Here are five steps you can take to help you keep costs under control when planning a home-remodeling project.

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Q: I’d love to have my home professionally remodeled, but I’ve heard horror stories about renovations that end up costing way more than projected. How do I know my remodeler won’t run up the costs?

A: Our family has been building and remodeling homes in the Seattle area for more than 100 years, and in all that time, concerns about cost have always been an issue for homeowners. It’s understandable. Nobody wants to pay more than they planned for a renovation.

So how can you keep costs under control when planning a home-remodeling project? Here are five steps in the right direction.

1. Get several bids before you decide on a remodeler. If there’s a huge discrepancy, either one builder is charging too much, or another is giving you a lowball price (and will probably hit you with “extras” and add-ons later to make up the difference).

2. Make sure you understand your contract. Talk through the details with your builder so that you understand what’s covered and what’s not. A reputable builder will be happy to make sure you’re comfortable. Someone who pressures you to sign may not want you to check the details. You could end up paying more later.

3. Ask a prospective remodeler how changes are handled. The vast majority of cost overruns come from changes a homeowner makes during the remodeling process. Too often, homeowners aren’t aware of what a change will really cost them. A good remodeler will use a written change-order form that clearly spells out exactly what a change you request will cost. Make sure you choose a builder who does this. It protects you from surprises when the invoice comes.

4. Avoid “upgrade-itis.” Another major source of remodeling budget busting is opting for unnecessary upgrades in materials, appliances or fixtures. Good quality is worth the money (and delivers more value), and sometimes an upgrade in quality can save you money over the long haul. But avoid being swept away with what’s trendy.

5. When you’re selecting your remodeler, check references and talk to past clients. Ask these clients if they felt they got a fair deal or if they felt the contractor was always trying to upsell them. Trust your instincts. If you feel like the remodeler isn’t being forthcoming with you, there’s probably a reason.

Will your remodeling project cost more than you originally budgeted? It’s a strong possibility if you make changes or upgrades. Making changes is well and good if they deliver the results you want — and you know ahead of time what the increase in cost will be. But be wary of remodelers who come in with unusually low bids; they may add on costs without your prior approval.

Brooks Powell is the general manager of Powell Homes and Renovations and a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, and HomeWork is the MBA’s weekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBA’s more than 2,800 members, write to