Getting the Best Estimated Home Improvement Costs Using Bluehammer's Home Improvement Calculator
The following are tips and tricks to help you better estimate the cost of your home improvement project.
The Basic Steps of Estimating
When you are estimating any home improvement project, it is important to think of all the steps involved in completing that project. But you're saying, "Wait! I'm not a contractor, I don't know all the steps!" Don't worry, the Home Improvement Calculator not only gives you costs, but also helps you better understand your project. The basics of the estimating process are as follows:
- STEP 1: Search and select your home improvement project or individual action itemThere are multiple ways to search and select. Those ways are explained in the next section.
- STEP 2: Select where you want to perform this projectYou can select one or multiple areas to apply your selection. This will help you later if you need to figure out quantities for your line items and also helps organize your estimate.
- STEP 3: Click the "Add to Estimate" buttonThat's it! Doesn't sound that hard, right?
- STEP 4: Input the quantities for each line itemDepending on how you searched, there may or may not be default values for each action line item. Make sure you double check the quantities so they align with any wall, ceiling or floor measurements for your area (if applicable). The tool has calculators to help you measure your area (explained below).
- Rinse and RepeatYou can keep adding single action items or entire projects until you have fully estimated your home improvement project.
Different Ways to Search and How it Helps You Learn About Your Project
There are three ways to search and add action items to your estimate. You can mix and match how you search and add items.
- Search by ProjectAdding an entire project to your estimate will add the suggested individual action item steps to your estimate in one easy selection. It will also default quantities to give you a quicker estimated cost. Adding an entire project shows you the individual steps and the costs associated with the final project cost.
- Search by Individual ActionSearching by individual actions allows you to build up your project estimate piece by piece. When you select an action item, the system will suggest related action items that are commonly used with your selection. This helps teach you the steps involved in your project and also ensures you estimate the entire cost
- Search by KeywordSearching by keyword is the same as searching by individual action, the only difference being is that you can type in keywords to find your action item.
Explaining the Qualities (economy through designer)
Material costs are a big factor when estimating a project's cost. Think about the range in costs for washing machines at your local home improvement store. In the Home Improvement Calculator these are represented as qualities. The quality descriptions are below, if you need help while selecting an item, there is a "learn about qualities" link where you select your items.
- EconomyThese are lower-end materials/appliances that can be found at major home improvement stores. Often used in economy or basic homes.
- GoodThese are average-priced materials/appliances with minimal features that can be found at major home improvement stores. Often found in builder-grade homes.
- BetterThese are above-average materials/appliances (ex. stainless steel) that can be found at major home improvement stores. Often found in higher end builder-grade homes
- BestThese are higher-end materials/appliances that can be found at major home improvement stores. Often found in custom homes.
- DesignerThese are the highest-priced items that are typically not available from major home improvement stores. Note: Designer items and materials can have a significant price variance; Bluebook's database provides a starting estimated price that can be adjusted as needed. Often found in designer homes.
How to Estimate Your Line Item Quantities
If you choose an action item that requires an area's measurement (painting walls as an example), you can use the area calculator to help you determine your quantities. When you estimate an area's measurements, it will automatically update any action item's quantities that relate to the new measurement. Below are the steps to calculating an area's measurements.
- Click the "area measurement/options" link for the area.This will open that area's calculator
- Enter the ceiling typeIf you are unsure of what ceiling type you have, click the blue question mark to bring up a helpful chart.
- Enter the wall and ceiling dimensionsYou will be asked to input all your wall dimensions. All dimensions should be measured in feet (length). For open areas with fewer than four walls, only input the length for the walls present. Based on your ceiling type, you may have 1-3 ceiling height values you need to enter. Again, these are measured in feet(height). If you have any questions, there is another blue question mark that you can click to bring up a helpful chart on floor layout.
- Click the "Calculate Measurements" buttonThe system will calculate walls, ceiling, floor and perimeter dimensions and apply them to your line items where applicable.
Extra Costs That Might Not Be Covered in Your Project
All action item costs include labor, material and equipment in the final cost unless otherwise stated. For your project, there could be other costs to consider that are not included in the Home Improvement Calculator due to the varying nature. Examplse of costs not covered are Permit Fees, Design Fees and Engineering costs.
I Estimated My Project and It Seems Low, Why?
Making sure to look at your project from all angles will help ensure a good estimated cost. Sometimes certain factors are missed that can affect the overall cost. Some common factors are:
- Job size is too small (missing a service call) For Example: Paint baseboards 10 LF @ $1.00 Per LF = $10.00. If that is all that the painter is coming to do you need to add a service call line item as this will cover the trip charge and minimum material & labor cost to justify their time. If that example was part of a larger estimate then you would not need to add the service charge. A good rule of thumb is that if the estimate is less than $80, you should add a service charge line item.
- The job quantities are too smallCheck to make sure your quantities are correct and there are no 0 quantities. If you need help with quantities, use the area measurement calculator described above.
- Misunderstood the unit of measure (UOM)You might be thinking of inches instead of feet and vice versa. Next to your quantity input, click on the Unit of Measure in your estimate if you need help. This will display the unit of measure chart.
Want to estimate your home improvement costs before talking with a contractor? Claim your home for free with bluehammer to estimate costs, secure your home inventory and learn more about your home.
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