CAMPBELL — Any large-scale building or remodeling project starts with a written proposal, the thoroughness of which can greatly impact the final result. A building proposal generally consists of two aspects: 1) specifications or specific services needed to complete the job  (such as plumbing, framing and HVAC) and 2) allowances­ for materials, fixtures and products to be used/installed.

One of the big differences between specifications and allowances is the potential for price fluctuation. With specifications, the stated prices are more or less fixed, as long as the scope of work doesn’t change. With allowances, on the other hand, the pricing can vary substantially from what’s listed in the proposal. Why? Unlike services like plumbing or framing, the prices for materials and fixtures run a broad gamut comprised of low- to high-end options. That’s why there can be quite a difference between the price a contractor lists in the proposal and the price the client actually ends up paying.

To avoid consequent budget oversights, it’s wise to work closely with your contractor to create an accurate list of allowances. This means researching and making decisions about materials, fixtures, and products in conjunction with the writing of the proposal. From flooring and countertops to plumbing and HVAC equipment, figuring out what you want while the proposal is being written will go a long way toward ensuring accuracy.

If this seems overwhelming, keep in mind that it’s something you’ll have to do at some point anyway, so you may as well do it at the most opportune time. Also, you might be worried you’ll change your mind about particular items later. Don’t worry—an allowances list doesn’t have to be set in stone. Whether or not you change your mind, at least you’ll have some idea of what each item costs, rather than being blindsided partway through the project.