Remodeling and Renovating per Square Foot Index

by Dan Derkum


Ready or not, per square foot figures are in! The cost to remodel and renovate continues to grow. Historically, prices increase 10-15% per year regardless of what the economy is doing. Why? Because taxes, regulations, building codes, utilities, transportation, and insurances don’t take a break! California continues to be a leader in all of these areas. For 2014, watch out after Affordable Healthcare gets into high gear – ouch!


The averages for Orange County range from $325-$455 per square foot for most types of remodeling and renovating. This includes additions, bathrooms, kitchens, attic conversions, and full interior remodels. Very, very important concept to understand: Regardless of what anyone quotes you, this is what you are going to pay. But wait a minute you say, Bob the Builder just quoted me a price of $200 per square foot to remodel my bathroom. Sorry, but he didn’t. He just slipped a fast one by you! What he actually did was double your square footage, dramatically lower the amount of work that will actually be performed (before he Change Orders you up the wazoo), and reduced the quality of the materials. Jose will also be using day laborers, has no Workers Compensation or General Liability Insurance, and the Contractors number he provided you is the same one used by a bunch of other people (they pay a cash fee under the table to the actual Contractor to “rent” his license number – which is illegal by the way). Good luck on your project!


These averages are only estimates as every project is unique and different. There are no concrete standard industry averages. Every project is different as every person has their own unique style, tastes, preferences, and way of seeing and doing things.


These costs per square foot averages are driven primarily by the Customer and their requirements - not the Contractors. These figures are averages. These can be increased or decreased by the Customer.


So, what makes DAD’s different? DAD’s rough estimates illustrate historical averages over the most recent 2 years of Customer driven projects that were physically performed right here in South Orange County by DAD’s. How much more realistic can you get? Remember though, due to uncontrollable items such as, but not limited to, customer requirements and changes; project design; material selections; commodities markets; manufacture pricing; energy markets; product availability; building/engineering/energy code requirements; taxing authorities; home associations; and unforeseen/unknown conditions, all prices, estimates, and averages are subject to change without notice.


DAD's has a simple philosophy - Always be honest and up-front with the customer and never pretend a project is something that it isn't. What this means is that we never provide an estimate containing materials and products of such low quality and performance utilizing "best case scenario" methods while providing "allowances". In my better than 35 years of renovating & remodeling, I've never seen or heard of anyone actually performing a project under these circumstances. What many, many contractors do in order to get your business is provide you with unrealistic estimates employing these tactics . . . only to use the Change Order process once the project is well under way to jack-up the price . . . usually way up from the initial estimate. This is unethical, dishonest, horribly misleading, and just plain wrong.


Estimates provided by DAD's reflect projects actually performed over the most recent 2 years. DAD’s estimates include all materials, parts, labor, installation and sales tax mid range, not at the bottom. Therefore, these estimates reflect reality and what people actually did and are doing using high quality and durable products, materials, and people. Moreover, they illustrate pricing of materials and labor across economies including building code changes. Although the economic and legal environment in which the project will actually be performed is unknown, using the most recent 2 years of activity seems to be a reasonably good indicator for estimating purposes.


Nobody can read someone's mind or predict the future. However, since most folks like an idea of cost before committing to a project, this is the most reasonable and realistic method I have found. Best of all, it’s completely open and honest. There are no surprises, tricks, gimmicks, or hidden up-charges. You know exactly what you’re paying for and how it’s going to look. Isn’t this what you would expect from your DAD?


If you have any questions about the Remodeling and Renovating Per Square Foot Index, please call me, Dan Derkum, at 
(949) 380-0177 or e-mail me by filling out our quick contact form

About the Author
Daniel A. Derkum is the owner of DAD's Construction, a leading South Orange County, California design-and-build remodeling and renovation contractor.

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