Remodeling costs in the SF Bay Area

lbags48January 22, 2006

Okay, here's an open ended question. How much per square foot can we expect to pay for a kitchen/family room remodel. We live on the Peninsula in the SF Bay Area.

I know there are many different variables, but I'm looking for the cost not including cabinets, countertops and appliances. For the sake of simplification, lets assume there is carpet throughout. No high end light fixtures or faucets.

Like everyone else, we have a budget. We have no idea how much this remodel is going to cost. We're pushing out two walls and adding Appx. 650 SF. We've heard figures from $200/SF to $400/SF. How are we suppose to know whether to proceed with this project if we have no idea whether we will be able to afford it?

Thanks for any help.

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Get estimates from reputable contractors in your area that are willing to give you their license number as well as references. Best if you can get a referall from a friend , co-worker, or family member that has had remodeling done and were happy about it.Other cost considerations might be bldg dept costs, engineering/plans costs(if needed),If the contractor doesn't include this as part of their service. There's no way that someone in georgia or new york is going to be able to tell you what to expect money wise , as costs vary in different parts of the country.Someone in the bay area might be able to give you an idea, but generally all remodels are unique, So your best bet is to get real deal estimates from local contractors,(licensed,bonded, and insured).

    Bookmark   January 23, 2006 at 11:26AM
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I live on the pennisula and am in the process of building out approximately 1000 sq ft which includes a new kitchen, dining room, garage, half bath and front entry/porch. All of my space is new from the foundation up as I tore down my old garage to make room for the new space. All my designs were developed by an architect and approved through the city. I recieved 5 bids ranging from 350-400K (including everything). This was too rich for my blood so I went the route of acting as my own GC. I do chip in here and there to keep the project moving, but for the most part I'm subing out the job. I should come in for about $175K, not inlcluding cabinets, appliances and counters.

My advice to you in you need to hire a GC is be patient and get lots of bids. This was very frustrating to me as many contractors did not return my calls and they were all expensive. I will say that I now know why GC's make the money that they do to manage the job, it is a lot of work. Best of luck, let me know if I can help steer you through the process.


    Bookmark   January 23, 2006 at 11:50AM
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Wow Bill, that is a huge savings!

When you decided to be your own GC, how did you get the names of all your subs? Did/do you know a lot about construction and building codes? Being a stay at home dad I certainly have the time to be my own GC.


    Bookmark   January 23, 2006 at 6:20PM
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I'm in the North Bay and we paid approx. $225. per square foot for a small addition to our kitchen in 2004. Our GC let us work out a hybrid arrangement - we selected and supplied many of the items for the project (windows, doors, floors, appliances, fixtures, cabinets, counters, faucets, etc.) The construction did not have any impact on our roof - I think I remember that the cost would have increased at least 15% if we had to do work that cut into our roof.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2006 at 7:19PM
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I'm also on the peninsula and was completely shocked. Most estimates I've heard are in the $250/sf and up range. We just finished our remodel; even when I had a few GC's give me an initial cost estimate, their estimates were all MUCH lower than their actual bids once I had a bid package put together. Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2006 at 3:32AM
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I don't think there was any one thing that led me to act as my own GC. Since my bids were too much to move forward with, I really had no choice if we wanted to proceed with the project. My architect let me down a bit in leading me to believe the project would come in between 200-250K. When the actual bids came, I went into depression for many weeks. I guess the thing that kicked me to act as my own GC was watching and helping a friend with his addition. I realized the process was something that I could handle as I do understand building priciples. I learn the codes as I go (they are not that hard). If your interested in learning more, I'd be happy to try and educate you on the process and how to find subs. Don't be fooled it is a lot of work and research to stay on top of things.


