Do You Want Your Remodel Good, Quick or Cheap?

This remodel was good and quick, but not cheap.There’s a common ditty in the remodeling industry that goes like this:

“Do you want it done good, quick or cheap? Pick two.”

While you may want all three (and maybe you’ve actually done that), there’s a certain amount of truth to the fact that you won’t likely get all three. I’m not saying this to be a mean girl, but because it’s the reality.

I was reminded of this reality this morning when I received a funny email from a reader in Pasadena, California. He took exception to the prices in a recent Pardon Our Dust article I wrote for the Los Angeles Times. He wrote:

“Your July 6 article on bathroom makeovers gave me pause: $30,000 for the master bath, $14,000 for the kid’s bath . . . WOW!

“As I gazed into my 6-by-7 1/2-foot bathroom, (and mentally uttered 14 grand), then gazed at my checkbook, I found the only improvement we could afford is moving up to 2-ply toilet tissue, as opposed the old and antiquated 1-ply relic.”

Well, I’m glad he can upgrade his toilet paper. That’s a good start.

But for those of us with higher aspirations, here’s how the “pick two” scenario would play out:

Good and quick (but not cheap): We saw this played out on Sunday in the newspaper and here on this blog. The homeowner wanted two bathrooms done with a minimum of stress and she wanted it done well. But saving a few thousand bucks was not at the top of her list. So she paid top dollar ($30,000 for the larger bathroom (pictured above), $14,300 for the smaller one), and in exchange she got a trouble-free, stress-free and very speedy job done. In this case, preserving her serenity is linked to good healthy, so it was a good deal.

Cheap and quick (but not good): I saw this scenario when a homeowner in Long Beach hired a guy who normally remodels low-rent apartments to do his house. Whenever you remodel low-rent apartments, you’re probably not going to use the highest-grade materials or do a job that would satisfy Donald Trump. It’s all economics. So when this contractor did this Long Beach house for a very low price, and used some of the materials he had on hand, they were not the best. But for this homeowner, price was everything. Funny thing was, he told me a few years later that he wishes he hadn’t put in the cheapest pressboard cabinets made. But at the time, low price was his god.

Good and cheap (but not quick): If you were hiring someone talented to do your remodel, you might get a cheaper rate if you were willing to have your job on the back burner until time was freed up. Let’s say you hired a talented carpenter to put up a house full of intricate moldings. If he or she was to stay on your project for days or weeks on end, he or she would have to be paid top dollar. But if the carpenter could swing by and do some work whenever there was lull in the high-paying work, you could potentially get it done cheaper. I’m not saying this common or desirable, just something I’ve heard of. Or, you hired someone with a known drug or alcohol addiction who worked cheap, you might get part of the work done before he or she went on a bender, and then the rest done when he or she sobered up. This strategy is way more common than you might imagine. Also, if you want to do the work yourself, and it takes you forever and you happen to be a perfectionist, you’d get it done good and cheap but not quick.

Bonus round: You can also get just one of these attributes in a remodel. It can be super good, but not cheap or quick. It can be cheap, but not good or quick. And it can be quick, without being good or cheap. But ideally, you would get two of the three.

(Photo: Rod Foster)

1 Comment on Do You Want Your Remodel Good, Quick or Cheap?

  1. Ryan

    Another point to look at is just becuase someone is the most expensive. Doesn’t mean they are the best. Same goes for cheap. Get references and check out contractors work before you hire them. You can save a lot ov headache this way.