What Does It Mean to Be an “Owner Builder”, and How It Can Help You Reduce Your Remodeling Cost.

There is a new way to make wonderful improvements to your home, and at a lower cost. It is the same way those of us in the industry do it, we manage the project ourselves by being an Owner Builder.

The term Owner Builder is used to describe homeowners who manage a project themselves without hiring a builder or general contractor. This is a form of Do It Yourself, except that you do not have to do ANY of the actual work yourself to save a lot of money. Savvy homeowners choose this option to avoid the 30% to 50% markup added to the bids of builders and general contractors for their overhead and profit. When you do a project yourself as an Owner Builder, you pocket that entire markup!

Being an Owner Builder will be MUCH easier if you have some professional guidance. Owner Assist Remodeling is the only company whose specialty is in-home remodel consulting for the DIY minded homeowner. For over 30 years we’ve been building and remodeling homes, and have developed proven systems that will empower you to manage a home improvement or remodeling project far larger and more complicated than what you think are your current abilities.

Being an Owner Builder is beginning to become more and more popular. We started Owner Assist Remodeling to give homeowners the proper guidance, tools and assistance you need to act as your own general contractor for ANY home remodeling or building project. You’ll get the most professional result possible by using our Project Planning and Construction Management Services, and you’ll keep the builder’s markup and profits in your pocket as you upgrade your home.

You’ll get expert project planning and design assistance, including ballpark cost estimates of the improvements you are considering even before plans are drawn! Once the work is fully planned and priced, we will schedule the work, manage the workers and check their work for quality on your behalf. Our construction management services are second to none. You’ll be using prescreened, highly qualified tradespeople, and you can even do some of the work yourself if you have the abilities. You’ll use the same proven step by step planning that the best design-build general contractors use for successful projects, and we’ll be there to guide you through the process and keep you on track every step of the way.

To help you compare costs, we encourage you to get a couple bids from local contractors and bring those to our initial meeting. We’ll help you compare the bids at no charge, and show you how we can help you increase the quality of your project, and save money at the same time.

We look forward to working with you on your next home improvement or building project!

Basement Finishing 101

Where Do I Start? What Type of Company or Person Should I Look For to Help Me?

Undertaking a basement finish can be a daunting task. Finding the right professionals to help you through the process can greatly reduce the stress on both you and your family. Even if you want to try a Do-It-Yourself project, there are professionals that can help.

Do I Start With an Architect, a General Contractor, Or Someone Else?

This is a common initial question for many homeowners. Certainly, the plan or design is one of the first and most important steps to a professional result, and an architect can be a good choice for preparing your home remodel plans, but there are reasons why you may want to consult with a contractor or other construction professional first.

  • Beginning your planning with an architect may lead you to a design you cannot afford.
  • An architect may only design a few basements per year, but there are other experts available who focus exclusively on basements.
  • Any construction-type guy will tell you he can design a basement, but you may get just a basic, white-box finish. Other contractors may have people on staff to do your design for much lower cost than hiring an architect.

Are There Options Other Than Hiring a Basement Finishing Company (i.e. a General Contractor)?

YES! Some homeowners choose to finish their own basements, which can be very rewarding and save a lot of money, but also can be overwhelming and with less-than-desired results.

Another option is to DIY with the help of an experienced construction planner and construction manager. DIY does not mean you have to do any or all the actual work yourself. Hiring a project planner and construction manager to assist you with hiring and managing individual trade contractors will alleviate problems and get you the same professional results as using the best basement finishing companies, but at a reduced cost. Your DIY responsibilities will be just to play the role of GC, pay for materials and the trade contractors invoices, and work closely with your project manager to answer questions that might come up.

There’s a lot to do when you’re planning your own DIY project, and a good construction planner and manager will help you every step of the way. In general, these are 4 steps to a successful basement finish:

1. Create a Plan

The best designers try a couple different configurations for the basement, with public space nearest the stair and private spaces such as bedrooms and bathrooms farthest from the stair. Bath plumbing rough-ins can be moved, so don’t feel you are locked into where a builder placed the underground bathroom rough-in.

Design items such as angled walls, coffered ceilings, arches and niches will make the space much more interesting. Bar areas, home theaters, workout rooms, and a wine cellar will add value to your home.