    Bookmark   January 24, 2006 at 11:51AM
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I too live in the Peninsula (Los Altos) and am in the same boat and am interested in your advice. How did you break down the subcontractor functions among demolition, foundation, framing, plumbing, electrical, interior etc. etc. and odds and ends like eves troughing? Was coordinating the work difficult? I had assumed that if the subs were licensed they could handle the inspections and your knowledge of codes would be minimal but was that not the case?

thanks again,

    Bookmark   January 25, 2006 at 1:29AM
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There is no way to do this topic justice on this forum. Each project is unique in it's own needs and challenges. Please send me an e-mail so I know how to contact you and we can discuss in more detail.


    Bookmark   January 25, 2006 at 6:23PM
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we just started last week on our long awaited addition/remodel in san carlos. over the two years we've been guiding this project, prices and fantasies have changed. we used an architect from san francisco and took bids from 4 contractors on the peninsula. in the end we went with one that bid in the middle but had been used and recommended by a number of friends. we are adding just shy of 1000 square feet, which includes a new second story, and reconfiguring and remodeling throughout another 5 or 600 square feet, including a new kitchen. we're facing a 400k+ bill. we've saved and gone simple in some areas and splurged in others. don't be afraid to meet with 3-5 contractors to get a preliminary ball park figure (and of course always add 15 - 30% more for your cushion. i can't imagine being the gc on any project of this magnitude. i'm happy to pay for someone's expertise and hand holding. the money can be made again but the lining of my stomach?... i'd be happy to pass on to you the names of my contractor and the one my neighbors used, who they loved, or to answer any other questions.
good luck, sandee

    Bookmark   January 29, 2006 at 8:23AM
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Go to Remodeling Magazines website. They have a cost versus value report that gives average costs for different projects in different regions of the country.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2006 at 12:13PM
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We're in the middle of remodelling in Los Gatos. We're adding about 1100sq ft (2 stories on new foundation) and remodelling about 400 sq ft. We're also putting hardwood throughout much of the existing house (another 500sqft). The new build includes a kitchen, dining room, family room, laundry and master suite. There will also be about 140 sq ft of unfinished attic which we will be finished at a later date. We received 3 bids in the 280K - 320K range. With changes/additions we expect to come in around $350K.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2006 at 1:18AM
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Hello everyone,
This thread is very useful. The cost, material, building style etc is very specific to an area, it is good to see folks from SF bay area contributing.

We are planning a small addition of 500-700sqft to our house on the peninsula. Are there any do's, don'ts, suggestions, FAQs anyone can suggest, while looking for architects AND GC's?

Also, how does the process to interview architects work? Do they come over to the site (ie your house) and actually take a look before deciding to work together (mutually) -- or do you first pay to see them even first time? Do they charge fixed amount for job or per hour? How do you pick which one is better for you? Also apart from drawing plans, does the architect usually stay involved to check if constructing is going ok?

Any ideas/feedback will be much appreciated!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2006 at 7:51PM
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homey_bird, here are some experiences -
I live in the South Bay and am looking to add 500 sq ft and remodel the exisiting square footage by moving some walls. I have spoken to 4 architects and one draftsman so far. The draftsman was the cheapest so far.
Only one architect came right out and named a figure - $250K to $300K for the project cost. There are others who refused to name a price as it was too early to do so.
As for the architect interviews - they come down to your site and give you approx 30 mins of free time when they throw some suggestions around. Then if you want to hire them, you pay a "retainer" ($1000?) before they start work. Some charge by the sq ft ($5 for remodel and $7 for new addition) and some charge a lump sum amount. One of the architects I spoke to throws in 5 free hours of site visits if construction guys have any questions or clarifications. These details would usually be written into the contract.

I am still looking for the right architect. I don't want to spend a quarter million dollars on a remodel, so I might go the GC route.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2006 at 9:05PM
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We have a homeowner's association which has to approve any changes to the exterior of our house. Because of this, we were somewhat limited in what we can do with the exterior of our house. So, we decided to hire a draftsperson to do our drawings. Once that was complete, we hired an architect to help us with the interior details.

