats of paint.

Second painter came in and said a week and a half to two weeks. I asked why so long, the first guy said a weekend? He explained to me what skim-coating was, how you have to let each coat of plaster dry and then sand it down - no way it could be done in a weekend. Ah.

Hired him. He never showed up. Long story.

Interviewed two more painters. One is also at the 1-1/2 week mark. The other said three weeks. They're both professional painters with large businesses. I trust that they'd both do a good job. I'm taking the guy with the credible, but shorter 1-1/2 week estimate. (Three-week guy wanted more money, too - I guess 'cos the job was gonna take longer. LOL!)

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 8:51AM
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Just my diy-er, unprofessional, probably ill-informed opinion ;) : I'm renovating my own bathroom, gutting and rebuilding, and with two helpers, it's looking like it will be done within two weeks.

That included taking out all the existing fixtures, stripping three layers of carpet (gross!), rewiring, plumbing (not moving, just improving), replacing fixtures, drywalling, and tiling.

For us, the hard part has been lining up the different pros-- electric, drywaller-- to get there at the right time. The drywaller is in there now, and it'll take him a few days to do his thing, and then the tile goes in, and we're finished besides the little things (just choosing what color paint will take me at least two weeks!).

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 2:22PM
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