2. Get Bids and Pick Your Contractors

Our industry connections help us get you the best contractors, each one specializing in a relevant area of expertise for your basement renovation. Below is a list of just some of the factors to consider when selecting contractors.

Credentials and experience

Experience matters, and not just years of experience in construction, but years of experience doing EXACTLY what you need. A specialist will always get you better results than someone who only occasionally does any particular construction task.

Price, expertise, and quality

Shopping based only on price will usually lead to disappointment, but you don’t want to pay too much either. So how do you know what you are looking at? The common suggestion is to get 3 bids. This is a good start, but how is anyone supposed to know what company is the best fit and who to trust and believe?

Be aware while you’re searching that larger companies will generally be more expensive, but should give you better service, while smaller companies are cheaper but generally carry more risks, such as lack of expertise at design, subpar workmanship, or lack of proper insurances (both contractor liability and workman’s compensation). Decide up front which business model you feel fits your needs, then look for the best contractors of that type.


Some contractors will show you line item costs, but most will not. In most cases, they do not want you to know what their costs are and how much they are making. Some companies mark up their costs by 30 to 50% or more! If you care about how much you are paying, the more transparency the better.

A personal connection

Meeting a contractor who is also a nice guy does matter, but many “nice guys” are lacking in expertise. It’s important to make sure your contractor has a great work ethic and lots of experience to go along with his or her great personality.

Your budget

Most homeowners are afraid of revealing their budget for fear of being taken advantage of. This is a very real concern, unfortunately, as there are some unscrupulous contractors out there. You might be best to ask first, “what is a ballpark cost range for my type of project”, then let the contractor speak and see if his range fits your budget. You could make a comment such as, “I’ve heard this can cost $30,000 to $40,000” and judge his reaction to your price range.

From the contractor side, they need to find out if you are realistic about the cost of what you need done, and whether they can make it happen for a budget you can afford. In some cases, speaking in wide ranges can help get past this discussion.

3. Execute Agreements and Get a Thorough Scope of Work

You need to know exactly what you are getting, what it will cost, and how you will be billed. An important aspect is to not get too far ahead in payments. You probably will be asked to pay enough to cover materials in advance, but getting too far ahead in labor payments can be a big problem if you find out later you’ve made a bad choice in contractors.

If you are getting a firm bid, you need to know exactly what is included. And no matter what, you want everything you asked for to be written down so that there is no gray area later. Some contractors do not create a scope of work while others feel it is as important as the agreement. Ask this question before you select your contractor.

4. Begin the Work, Ongoing Scheduling, and Management

Finally, after all of this planning, you’re able to begin remodeling your basement. It’s especially important at this point to make sure that your project is scheduled and managed correctly so you don’t have contractors stepping on each other’s toes as they’re trying to work.

You also need to consider the order in which your work is done. After all, you don’t want to have to pull off sheetrock you just put up to run some wires or pipes that you forgot about. Each step needs to be completed in the correct order and on schedule to make sure the whole project stays within budget and completes on time. An expert construction manager will keep the work moving forward every day, and will check that each step of the work is 100% complete and meets quality standards.

Pick the Better Option

When you’re ready to remodel your basement, don’t feel like you have to either do it all yourself or give away control to a general contractor. Working with a construction planner and manager, you can get the best of both worlds, combining the low cost of a DIY project with the amazing results of a hiring a professional. Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help with your next renovation.

Remodeling a House, Where Do I Start?

Where to Start on a Home Remodeling Project

Remodeling a home is no easy feat, even if you have experience in designing and building. Taking on an entire home renovation project is intimidating, especially if you aren’t sure where to begin. Not only do you want to live in a home you love, but you also want to ensure you are getting the best return on your investment.

Not sure where to begin? You aren’t alone in your endeavor. Understanding the first steps toward your remodel project is crucial and may steer you in the right direction.

Is a Remodel Necessary?

First, homeowners should make a list of improvements they would enjoy in their home. Do you need a new kitchen or bath? Is your living too small and you need an addition for extra space? Do you need additional bedrooms? Do you want to finish your basement? Are you considering a pop-top addition? Write down the major changes you’d like to see.

Your next step is to prioritize the list. Each item on the list of improvements should have an assigned ranking from one (not necessary) to ten (absolutely necessary). When you understand your priorities, the next step is to get ballpark estimates.