The architect we're using designed a remodel for our neighbors down the street. Their remodel turnout great. We didn't need to see anymore examples of their work. We setup an initial consultation, which was free. They then put together a proposal. The proposal included their understanding of what was expected of them(i.e. design of interior space, moldings, floor coverings, coorditating the job). Their proposal also included an estimate of how much they thought their services was going to cost. We had to pay a $1000.00 retainer.

Our next step is to bring in contractors to give us estimates (not a bid) on how much they think our remodel will cost.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2006 at 1:21AM
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We recently added a 2 story box onto the back of our 1958 house in Monterey. We figured that we paid about $225 per SF. I tried to save money where I could by painting, cleaning up, I researched the radiant heating system and me and the GC did the installation ourselves (saved about $10,000!), my wife and I laid the laminate floors etc.
That $225/sf is difficult now because building supplies have gone up probably 10-20 per cent in the past 2 years. The insulation we bought at Home Depot for .34 cents/SF is now 50 cents. Plywood, concrete, wire, labor, are all up. If your project is not too big, try and find a contractor that prefers smaller jobs. Some contractors really want to do whole houses.

In addition, with the seismic/engineering requirements now required, just throwing up some sticks is not going to work anymore. Plans need to be properly done and approved.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2006 at 6:47PM
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boy i'll second that, jeffinmonterey. we waited over 6 months for our city to approve our plans and grant us the honor of a permit. they also put us into the design review fasttrack (which dinged us 1800 bucks) all because they couldn't visualize and, ostensibly, are biased against modern design. need to keep the mayberry aesthetic up you know. luckily our architect really pushed us into doing a model early on so when we plunked that down on the table during the design review meeting, the two bluehairs looked back and forth between their bi-focals and said "you know, this doesn't look anything like your drawings." they were wrong, though, it did. anyway, sorry for the rant. we interviewed 4 architects. three i found on the AIASF website and one was a friend of a friend who is a one woman operation in the city. we wound up going with her because we liked her vision and her personality. all four architects came to our house to scope things out and wound up staying between 1 to 2 hours. we did pay a retainer to get things going with the one we chose. she works on a percentage basis, 12% - 15% of the finished price tag. we never felt completely comfortable with that so we agreed to pass the baton after her initial drawings were complete. they were actually very detailed. my husband and i felt we didn't need so much hand holding through to the end and we have brought her in to tweak some things along the way. for that we pay her an hourly fee. we have had some stumbling points when things moved from her to the contractor's draftsman but our contractor is great at working these things out as we progress. it's been about 5 weeks since they kicked us out to start and the framers are really buzzing along. so far i'm quite happy. i'll happily pass on names and numbers if you'd like to contact me directly.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2006 at 5:53PM
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I wish the best of luck to anyone remodeling in S.F.

I flew out with several crates of tools about fifteen years ago and remodeled a home in Bernal Heights for friends. Everything was done "below the radar," but up to the building code where I live, and up to S.F. codes, as much as I could understand them. I'm not going to defend what I did, because, obviously, I can't. However, I will say that my work was superior to what I saw being done there under permit. I don't mind adding that I made as much money as I usually do and gave my friends a new kitchen and bath for less than half of what the local contractors were quoting them.

Oh, and my favorite bar in the whole world is The Wild Side West, up on Bernal. It's a dike joint, but everyone is welcome and the garden in back is killer. After work, I'd go up for B&Bs and read Jack London. Good drink, good conversation, good people.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2006 at 7:54PM
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Thanks all for the replies. I am also looking into possibly checking with design-build type professionals. Has anyone tried/considered that option before? I see the following pro/cons:
Pros: 1. Presumably smoother communication between architect/designer and construction crew

  1. Good chemistry between the two
    Cons: 1. costs?
  2. You have to stick to their designer and lose freedom of picking your own.
    If any members did look into this option, please share your experiences with work/interview etc. if any, and why you chose one way or the other.

