A $30,000 faucet!


Scope overruns

A $30,000.00 faucet, or how to prepare for scope creep.

by Kelly Morisseau

One of the biggest challenges in remodeling, whether you’re a D-I-Y-er, or hiring professionals to do your work is adding additional items to the project after your budget and scope have already been determined. This is called scope creep, also known as going over budget.

The story of the $ 30,000.00 faucet

This is a joke in my family: we once had the typical 1970s bathroom with – get this – lavender plumbing fixtures, gilded wallpaper, and peeling paint. My mother was simply going to replace the lavatory faucet.

This turned into replacing the lavender lavatory, which turned into replacing the counter since the new sink wouldn’t fit, and, well, the cabinets were looking old, and she couldn’t leave the lavender toilet, could she? And if the toilet was going, she might as well replace the tub and flooring…

You see where this is going.  It turned into a new bathroom, hence the $ 30,000.00. Since she’d only originally planned to replace the faucet, we had great fun with this. Still do, although she keeps muttering, “It wasn’t $ 30,000.00.”

Why scope creep happens

Now this is an extreme example of scope creep, but some degree of creep happens at one point or another. How can it not?  There’s a couple of reasons:

  • You have a strict budget but it’s impossible to resist all the goodies out there.
  • The project starts extending to other areas of the home because after all: once the one room is done, the rest are going to look shabby by comparison.
  • Even though you were planning on remodeling the kitchen, the flooring extends into the nook, which makes you think that you might as well replace the cabinets in there too.

It’s very common for my clients to hammer out the project with me and then shop like kids at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. It’s human nature.

How to avoid scope creep:

Take your time: if this is your long-term home, don’t rush into decisions. Carefully consider all the pros and cons. There is not only a wide range in quality and price of every item out there, there’s also some strong misinformation as well. The more you can chose items based on family lifestyle rather than because you fell in love with the looks, the better off you are. There is a happy meeting ground for both, and the people who make the least amount of changes are the ones who understand the pros and cons of the items they’ve selected.

Hammer out the decisions in advance: This is what I do with my clients. All decisions are finalized before construction starts. This not only gives you a sound basis for your budget range, it allows you to make decisions you can live with.

Familiarize yourself throughly with the design: Don’t be afraid to ask what type of switch plate covers you’ll have, or the type of grout that’ll be used. How are the windows going to be cased – will they have a sill or a picture frame casing or will they be cased at all? Don’t leave anything to chance.

Listen to your professional or consider what I’m saying here: As  professionals, we’ve seen most scenarios. That’s what experience is: been there, done that. We’re not trying to add more to the project, we’re trying to avoid the path every beginner goes through: a later change of heart.

If we’re remodeling your kitchen, and your patio doors require both hands and a small winching machine to get the doors open, we’re going to strongly recommend adding them. We’ve seen it happen too many times – clients say, “We’ll do them later” and halfway through, realize how wonderful everything else is going to look and how shabby those doors will be. This is too late.

Now we’re cutting out the new flooring and transitions we just replaced and all the new casing has to be removed. The painter has to be called out again, the same painter who won’t be able to schedule 20 feet of casing for another month because he’s already moved on his next project.

Avoid it if you can, because it’s definitely going to cost you more in both time and money.  There’s also a greater chance of communication error, which is a whole other post on the dangers of “while-you’re-here…”

If something can’t absolutely be budgeted in, can you split the project into two or three smaller projects?  I’ve had projects where the overhang for bar stools was designed for cabinetry to be added in a couple of years without having to replace the bar top, or  where all the new cabinets were raised for a future wood flooring, but  we installed vinyl until the babies were older and there was time to save more money.

What other ideas can you share for avoiding scope creep?

Kelly Morisseau Master Kitchen Designer


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