How Much Does a Remodel Cost?

You might next be wondering how much you are going to pay for your home remodel. The steps here are actually straightforward.

You’ll likely have a hard time finding ballpark costs online because all projects are so different. Some remodeling contractors (i.e. general contractors or GC) will give ballpark estimates before plans are drawn. Call around to ask several different contractors whether this is a service they offer. Professionals provide ballparks costs for your remodel based on similar work they’ve completed. Ideally you’d like to hear costs from a few different sources before you commit to anyone to do the work. One good source for ballpark estimates that many homeowners are not aware of is a project planner. Most project planners work for remodeling contractors, but consulting with a project planner and construction manager such as the experts at Owner Assist Remodeling will help you decide how to proceed

Collect several bids based on specific description of the project to avoid a situation in which you are trying to compare apples to oranges, unable to compare estimates to each other because they include different scopes based on bids you receive.

Once you have a ballpark idea of the costs you can expect for your project, you need to know if the project is worth the money. The thought might cross your mind that you should sell your home and simply buy a new one already equipped with the features you want. While selling your home may be a viable option for some homeowners, you might be sold on staying in your home thanks to the location or the home’s current value.

By using a Cost vs. Value report, you can determine if it is worth the financial cost to remodel your home based on the post-remodel value and potential appreciation of its value.

The return on investment (ROI) is an important consideration. You’ll almost never recoup the entire cost of a remodel if you sell your home right away, but if you’re going to live in this home for a while, you’ll have the enjoyment of the use of the new spaces, and the value of your home will rise enough so that you’ll recoup even more than what the project cost.

What Is Your Budget?

Based on your financial plans for the remodel, your budget may fit into the low, middle, or high segment of the spectrum. Your next steps depend on where your budget falls.

Low Budget – You can still remodel your home on a low budget, but you may focus on the projects that offer the best ROI and work that you can do yourself. You can also hire a local remodeling carpenter or handyman to complete these projects using materials and finishes you purchased locally.

Middle Budget – If your budget falls in the middle of the spectrum, you can swing hiring a remodeling company or a construction manager to oversee the project. You can afford mid-range fixtures and finishes to complete the project.

High Budget – With a higher budget, you can hire a professional designer and work with high-end fixtures and finishes. Design build remodeling firms fit into this category, or you can GC the work yourself as an “Owner Builder” with the help of a construction manager.

Now that you know who to reach out to based on your budget, talk to both remodeling companies and an independent construction manage such as the experts at Owner Assist Remodeling to find the best fit for you based on your needs and your budget. Don’t forget to account for work that runs over your budget. You need a plan for covering any additional costs.

Who Will You Hire?

With a better understanding of your budget and expectations, you need to understand the roles of different workers you may hire to complete your remodel. Each type of worker offers advantages and disadvantages.

Remodeling Contractor (GC) – Most remodeling companies are general contractors, and in that role are responsible for the entire project. When you hire a general contractor, or GC, you foot the bill for materials, labor, supervision, and construction management, in addition to the GC’s overhead and profit markup. As a result, the costs associated with hiring a GC varies wildly. Plus, some GC’s only work on the build. You may need an additional bid for the project design. Many homeowners are unaware that they don’t necessarily need to hire a general contractor, see below.

Architect – Depending on the scale of your project, you may want to hire an architect. Hiring an architect is a good choice if you want to build a new home, want to add a new room, or are thinking about a pop top addition. Be aware that most architect bids don’t give you construction costs. You’ll need to reach out to a remodeling company (GC) or Project Planner and Construction Manager for costs.

Designers – A designer who specializes in the specific remodel you want is another good option. Some designers specialize in kitchen and bath projects, while others specialize in basement finishing. If you are thinking about your ROI, considering a designer who specializes in exactly what you want done and with the experience to transform the space ill give you the best results.

Handyman – Can you reduce your remodel costs by hiring just a handyman? Yes, but the skill levels of these workers vary greatly and many lack the proper insurance to protect you during remodel projects. If you hire someone without both contractor liability and workmans comp insurances, you as the homeowner will be responsible for any injury or damage to your home during construction. Not a big deal if someone cuts a finger or scratches a table, but if a faulty extension cord starts a house fire or if carelessness floods your home, you’ll be on the hook for any and all medical or home repair costs. Hiring a properly insured worker protects you from these costs.

