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Understanding Allowances in Construction

A construction allowance provides a limited amount of funds for a specific purpose. It’s important to know what role they play in your project. If you’re considering building or remodeling, and you need to know the house allowance meaning, we can help you see how they can affect your estimate.

Understanding Allowances in Construction

What Are Allowances in Construction?

Allowances give your contractor the ability to provide an educated guess about the cost of one part of the project. Allowances are usually quite specific, drilling down to the flooring allowance for a kitchen, as an example. There are different types of allowances, and you may see more than one on your estimate, and it is important to note that they are not always perfect predictions of what things will cost, due to the varying nature of supply chain pricing in the construction industry.


What Is an Allowance in an Estimate?

When you look at your estimate, you’ll notice a lot of figures. You might want to research a construction budget example to see it in action. Allowances may not be as specific or detailed as other figures. For a custom home, the estimate might be several pages long, since the contractor has to estimate each material and provide a labor cost to go with it. It’s not unusual to start with a summary of the expected costs, with additional detail on subsequent pages. You should plan to read it carefully and ask questions about any part that doesn’t make sense.


Material Allowances

Material allowances provide space for the cost of materials. It’s a good idea to research the average price of the materials that you intend to choose. You can avoid the likelihood of overages by being as specific as you can about your budget and expectations for each aspect. If you’re not sure yet, or if the contractor will give you a selection closer to that stage of the project, the allowance gives room for different choices.


Installation Allowances

In construction, installation is often based on material choice, and there can be significant differences when you select one or another. When a contractor makes an allowance for materials, they may add another allowance for installation. If you’re looking for high-end or unusual work at any stage of the project, it’s wise to express those plans from the start. That way, the allowances can accommodate your expectations.


Allowances vs. Contingencies

Although allowances and contingencies can look similar on a construction estimate, they are distinct aspects. Contingencies provide an extra source of funds for the contractor to solve unexpected problems, such as a sudden material price increase or delays due to weather. Allowances are specific amounts for certain features of the project that are based on common prices for materials and installation.


What to Know About Allowances

As a general rule, contractors should minimize the use of allowances. It’s an important part of controlling custom home project costs. When you take a look at the estimate for a custom home, you should see a long list of prices, including materials and labor. You will also notice a handful of round numbers for the typical custom home allowances, like flooring or countertops. If you see lots of allowances, you should ask for further details.


When Not to Use Allowances

Although allowances can be an easy way to get a project going faster, they can cause problems. Allowances are set using a variety of factors, including a contractor’s knowledge of the price of materials and installation costs based on them. They can lead to cost overrun if they are too small, and can even cause delays or change orders if they are not close enough to accurate. As such, you should be aware of the number of allowances used in your estimate, and be wary of contractors who rely on them exclusively.


What Are the Extras When Building a House?

In your custom home estimate, your contractor may ask if you want to add a budget allowance for extras. These may include:

  • Upgraded finishes such as flooring, countertops, lighting, or smart features
  • Additional features like landscaping, outbuildings, or outdoor living
  • Furnishings
  • Window treatments

It’s important to define them, as some things that come as extras may not seem like extras to you.

Need to know how long it takes to build a custom home? We’ve got the answers.


Wondering if now is the right time to renovate? At Robinson Renovations & Custom Homes, Inc., we have decades of experience helping homeowners with residential renovations and custom home builds. We’re happy to bring your project to life with quality craftsmanship and great customer service. Contact us for a consultation.