When a potential customer is comparing estimates from different contractors, what are some of the important parts to pay attention to?
It’s no big secret that usually the very first thing that gets looked at is the price. The bottom line. How much they are going to spend if they sign that contract, choosing that contractor to perform their home remodel or repair project. We aren’t all made of money so this is understandable and fully expected up to a point. That point would be, do not stop reading after seeing the price.
Begin reading all the other important parts of the proposals, like what tasks will be performed…what is and isn’t included, what materials will be used….and who will be responsible for purchasing these.
The larger the project, the more important that it is to go back up to the first page, or top of the “work to be performed” page and begin checking what all is included for that price. Start with what tasks will be performed, and to what extent they will be completed. Patch a hole in a wall……Does it include texture matching, does it include priming and painting? That’s a simple example. A larger remodel project obviously won’t be that simple. There is just plain more potential for differences both in expected labor and materials involved. Start with either the tasks to be performed or the materials to be used and read through, paying attention to what’s written there. Compare closely with the other estimates, and note any differences there might be.
A great tip here……make a list of all the things you wish to have included, and present this same list to each contractor. This should work in and of itself for smaller, more easily defined home improvement projects. You can use your own list to check through the proposals to be sure everything is included as you would expect it to be. For larger jobs you may have to be a little more analytical, you may not be comparing apples to apples as different contractors and designers will often have different ideas for your project.
You’ll want to pay attention to the details, or lack of details when comparing estimates.
Review the estimate with the contractor presenting it and ask questions as needed. What labor will be performed, what tasks completed? Who will be doing the actual work? Will subcontractors be performing different portions of the work? Will the contractor be using temporary day labor or their own established crew? Will the person presenting the contract be in direct control of the project? Is the contractor licensed, bonded and insured for both property damage liability AND worker’s compensation should someone get hurt while working on your home?
For a kitchen remodel…..are there layout changes planned? Are there electrical or plumbing changes necessary? Are these written in some bids and not others? Is painting being done? Is a new floor being installed also? Will it be stripped to subfloor and new proper underlayment be installed according to the type of finished floor? Will they just be doing an overlay installation, new finished floor installed over the old? What precautions are being taken to protect the rest of your home, will they be putting up plastic barriers for dust protection? What is the plan for the debris created including old appliances? Who is installing the new appliances?
What materials are being used? Cabinet prices can vary a great deal. Wood species and finishes alone even from the same manufacturer can make a substantial change in cost. Cabinet construction comes into play as well. Are they plywood boxes or particle board, and in what thickness? Are the drawers dovetailed solid wood, soft close hardware? Are the doors veneer or solid wood panel? There’s much more to it when comparing cabinets but that’s for another time perhaps. My point here is the bottom line price of a bid can vary a large amount, affected just by cabinet pricing alone.
If it’s a tile floor, who chooses and pays for the tile……and who pays for all the other materials needed such as the underlayment, thinset, grout? Are you adding or changing lighting, what quantity and type of lighting is being proposed? Who is expected to pay for other items that may be necessary like for a new faucet installation,the basic plumbing needs like stop valves, feed lines, drain connections?
Another one……granite counter tops. How thick of a slab? How many planned seams? Seams are nearly always unavoidable, but the fewer the better obviously as well as placement. Is this the granite that is so thin that it requires plywood installed on top of the cabinets first to mount the granite on for support with laminated edges to make it appear thicker in front? Or is it thick slabs that can be installed directly on the cabinets, self supporting, with solid edge treatment? That example is about…….. “install granite countertops” when comparing quotes could also mean thousands of dollars in cost difference depending on the materials used.
These are just some examples of why it’s so important to read your contract proposals before deciding which one to sign. Don’t just assume that what you envision is what each proposal is offering you, and that the only difference is going to be those numbers after the dollar sign. And don’t be afraid to ask questions, if you need further clarification of what is included in the contract, any good contractor will review it with you. And guess what…..just because the price is higher doesn’t mean that it covers more labor, or better materials either. Comparing estimate details is the only way to make informed decisions before signing.