DIY – Can mean two different things. One way would be that you do all the work yourself. Another way to DIY is to be your own GC (known as being an “owner builder”) and plan and manage the work yourself. You’ll either need to have industry knowledge and ample time to dedicate to the project, or you could hire a project planner and construction manager to assist you. These experts are a perfect fit when homeowners are not sure how to pull together a large remodeling project.

Project Planner & Construction Manager – For many homeowners, a great choice is to hire a professional who works directly for you on an hourly basis, consulting with you and providing project management throughout the remodel. Project planners and construction managers provide excellent help throughout the design process and estimate costs before the plans are even made. These experts can help you achieve the highest quality work.

Considering the variety of options, it is often reasonable to opt for a project planner and construction manager for your remodeling project rather than hiring a remodeling contractor or GC.

Are You Paying a Fair Price?

How can you be sure you are not paying too much for your project?

  • Receive multiple bids from different contractors so you can develop a clear picture.
  • Don’t compare apples to oranges. Ensure each bid is for the same project scope.
  • Act as your own general contractor while working with a project planner and construction manager to save money without sacrificing quality.

Even if you have remodeled a home before, every experience poses different challenges. If you still have questions about your upcoming home remodel project, contact Owner Assist Remodeling now to learn more.

5 Things to Consider Before Starting Your Home Addition or Large Remodeling Project

Consider These Tips Before Starting a Home Remodeling Project

You’re picturing a major home renovation: a remodel of your home, perhaps, or a new room addition. It may be tempting to jump straight in and get started, but remember that home improvement projects can quickly go awry without proper planning. Before you begin, make sure to ask yourself these key questions to help keep your project on time and within the budget.

Does a Home Addition or Large Remodel Make Sense for Your Family?

If you’re thinking about a large remodeling project, consider the potential it has to impact your family and whether or not this is the best decision you could make. You may, for example, need to consider:

Is it best for my family to remodel, or to sell and move? Selling your current home and moving into a larger one may be a better financial fit for your needs. You may also find that the mess and trouble of remodeling doesn’t work well for your family. On the other hand, if you’re very attached to your neighborhood or home, you may find that a remodeling project makes more sense than a big move.

Does the cost fit my budget? Before you begin your remodeling project, make sure you have a solid estimate of what it will cost. Can you afford this major change to your home, or should you start with a smaller project and continue making improvements over time?

Does the investment make sense? What does your home’s current value look like? Compare it to other homes in your neighborhood and you may find that a home renovation may not have the effect on your home’s value that you’re hoping for. If you’re not sure, consult a local realtor about home values and whether or not it makes sense to spend the cost of making improvements on your home.

Who Can Help With Planning and Making Decisions?

Planning a home renovation is a big task, and probably not one you want to do on your own. It can be difficult to decide who to trust and many people aren’t sure where to start with their home renovation efforts. Fortunately, a home remodel planner and project manager from Owner Assist Remodeling can make it easier to plan your big renovation. By working with a home remodel planner and a project manager, you can get a better idea of the cost associated with your remodeling project, learn more about providers in the area, and make wise choices that will help you create a better home for your family.

What Are Your Options for Design and Plans?

There are several ways you can decide on the design for your remodeling project and develop a more effective plan. You may want to use an architect to design and a general contractor to build your home addition, or you might choose to opt for a design consultant. Owner Assist Remodeling handles project planning and design, which can help you stay on budget and create a design that better fits your desires and the future needs of your family. Not only that, a design consultant can help you better understand exactly what you want from your available space, which will allow you to enjoy your remodel even more.

How Do You Avoid Paying Too Much?

Embarking on a home renovation project can be very expensive. In most cases, you want to avoid spending too much on your project. Using a design consultant from Owner Assist Remodeling can help you save money on your renovation project with several different strategies including:

  • Planning out your entire renovation project ahead of time so that you won’t need to make expensive changes in the middle of the project.
  • Partnering with local businesses to acquire discounts on important materials and services throughout the project.
  • Providing a good balance between quality and expense, so that you don’t end up with inadequate materials that need to be replaced quickly, but also don’t overspend on unnecessarily expensive materials.
  • Setting a budget for your project that fits your financial needs, rather than trying to pressure you to go beyond your budget.
  • Letting you do the project as an Owner Builder, using a project manager instead of a general contractor.
  • Allowing you to do some of the necessary work yourself, saving you money on your overall project costs. Most general contractors won’t allow you to do any of the building yourself, but when you do the project as an Owner Builder through Owner Assist Remodeling, you’ll be able to complete those pieces of the project yourself, according to your needs and desires.

