Seattle remodel/addition advice

herg39458August 19, 2014

We are (well, now, maybe) doing a pretty major addition/remodel in Seattle.

- 380 sf 2 bedroom addition consisting of a room in our daylight basement and a main floor bedroom directly above it. 40" of the basement is underground when standing in the basement, so more excavation than just for a crawl space will be required, as is wrecking and rebuilding the egress steps out of the basement.

- Adding a 7x9 3/4 bath in existing floorspace

- Remodeling 130 sf kitchen. We have not selected cabinets yet but have three bids all in the 14k-17k range. Appliances/kitchen plumbing fixtures price out to 5k (keeping our existing fridge, mostly GE appliances, no gas). One perhaps atypical line item here is removing the existing drop ceiling.

- This all includes 8 new exterior windows plus two exterior doors that have been bid to 11k. These are not really the windows we want but the WA state energy code is a difficult beast.

The humorously monikered Control Estimate has substantially ballooned to 300k, including markup and sales tax but not architect, engineering, or permitting, on a time and materials proposal.

When you read addition costs you generally see something like "$75-$200 per sf, depending on where you live" but I do not know how much higher that goes, whether people include markup and sales tax, etc. Allowing 140k for the kitchen and bath, which seems absurdly high, that puts the addition at 160k or more than $400/sf, which also seems quite high.

Is this completely bonkers? Any answers/suggestions would be appreciated. Not sure if this is the best forum for this, if there is another more suitable forum here or on another site I would appreciate those suggestions as well.


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Sophie Wheeler

With the extra demo, extra windows, and other extras, seems to be about on track.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cost vs. Value. Seattle

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 9:16AM
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Thank you for your response, hollysprings.

I have previously pored over that link, probably too much. It is hard to do an apples to apples with the projects on that list. On there, a two story addition with a crawlspace and a bathroom, which seems far beyond what our project, is 170k. The kitchen remodel is listed as 60k, which on the one hand does have less demo than our but on the other hand is for a kitchen that is 50% larger and includes an island installation. Hard to know where a bathroom comes down, but adding a new bathroom as a house addition is 43k. There are other combinations of the projects listed to try to approximate it but none that add up that high.

If I may, how are the windows extra? Doesn't every addition require windows?

I am not sure how the other extras add up to that much extra cost, but I have to concede it certainly might be because I don't want to.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 12:58PM
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I would ask whoever provided your "control estimate" to break it down for you so you can see where the costs are coming from. How much for excavation? concrete? framing? plumbing? etc. If they don't have that breakdown, then the numbers are completely worthless and a total SWAG.

I agree that sounds outrageous, even in Seattle, unless there's some sort of site condition that makes it expensive. Like you've got a narrow yard and they'll have to rent a crane to heave all the materials and equipment over the house to the backyard.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 2:08PM
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weedyacres: Thanks for your reply.

Yes, it is broken down, to precisely the level you note (plumbing, concrete, etc) and the contractor has bids from the various subs. The control estimate is the guiding document as it were for the time and materials contract that I have not signed. Excavation and concrete is the single biggest number, which makes sense to me in the general ignorance I am trying to fix. Access to the backyard is not fantastic, but there is enough room on the side to get a small excavator back there as well as equipment to haul stuff in and out. No cranes or the like are needed or included in the estimate.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 2:51PM
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Except, they will probably need a pump to get the concrete to the backyard, if a truck cannot access it...

What kind of soil do you have? If clay, rethink this whole thing.

And, get some more estimates. I did an addition (20x15 2 story addition) in Kirkland about 4 yrs ago. All together, it was probably 150k (we did it in 2 phases, so that is the "probably".) And, in the second phase, we did a lot of work ourselves to get it done. No kitchen remodeling in my addition. Kitchens can easily add 30-90k to my total above.

Even so, a second or third estimate is required, in my opinion. The cost around here varies. Are you in Seattle City limits, or King County (for permits)? That also matters.

Also, you don't mention how old your house is.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 5:15PM
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kirkhall: Thanks for responding.

You are correct, they will need a pump to get the concrete back there. And that is a nice check just for showing up! But to this point, this is not be an uncommon situation, is it? People add on to the backside of their houses all the time, I cannot imagine this requirement is that rare. Pricey, sure, but 400/sf pricey and rare?

Getting additional estimates is good advice, thank you.

I do not know the exact composition, but they did test the soil for that very reason and it is not clay.

I know kitchens can get pricey quickly. Mainly I don't know what to think because most of the 100k kitchens you read about have >25k in cabinets and are filled with Viking or Wolf, and generally significantly larger than our 130sf. I am not saying our kitchen will be cheap, just that 90-100k seems high for what we are planning to put in there. It is also possible I am just deluded.

The house is in NE Seattle inside the city limits. Built in the late 50s.

This post was edited by herg39458 on Tue, Aug 19, 14 at 18:05

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 5:45PM
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Post the price breakdown here and see if we can collectively shed light on what looks reasonable and what doesn't.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 6:24PM
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Sure, thank you. Items in k, before markup and sales tax. These are the mains, there are a few other small in price items like punchlist. No fixtures included in these numbers.

