Posted by: jeb1 | August 9, 2010

The Apples and Oranges of Remodeling Estimates

It’s typical when writing about a particular subject or creating a blog, such as this one, to use a meaningful quote to support your argument and shed wisdom or possibly add some humor. Meaningful quotes are found on inspirational banners, on most every desk and on most every calendar a person will use at some point in their life. But what gives a quote meaning in the remodeling world? No, I’m not talking about some witty observation about blueprints, concrete or “studs”. The question is- What makes an estimate for construction work truly informative and substantive?

It is a common mindset that most homeowners have- “I must get three or more bids for my proposed project to find the best builder”. The inferred goal here is that getting three bids (or more for that matter) will result in the homeowner receiving a wealth of information, highly detailed and well-presented, that fully covers all the phases of work. This will then allow them to choose the least expensive one and live happily ever after while their project moves forward without problems, delays or cost overruns. Most people “assume” that an estimate for construction work is all-inclusive and factors in all aspects of their proposed project. After all, the homeowner met with the contractor, told them what they wanted, and the contractor seemed pretty knowledgeable and sounded like a good guy.

The problem with this scenario is that it is left to the homeowner to become a professional proposal reader and to be able to understand multiple different quotes presented in multiple levels of detail with probably multiple impressions of what the project is actually supposed to include. Comparing these proposals to determine who the best contractor for the project would be is akin to throwing a dart at a board. Many homeowners will immediately dismiss the highest quote because the contractor must simply be too expensive. The truth is that in many cases the contractor with the highest quote may actually be the best choice. Why is that? Because he may be the only contractor who actually quoted the project you desire.

JEB Design/Build, LLC believes a comprehensive estimate should include: quantities and detailed description of materials; permits and any required plans; identification of the complete scope of the project including any work or materials to be supplied by the homeowner; finish and colors of materials used as the basis for the estimate; costs of all trades and their associated permits and insurance/licenses; and information detailing the actual construction process and projected amount of time to complete the project. There are other factors to consider when comparing “apples to apples” including each contractor’s warranty period for their work; how change orders are handled; and identifying any materials or labor on “allowance”. “Allowance” is usually a contractor’s code for “I’m not sure what this item will cost but if you should choose something over the amount I estimated then I want to make sure I get paid for it”. Allowances generally do not reflect a client’s true choice in the end and typically result in money out of pocket after signing a contract.

Finally, a good construction estimate should include details about the contractor themselves including copies of their licensing, insurance and any other required certifications; references from other recent and past clients; and a point of contact to answer questions about the proposal. It might also be good to know if any of the prospective contractors conduct drug screening and background investigations of their employees and whether they are members of any professional organizations which typically monitor their members for quality and customer service.

An apples to apples comparison of remodeling proposals may be hard to achieve without detailed plans and specifications up front. But, an educated homeowner who knows what to ask for and what to look for when seeking estimates for work can find success and avoid headaches later. At Jeb Design/Build, LLC we carefully listen to our clients needs, desires and wants, and then analyze their current living environment. A unique, artistic and buildable design is then created; translating creative ideas into a plan of action.

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