Submitted by LeDeepPenseur t3_124a9bc in washingtondc

Hey fellow DC residents! So, I'm about to embark on a full-scale renovation of my typical Wardman-style rowhouse in Petworth, and I'd love to get some input and advice on what kind of budget other folks worked with.

A little background: After a long and tedious process of securing permits (which took over a year and a half, partially because my architect was slow), I'm finally ready to go forward with the renovation. My plan is to completely gut the house and transform it from top to bottom. This includes:

  • Lowering the basement to increase ceiling height and usable space, turn it into a two-bedroom. I can get around 8 foot +
  • Redesigning the layout of all floors, master bed will be in front with a master bath (+skylight), and smaller bedrooms will be in the back —Upstairs landing area have two closets for washer dryer and plus general closet
  • Updating the electrical and plumbing
  • Installing new HVAC systems
  • Replacing the windows and doors
  • Upgrading the kitchen and bathrooms

I recently received a quote for $250K (which was the midpoint) to complete this renovation, but I'm not sure if that's reasonable or if I should expect to spend more/less. I know that costs can vary widely depending on the specific details and finishes, but I'd love to hear from those of you who have gone through similar renovations in DC.

Have any of you completed a gut renovation of a Wardman rowhouse? If so, how much did it cost, and do you have any advice on budgeting? Are there any contractors or companies you'd recommend, or any to avoid? Any insights or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance for your help, and I look forward to reading your stories and advice!



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MoreCleverUserName t1_jdyk117 wrote

That’s on the low end of that kind of project unless you’re not trying to get a separate COO for the basement and won’t have a full kitchen down there. If you need actual underpinning, add another $55k or so.


ETA: that price is for the UPSTAIRS work as well as the dig down and the basement? That’s suspiciously low. $250k is more in line with just the dig down, basement and COO with no underpinning. A full gut job of 2+ stories with dig down should be significantly more.


Dcdcdcdcdc51 t1_jdylpeo wrote

Agree that this sounds too low. However, we did a basement down to studs for less than 100K. OP is not doing a full dig out, they are going a few inches, which our builder said would cost 20-30k. Assuming the basement itself should cost around 150k, an additional 100k for the remaining two floors is what makes me suspicious.


MoreCleverUserName t1_jdyn3ea wrote

How long ago did you do that, though? Prices are up about 30% since 2019, partially due to COVID related reasons (labor up, materials up) and partially due to some big new fees and requirements from DOB formerly DCRA. such as sprinklers if the unit is over a certain square footage, or the newer fireproofing inspections.


Dcdcdcdcdc51 t1_jdzsev4 wrote

Post-Covid. We got three or four bids, all of which which were 70-90k.


LeDeepPenseur OP t1_jdylid0 wrote

Forgot to add. The basement will have a separate entrance and a kitchen. I also received quotes for $500K for the same job. I’d rather get a new house at that point.


MoreCleverUserName t1_jdymom5 wrote

Yeah $250k for all of that is so low that I would be worried about the quality of the work. You’re going to spend $8k or so on midrange appliances for a kitchen/laundry for the ADU and I‘d assume you’d want higher end stuff for the upstairs kitchen…. So $20k just on the kitchen appliances between the two, almost 10% of that bid, kinda gives you some perspective. and that’s before you pay for any plumbing, flooring, electrical work, cabinets….

i would try to get a bid from Harmony, they are very reputable and local, owner is a Petworth guy and they do a lot of these. I would expect them to come in around $400k ish. Case Design is also really good but a little more expensive.


QueMasPuesss t1_jdyuasv wrote

250k is really not “cheap.” It only appears so because many design + build firms add multiple layers of costs and inefficiencies and profit (and also potentially systems for delivering a better, more reliable product, depending on their experience.)

Let’s say the house is 2500 sq ft. 250k is 100 sq for renovating. 100 a sq ft has is just a bit low on the sticks and bricks of building a new 2500 sq ft home from scratch (though pandemic has messed with hard costs, but it’s starting to come down a bit.) But it gives us a cost baseline from which to work.

Digging out a basement CAN be expensive, but a lot of that stems from particular engineering complexity and how tall the basement it is to begin with, how much extra engineering needs to go in, etc.

If it’s a simple job, dudes literally go in with jackhammers and shovels and then pour a new foundation and footing walls after. Labor shouldn’t be more than 10 grand (3 - 5 dudes over a weel - 10 days) plus cost of materials, plus profit for the sub.

Once you have the blank canvas, you’re building from scratch-ish, but the main expensive pieces should be electrical, plumbing, and hvac. None of which should be more than 15k or so for systems (excluding finishes.) add in some structural changes here, plus reframing interior walls, let’s just round up to 100k before the finish out.

A decent Ikea kitchen should run around 10 - 15k, bathroom for material and labor should be 7.5 - 25k per depending on complexity, (let’s call it 15k for an average for 3 bathrooms - 45k), then another 10k for drywall, 10k for interior painting, 10k for flooring (refinishing original hardwoods and adding LVP in basement) then 10k on lighting fixtures and other odds and ends. That gets us up to 200k. These are rough rough numbers but more or less ballpark if you’re working with a one man shop GC and not a build + design firm.