Any inputs will be highly appreciated!! Regards, homey_bird

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 6:35PM
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We are 6 weeks into construction on a 750 sq ft addition (family room, dining room, bedroom and bathroom) plus interior renovation including new kitchen, laundry etc... in west los angeles. The deal and costs (minus permitting issues) should be comparable to SF.

We looked a little into Design/Build and could only find high end firms (that would have taken a very long time and lots of money) or contractors that work together with draftsmen/architects. Of the latter type, one guy had a draftsmen who we didn't particulary like and another guy basically subcontracted the architectural work to his own guy at the usual mid-level rate of 10% of construction cost. In either case we were stuck with their architect, but either would have been happy to work with an interior designer of our choosing.

We eventually went with an architect to fully develop plans and contruction documents for a fixed fee (which will end up to be about 3% of our construction cost.)

All our bids came in in the low $200s and our final cost will be roughly $230/sq ft of remodelled/added space, including the full kitchen, HW floors etc... I can easily see how this could have gone much higher by using more expensive windows, more millwork and so forth. The contractor we choose had done a number of jobs with our architect and they have a very good working relationshop. I can see already that this is very beneficial since a number of minor things have already come up and benn solved between them with no need for my intervention or mediation. If they did not know each other well or work together well, we could have already lost days or weeks waiting.

Hope that helps some in the early stages of this insanity...

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 9:21PM
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we are nearly done rebuilding our home in San Bruno. Architect Jim Nerubert and GC ME Designs, Anders is the guy's name. We have been very pleased with both.

Our cost ended up to be $233 sq ft and that includes about 10% cost over budget.

Everthing got knocked down except the garage.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 1:58AM
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Here's a couple of things to remember:

The smaller the project, the more it may cost per sq. ft. compared to a larger project. A larger remodel can "spread" the costs out. For instance, in 1990 we did a whole-house gutting, and I later figured the kitchen probably cost us about $10K max, for a completely new kitchen, expanded and with mid-range stuff. If we'd been doing the kitchen by itself, it probably would have cost twice that much, or more.

You will be putting in fluorescent fixtures to comply with the new energy efficiency Lighting Act that was passed in October 2006. These must be hardwired fixtures, not regular fixtures using CFL bulbs.

Irritating as it is to comply with building codes and get permits, you will be heavily penalized if you sell the house and can't prove it was done to code. There have been some real life examples of buyers who've had to cough up thousands of dollars to redo work that was done without a permit, up to current codes.

Good luck with your remodel! Exciting times lie ahead for you -- good AND bad.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 7:14PM
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I was wondering if anyone knows any more recent figures for costs of a home add on (since the housing downturn has started) or any figures for further in the East Bay such as Oakland, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Hayward, or Castro Valley.

Our intent would be to add on a bedroom, dining room or family room, and bathroom or water closet from the foundation up in San Leandro. I assume the addition would be about 600-700 square feet.

We won't be doing this for about 5 years but we want to start the financial planing for this. Any thoughts on what is involved in this kind of a project and what it might cost in the East Bay versus the South Bay or the City would be greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 2:04PM
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I read through most of the posts here and observed that most of these were for re-modelling that involved creating a completely new room .. most of these from the foundation up. I was wondering if any one had any numbers where-in the house is externally completely done .. the internal walls are also in place but it is completely empty bathroom tubs, no kitchen cabinets no flooring and so on..will alos need to re-do the garrage and some landscaping. How much am I loking at ? and what would be my best option

    Bookmark   June 1, 2009 at 2:22AM
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Hello everybody, wow these posts are old, but anyways: new construction costs are 250 to 450, most of the standard projects go no more the 300 per sqf. interior remodeling like this one which is high end goes 120-200, usually if there is no structural involved, 160-260 with everything, including top of the line
production, cabinets, appliances .. etc.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 6:18PM
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