Is It Necessary to Use a General Contractor?

Using a general contractor for your construction project isn’t the only option! Using a project manager can help reduce your costs and create a better final result for your renovation. In fact, a project manager may be a better choice for most owner remodeling projects. A general contractor shouldn’t be the most essential part of your home remodel or addition project. Instead, look for a project manager who will allow you to do the project your way!

Are you ready to embark on a home remodeling project that will help reshape your home to your needs? Whether you need more space to fit a growing family or are simply hoping to add more room for leisure and enjoyment within your home, we’re here to help! Contact us today to learn more about how we can help save you money on your home remodeling project, stick to your budget, and improve your home so that you’ll fall in love with it all over again.

What Does It Cost To Finish a Basement?

In General, It Is $30 to $70 Per Square Foot To Finish a Basement


2 Huge Factors That Will Affect Price

  • Size and Experience Of The Contractor

    • Hiring a GC will usually cost the most, DIY with a Construction Manager or a smaller GC somewhere in the middle and DIY the least. $45 to $60 is a good starting point for a professional finish with a midsize GC.
      • The largest GC’s should have all the bases covered and have expert construction managers, but will also have the highest overhead costs. A mid-size GC might be a good choice if he has a good construction manager.
    • Hiring a Project Planner/Construction Manager will cost slightly less, and $30 to $40 might cover the cost of a DIY project.
    • Smaller General Contractors and Remodeling handymen should cost less than larger GC’s, but level of expertise and skill vary greatly if one person is trying to do most of the work
      So who I should use for my basement finish?

      • The lower end of this spectrum is where cost estimates may be way off, trade contractors may be shady, and schedules can fall apart. Ideally, you want someone who is an expert at all phases of planning and managing a basement finish. This is where years of experience make a big difference.
    •  Do-It-Yourself
      • The cost for a DIY basement will, of course, be the least expensive but can be overwhelming to someone without construction knowledge and experience. Results are usually not up to par with a professional finish.
    • A common misperception is “aren’t all builders the same?” This could not be further from the truth. An expert construction manager will do the most thorough planning, use the best trade contractors at the best price, ensure the best quality and maintain the best schedule. A sole proprietor or “one man band” may be a great carpenter but a poor construction manager. Find the best construction manager and you will get the best basement finish.
  • The Scope Of Your Work

    • For example – remodeling a basement costs more than finishing an unfinished space because of the demolition of the previous finish. One of the added costs is for demolition, figure about $300 to $500 per day for a demo. The presence of lead paint or asbestos will add greatly to this cost.
    • A wet bar can add $3,000 to $10,000 or more, cost varies from a walk up bar to a stand behind bar.
    • Add $1500 to $2500 to relocate a furnace
    • Add $300 to $500 to add an egress window
    • A fireplace will add between $3000 to $500 or more

So Why do Bids For The Same Job Vary so Much?

  • As you know, who you choose to manage and do the work of your basement finish, will affect the price dramatically.
  • Also, there is no consistency in pricing in the industry.
    • Contractors do not receive any kind of training in this area, they all come up with their pricing structure on their own.
  • Cost calculation differences
    • Most general contractors will include all cost categories in their bid and then add in padding for any road bumps.
    • Using a Project Planner/Construction Manager will virtually eliminate the builder overhead, builder profit, and contingency costs.
    • Inexperienced builders may totally miss some of the categories, and even miss some of the trade contractor or material costs. This is where why you hear horror stories of huge cost overruns or contractors walking off jobs without completing the work.
    • Taking one of the lowest bids because the builder seemed like a “nice guy” is a recipe for disaster. The highest bid is probably because of high overhead costs and higher profit margins.

In Conclusion

  • There are no established prices for home renovations, and pricing will vary drastically according to the level of expertise and project management skills the individual or company has.
  • Ideally, you want to find that sweet spot where you aren’t being charged extra due to an overly cautious contractor, but you’re also not paying pennies for an unorganized handyman who surprises you with new costs at every corner.