We built a calculator to determine the true cost of your renovation, and it’s pretty cool

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Gather all ye math nerds, logic lovers, and data-driven friends, because we’ve got a gift for you! If you’re planning (or may soon plan) a major home renovation, Bolster has designed an interactive calculator to help you determine the true cost of your project. Let’s dig into what that means for your home and for the industry at large.


Why is this calculator so important?

There’s a huge discrepancy between what most homeowners think their project will cost and what it actually ends up costing. It’s a lot like going into a high-end shop, admiring a jacket, and then bursting into some laugh-crying when you finally look at the price tag. But in that scenario, shoppers aren’t necessarily empowered with the information behind why the cost is so high for that particular jacket. Maybe if a shopper knew the logic behind the cost, they'd be more compelled to make a purchase?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s why companies like Everlane do so well–as they break it down, dollar by dollar, for every item you purchase.

In our case, providing more accurate and detailed information up front means owners are more empowered to make smarter decisions in their home, in each of the myriad categories of project costs. And when homeowners understand the component costs of a renovation and the logic behind it all, they’re more excited to partner up, and they’re more educated on where to spend and where to save.

For instance: did you know there are multiple ways to incorrectly renovate that actually break the law? Well, unfortunately there are–and the consequences of doing illegal work can be catastrophic. And of course, there’s a cost associated with doing compliant and legal work–all the permits, DOB filings, expeditor fees, and so on. Many homeowners don’t even know that it’s a category that must be considered when renovating a home. (And it goes without saying that this is a category in which you do not want to cut corners.)

For us, the ability to provide the true cost of a renovation is just half the story. We’re also really excited about empowering and educating homeowners about the renovation process at large.


How accurate is this calculator, really?

It’s very accurate, trust us. You should try it for yourself! ;)


What’s the mathematical logic behind the design?

Because we tackle home renovations from beginning to end, we’ve been well positioned to develop a proprietary process that dissects a renovation into its component parts. From that, we tracked those costs from initial design all the way through to completion, including owner change orders. It was of legwork, but that meant we had a ton of structured data to learn from. And that data is growing.

It’s worth noting that we’ve collected a lot of numbers during our years renovating homes in New York City–so the logic is based in fact, not in guesswork. Our calculator leverages an increasingly growing sample size, so we know our confidence level will increase with every new project we complete. Currently, our confidence rate stands at about 90%. Not bad, right?

In working with this data, we’ve noticed there are three key drivers in home renovation costs: scale (meaning the size of the project), scope (meaning the complexity and intricacy of the work being done), and quality.

And mathematically, there’s a very specific way we think these key drivers relate when determining the cost of a renovation. Let’s dig in a little deeper.

Many people think that the math in a home renovation is fairly linear. It would look something like this:


Stuff (meaning materials) + Work (meaning labor) = Cost


Sorry to say, but like most things in life, it’s a lot more complicated than that. Here’s what the equation really looks like:


(Scale * Scope * Quality) * (Stuff + Work) = True Cost


Essentially, what we’re saying is that when you add compounding vectors of complexity to the project—like an increased square footage or a complicated HVAC installation—you’re exponentially increasing the cost of the renovation. So it’s not just simple addition, unfortunately.

That’s the basic logic we’ve used to structure our cost calculator, and we know it works. Convinced? Take it for a test drive.


Why has it been historically so difficult to predict renovation costs, in totality?

In the world of design and build, nobody has previously embodied total, holistic insight into the depth and breadth of the renovation process. Many professionals can be steeped in their knowledge of the build, but perhaps they don’t specialize in design or third-party costs as well. Others might have a general totality of knowledge, but they’ve never jumped into the deep end to see how it all connects. Given those circumstances, it’s extremely difficult–dare we say impossible–to accurately predict true costs. In order to do so, you have to be steeped in both the depth and the breadth of the whole process.


How is this calculator going to evolve and change the way we renovate?

As we grow, so will our pool of numbers. And with an ever-increasing sample size, our data becomes more accurate to then produce more accurate results. Voila! We’re off to the races with more accountability and radical transparency in the home renovation process.