General/Supervision: 21
Demo: 11
Concrete/Excavation: 31
Framing: 25
Siding: 8
Windows: 11
Doors (2 exterior, 11 interior): 6
Hvac: 3
Plumbing (inc. water heater): 11
Electrical (inc. new panel): 10
Flooring (1 room hardwood, kitchen, some level of concrete finish): 9
Sheetrock: 7
Bath Tile: 6
Interior Trim: 7
Cabinetry (kitchen + bath): 22
Kitchen Countertop: 6
Exterior Paint: 3
Interior Paint: doing ourselves
Contingency: 15%

Thanks for all your help everyone.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 10:55PM
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We are in Seattle. We did a complete gut remodel of our 1400 sq ft daylight basement last year, including removing existing slab, digging down far enough to accommodate new slab/insulation/radiant heat, adding foundation under a first floor porch, all new electrical/plumbing, two new beams (one glulam and one steel), all new windows (11), new stairs, two sets French doors, new bath (tile/frameless glass/custom vanity with soapstone counter), new laundry room (tile, laminate counters, IKEA cabs) custom casework throughout,etc. This was with a somewhat high-end builder, we happened to catch them when they needed work so we got a better price than we would have during the busy season. I'd have to dig up the exact numbers, but I know our final figure (lump sum, with some allowances and some change orders) with the contractor came out to under $250K (tax included) -- this doesn't include engineers, architect, permits. Our bids ran from $204K to $300K.

I can tell you that construction costs in the Seattle area jumped significantly 18 months ago and have continued to go up. (We got a rude surprise between time we started to draw up plans and time we bid the project because costs shot up so suddenly.) It's not a cheap time to do a remodel in Seattle.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 11:16PM
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Truthfully, I don't see anything too high here. It is somewhat conservative though, in that I would be surprised if you went over on several of these. Are the prices fixed? Allowances? What happens if your project doesn't cost 6k for counters? Do you get a refund?

Depending on your choices and your kitchen layout, 6k for counters could be high, but doesn't have to be. Doors could also be high, but doesn't have to be depending on what you choose. Cabinets could be higher, could be lower. 22k is probably a good average.

Our carpet only was 3500; hardwood will be more.


RE: your question about doesn't everything need a concrete pump... No. and, the other part of that is if they need a crane pump or just a pump that can run through a garage or similar.

What are they doing with the dirt they excavate? If they need to haul that off, that will be extra expenses than if they have somewhere on your (limited) property they can put it...

So on and so forth.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 12:38AM
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A lot of those are bids from subs. Counters specifically is an allowance, a "pick a slab at Pental that does not exceed X". It is a time and materials deal. Cabinets are bids from local custom makers, all in that neighborhood. The GC works with Acorn in Newcastle pretty regularly but for some reason for our project their bid was truly outrageous compared to all these other makers.

Doors is high, the current bid contains two exterior doors and we are working to keep the existing basement door which would eliminate one of those. Forgot to note, the flooring number also includes new stairs in an interior staircase.

WRT a concrete pump, what I meant was that surely that is a pretty regular occurrence. In-city Seattle is not exactly know for huge lots so I can't imagine it being some sort of extreme situation to not be able to get a truck in the backyard. I assume it would be run along the side of the house. Some excavated dirt will be used in the yard but most of it will need to be hauled off. I am trying to decide how much of that if any is doable myself.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 3:11AM
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demolitionlab: Does that price include contractor markup and sales tax? That seems like a bigger project than ours, though we have a kitchen and a kitchen is a kitchen.

BTW, I appreciate everybody's feedback, this has been helpful.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 3:13AM
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Yes, all in. I looked more specifically at the numbers and it was $229K, including markup (10%) and sales tax.

One caveat -- they blew it on estimating the excavation/disposal, mismanaged that part of the project (the owner's words), project manager tried to stick us with a $17K change order months later, and we had to go through the owner of the company to resolve that. In the end they ate $17K. I'm sure the true cost, had it been managed properly, would have been somewhere in the middle.

That said, I'm looking at our breakdown and I don't see any numbers that look wildly off in yours, considering the differences in our projects. Our concrete work by itself (not including excavation as your estimate does) was $15K, and included a new window well, stem wall foundation for about a 8x3 section of the basement, footings for new beams, new section of sidewalk, and the slab pour of 1400 sq ft. They had to pump it in from the truck which was in the street.

Hope that helps.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 2:22PM
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Thank you, that does help. That is interesting, so your excavation number must have been crazy if they were off by 17k. Still, I would think digging a hole would be substantially less intensive than excavating from inside the house, if I understand you project correctly. And if that amount of concrete was 15k I am not sure what ours could be, seems like a lot less. How many pours did it take them to do all that?

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 12:56AM
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I think you don't realize just how much dirt they will be excavating, and how much it costs to dispose of it. Just ask them, if you like them. Otherwise, again, get another bid.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 1:53PM
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You are probably right! We are figuring 30-35 yards, minus backfill and some other places in the yard we can use a little bit of it.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 12:10AM
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The $17K difference was mostly disposal costs, only a few thousand of that was excavation. They made the decision to dig ours by hand, so labor was probably higher on this particular item than it might have been otherwise.

RE: dirt removal -- we were given a copy of the bill from disposal. We had a total of 49.5 yds dirt (it "fluffs up" 20-30% when it's removed, be sure to take that into account), at a cost of about $90 per yard. This doesn't include the cost of removing full dumpster and returning empty ($120 a pop), or the fuel recovery fees ($24 each run) and environmental recovery fees (negligible). The total disposal amount billed to our contractor including demolition debris etc. was around $12.5K.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 3:06PM
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