Why do the three different estimates I received from contractors for my remodel vary so much?
This is a great question and there many different factors that can play into estimating a remodeling job. The first place to start would be to make sure you are comparing “apples to apples”. Be sure the scope of work proposed by the contractor is the same.
If you are having problems understanding what the scope of work is, contact the contractor to get clarification in writing. The last thing you want to happen is to be mid-project and be surprised with an additional bill because the contractor did not include something in the original scope of work.
Evaluating the different bids will require a bit of homework on the homeowners part. The better you understand the scope of the job, the better you can evaluate why the different bids come in at different levels. This means you can not only compare “apples to apples”, you can tell the difference between Red Delicious, Granny Smiths, and Macintosh apples.
Do not be afraid to investigate the different estimates line item by line item. Think of it like the receipt at the grocery checkout. Going back to our fruit analogy, if you put a bag of Red Delicious in your basket and you get charged for imported Pacific Rose apples from New Zealand, you are not going to be happy (not to mention offending our friends in the Yakima Valley).
There is probably nothing wrong with a contractor specifying higher grade materials in the estimate, in fact, it may be a favorable sign that he will maintain that level of quality throughout the job. It is not unheard of for contractors who have yet to build a reputation to put lower quality, if not substandard materials in the bid to help attract business. Just remember that it is your home and your family’s investment that they will be working on.
Be sure to know how much of the preparation work is included in the estimate, and whether you will be responsible for it or if it can be made part of the package. You are paying the contractor for his experience and the quality of his finished product, but a lot of the preparation for a remodeling job is simply demolition.
Demolition can be labor intensive, but it isn’t quite “skilled labor”. It can actually be a lot of fun. If the contractor is willing to advise (not supervise) you can get a lot of the demolition done for the price of a couple pizzas and inviting some friends over to help. Not that there is anything wrong with hiring the entire job out and saving yourself the bother.
One thing that is hard to put a price tag on is the level of attention to detail, communication with you and the service you will get from your contractor during your remodel. For example, our motto at Corvus Construction is “We sweat the small stuff so you don’t have to”. This type of attention to detail can end up saving you money and time in the future. In the end, you will be spending a significant amount of money on your project and you should not proceed until you are confident you have found the right contractor to do your remodel.