Choosing a remodeler is tough, especially the first time around. Reputation and reviews are a few things to consider … and then there are bids. Why do bids (we call them estimates) vary greatly? Is one remodeler making huge profits while another is keeping margins slim out of the goodness of his/her heart? The truth is estimates from similar companies – two design/build companies; two general contractors; two electricians – for a similar scope of work, should be very similar.
So what accounts for estimates that are worlds apart? Here are factors that can make one bid seem like a great deal while another seems over-priced.
Assumption of Time Required – Estimating the time it will take to complete a job is an art … not a science. And it’s an art that’s developed through experience, by doing a lot of comparable jobs. If a remodeler produces a bid that doesn’t include an adequate timeframe, either due to bad estimating or to keep the bid falsely low, what then? You could be billed for extra hours, the work could stop short of completion, or the contractor could cut corners to get things done more quickly.
Assumption of Scope of Work – Too narrow of a scope of work can mean things you want or expect aren’t included. For example, a $40k kitchen might not include appliances, or flooring that extends beyond the footprint of the kitchen, or drywall repair and paint. A $60k kitchen might include all these things. Which is the better “deal?”
Assumption of Quality of Materials – Sometimes the size and scope of work are equal, but one estimate will include material allowances. Allowances aren’t innately bad, but they can be problematic when one remodeler uses entry level material allowances to keep a bid low, knowing the homeowner will likely choose to upgrade every finish. The remodeler wins because the low bid earned them the customer and they can blame any overages on the customer’s material upgrades.
“The Extra Mile” Details – There are hundreds of little decisions that contractors make that are the difference between ok practices and best practices. These decisions can add a little cost … and a lot of value. Seaming counters in a less visible area, countertop edge profiles, how and where tile is terminated, replacing vs reusing flooring underlayers, deck flashing and trim.
Project Support – Does the estimate include professional design and planning? Does it include assistance with material selections, ordering and inventory of all finish materials? Is there a dedicated project manager who will keep the project on track, on budget, and hold everyone accountable?
Home Protection – It is costly to adequately protect your home from damage during a remodel. Comprehensive floor coverings, protection for new surfaces and finishes, zip walls to close off areas not under construction, air cleaning and filtration systems are necessary but not used by all contractors. Make sure your contractor is planning to use these to protect your home from the dust and debris and potential damage that can result from construction.
Related Sub-contractor Work – If your project needs trade pros like electricians, plumbers, HVAC, tile installers, etc., make sure the cost of those services is included in your estimate so that you’re not writing extra checks later on.
At the end of the day, the differences in estimates is very likely not more profit for one contractor. Most likely, a higher bid includes a more comprehensive scope of work performed by highly skilled professionals with better quality materials and using processes that better protect your home. Compare estimates carefully and don’t make assumptions. Instead, ask clarifying questions of the contractors you engage. We’re here to help you!