Estimates vs. Design Agreements: The Differences You Need to Know

Getting ready to renovate your home? If you’re working with a professional contractor for your project, two of the deliverables you can expect to see before the project commences are the house renovation estimate and the design agreement.

So, what are the key differences between an estimate and a design agreement? Read on to see what you can expect from these two steps in the renovation process.


A house renovation estimate is an assessment of the approximate cost of a project, from start to finish. Your renovation contractor will meet with you to discuss your specific needs and the scope of the project, listing various materials and services required to get the job done. Estimates form the basis of your budget for the project, and they usually include some wiggle room or contingencies to cover unexpected circumstances. Typically, clients budget an extra 10 to 20 percent of the overall cost for surprises like faulty wiring, asbestos remediation and even supply chain issues.

Estimates usually include working timelines with target completion dates. An estimate typically isn’t binding before a project commences, but your contractor will clarify whether it can be changed once work starts. If you and your contractor agree to proceed according to the estimate, your contractor will then begin the design phase of the project, where specific design elements and material selection become final before both parties sign a contract.

Keep in mind that estimates usually include a contingency for owner-caused delays. If you make any changes to plans during a project, you can expect extended timelines and increased costs.

Design agreements

After the contractor and client settle on an estimate, the next step of every renovation is design. Your contractor will create a design agreement that includes the homeowner’s wants and needs into a design scheme that guides the project. The design should include the homeowner’s must-haves and as many of their want-to-haves as possible, and it should also fit their budget and timeline.

Design agreements usually include scope-of-work statements that detail how the project will proceed. By getting things down in writing, there’s no misunderstanding between client and contractor about what work will be performed, when it should be completed and how much it should cost.

Design agreements typically combine design work and construction work into a single contract. If you agree to the plans, you’ll sign the contract and enter a legally-binding agreement for the work to be performed. Before signing, check whether the discussed estimate is included with the design renderings. Since the document is legally binding, you can refer to it if disputes arise during the project.

Now that you understand the differences between an estimate and a design agreement and how they fit into the renovation process, get in touch with the experts at Joe Myers Construction Inc. to talk about your plans today. We’ll work with you throughout every step of a renovation project, turning your current home into your dream home using regular communication, skillful craftsmanship and attention to detail.