Throw 50k on top for windows, finish trim work, exterior painting, landscaping, permits, and extra overhead, and 250k is achievable. There will be a lot less handholding, a less bespoke experience, and a lot more design + supervision heavy lifting for the homeowner. A guy with his own dedicated crew on payroll can likely achieve the above for around 150k, which is how the dedicated flippers make money on deals homeowners can’t.


MoreCleverUserName t1_jdzm19t wrote

I don’t think the prices you mention here are realistic in today’s market.


QueMasPuesss t1_je03hwu wrote

Just renovated a house last year so not talking out of my ass ;) Was more or less my own GC though


LeDeepPenseur OP t1_je04np3 wrote

Thanks for the thorough answer! Did you have to get your GC license for that or are you in the trade? And what was your budget (gut reno) and did you have to move during the construction?


NPRjunkieDC t1_jdzr65q wrote

August bought a 780sf condo in Atlanta. Moved kitchen + full bath + laundry location + knocked down 2 walls + new half bath + new floors + new trim + lifted ceiling some areas. With IKEA kitchen almost 90K and I had a super affordable contractor.

One bathroom in DC recently cost me 16K . I had budgeted 8K. Left original floor.


LeDeepPenseur OP t1_jdyoo90 wrote

Agreed. Chitchatting some of the developers in the neighborhood in DC, it sounds like that’s what they spend for houses that are going over $1.3m. But how? Finishes are nice. And Bosch appliances.


MoreCleverUserName t1_jdypw6q wrote

It’s just an expensive project. Windows for example, if you can get decent quality double hung windows for under $600 each, that’s a good deal, and my Wardman has 14 windows, two of which are massively oversized. HVAC ductwork costs a lot, the hvac equipment itself costs a lot, decent engineered hardwood flooring coats $8/square foot just for the materials. It adds up FAST. Even a basic vanity with engineered stone top is gonna run $600 at Home Depot (although you could easily spend $3k on a high end oversized single sink vanity). I think the gravel fill for the basement (goes under the slab) is $4k right there, just for someone to come shoot rocks at your floor (but it is very cool to watch).


LeDeepPenseur OP t1_jdyq6qt wrote

Yeah — well, let me see how it goes. Have you done something similar too?


MoreCleverUserName t1_jdzluus wrote

Yes but as two separate projects, one for the dig down and basement and the other for the upstairs. The second project is wrapping up now which is how I know current pricing on a lot of these things, appliances for example…. I just bought a house full of them.


LeDeepPenseur OP t1_je06mhj wrote

I thought about having separate projects as well. But it ends up being more costly is what I was told. I’d have to live somewhere for 6 months at least. Good luck with your renovation!


dcmcg t1_jdyke9m wrote

Man $250k sounds very reasonable for this amount of work in DC.


LeDeepPenseur OP t1_jdylmsx wrote

Right!? Maybe there are a lot of hidden fees.


LeoNoLip t1_jdyyhoj wrote

"Speculating on extras" was the old term for bidding low then marking up the change orders. Find rotted wood? Need abatement? Joists not level? Decided on a better tile? They can add up quickly.


Dcdcdcdcdc51 t1_je01fty wrote

I would be concerned you’re going to double your budget on the things not specific in the contract. We received a lowball offer for our basement and when we got feedback from past customers, they stated that the contract was so bare bones they ended up fighting over what was a change order and spent a ton of extra money.


LeDeepPenseur OP t1_je04983 wrote

Oh wow. Thanks. What are some of the things that were missed? My contract was a thorough”ish” but I will have him include nuts and bolts.


giscard78 t1_jdyjgwk wrote

> Lowering the basement to increase ceiling height and usable space, turn it into a two-bedroom.

A dig out? Idk the proper way to do but I’d be looking into it to make sure you protect yourself (and your neighbors) in case god forbid the foundation or party walls are damaged during the process.

Idk what your plans are to do when the walls are open but think of everything. Run the cat cables you’ve always dreamed of.


LeDeepPenseur OP t1_jdykzcd wrote

+1 for cat cables. 🤓 It is a dugout until we hit the footer. Below footer would require underpinning. We have seen so many flips around the neighborhood, some with deeper basements.


giscard78 t1_jdylr9t wrote

> underpinning

Ah, that’s the word I was looking for. Thanks!

Idk your end finishes or if you’re separating the basement into a separate unit (I wouldn’t if I could afford not to rent the basement) but not surprised at all about the $250k mid price quote for all that work.


Appropriate-Ad-4148 t1_je06vz6 wrote

If this is YOUR house, that you want to live in, the 250k bid is low. The quality isn’t going to be great.

If it’s an investment property you can roll the dice and see where they end up but it will likely be a pain all the way through.


NPRjunkieDC t1_jdynhlh wrote

I would think around 100K per floor . Or maybe more .


rightupyourali t1_jdztssw wrote

Seems very low to me. We are spending $350K for a (high quality) reno of our kitchen and bathroom and conversion of attic to master bedroom suite. Not even a full gut. I would be wary.


LeDeepPenseur OP t1_je03xua wrote

Oh wow. Must be really high end finishes. But this definitely seems a lot. The only reason I’d go with 250K company is that I have seen their work around the neighborhood.